Reaching into the mind of the consumer is something that should be at the top of every mobile marketer’s to do list, but according to Philip Groves, author of the recent emarsys whitepaper on the psychology of emarketing on smartphones, it is not.

PerformanceIN asked Groves to not only elaborate on why marketers are failing to consider consumer psychology when tailoring media for them, but also provide some good and bad examples in the interview below.

Do you Think Mobile Marketers Consider Psychology Enough When Reaching Out to the Consumer?

Philip Groves: Generally not; we still exist in a marketing world that flits between focusing on what are often termed ’emotional needs’ and regarding consumers as rational agents.  In many ways describing what marketing does that isn’t appealing to conscious, rational mental processes as ’emotional’ is part of the problem; if one thinks about understanding the role of the unconscious mind in shaping behaviour the psychology that marketers need to connect with is largely a product of recognising how human beings minds work.  A lot of what the unconscious mind does is about efficiency, rather than something related to emotions.

Can You Describe Some Good Examples of Mobile Marketing With a Focus on Psychology?

PG: O2 Moments is one good example that springs to mind.  The app is supported by other communication – often text messages – to reflect the fact that many consumers don’t give such schemes anything like the regular attention that some organisations presume when they create them.  In addition, it has a clever level of unpredictability that has been shown to create more habitual use: in much the same way as we scan our email regularly and find most of it is mundane, that occasional rewarding piece of correspondence releases feel-good chemicals in our mind that we associate with the medium and find ourselves going back again and again.

The UK watch company, Christopher Ward, also do a very good job.  They keep the frequency down to when they have genuine news; the focus of their proposition means that the chance of the email being interesting is relatively high and they are very good at tapping into associations that enhance their products: even if you happen not to be interested in the particular watch or promotion they feature, it feels like one is a little better informed for having taken the trouble to open the email.

How About Some Bad Ones?

PG: I think that Amazon, who are brilliant with their website, are surprisingly hit and miss with their email marketing these days.  It could be that simple repetition works quite well for them: recipients are constantly reminded of the sites presence when they scan their inbox.  However, perhaps because their product range is so vast, I hardly ever feel that the frequency and subject matches my interests and, whilst I continue to stay subscribed because of my professional interest as a writer – I do read them when they reference books in the same field as my own – the rest I dismiss out of hand.  Long ago, my unconscious, pattern-detecting brain, has dismissed them as unrewarding.  

How Does Mobile Consumer Psychology Differ Between Countries?

PG: I’m not sufficiently involved with countries other than the UK and US to comment on this, other than to say that the commonalities are very likely to be driven by the prevalence and use of smart phones.  eMarsys may be better placed to give you a view on this.

What Tips Would you Give to the Small Business Which is Unable to Dedicate Huge Resource into Experimenting With Mobile Campaigns?

PG: The main tip I would give is to say, ‘Dedicate more resources to experimenting!’  You don’t require a large and scientific program to learn from tests (although you will learn more that way).  At the most basic level, being open to testing liberates the marketing team to be more creative and gives a completely valid mechanism for evaluating that creativity.  Provided that anything you test is something you would be prepared to roll out (i.e. it’s congruent with the brand) then simply saying, “Let’s develop three alternative communication pieces and test them on a sample of our subscribers to see what makes a difference.”  It would be well worth diverting money from interrogative market research (focus groups, quantitative surveys and the like) to help support this activity, since you’ll be learning from behavioural response, rather than people’s claims, projections and post-rationalisations, which are hopelessly unreliable indicators.  
Simple changes can have a significant effect: just simplifying a piece of communication has been shown to influence conversion dramatically.  So it’s not necessarily the case that you need to incur the cost of developing multiple creative campaigns.  

What Future Trends Are Set to Change Mobile Consumer Psychology?

PG: In my view the biggest change is likely to come through the way in which our interface with the technology evolves.  At the moment, although few people think about it, we interact with mobile devices in the way that the computerised device requires us to; but new technology is emerging that will enable us to have a much more human interaction with technology.  Ultimately, our mobiles will become intelligent virtual assistants who access and filter the world much more effectively in a way that reflects our interests and needs.  I suspect that marketers are going to have to make content much more relevant (i.e. more psychologically rewarding to the recipient) to get through to the people they want to connect with: it will become very easy to say to our phone, “I’m not interested in any more emails from company X”, and our assistant will save us the hassle of clicking on a link and registering to unsubscribe.