Now that the iPhone is being tested at 175 of the Fortune 500, and Apple Computer has unfurled an aggressive enterprise strategy, C-level executives (CEO’s, CIO’s, etc.) are eyeing new ideas for leveraging the iPhone for greater operational benefit.
If you’re thinking about embracing the iPhone in your business, you’re probably thinking about how your employees would use it. That’s fine, but you should also factor in the ways other organizations use the device, especially in the areas of online marketing, customer service, content, and brand visibility.
Here are four useful things to consider when developing a corporate iPhone strategy for online marketing.
1: Define business requirements
There’s no substitute for good business and technical requirements. Attempting to define business requirements that build a case for the iPhone must take into account the intended purpose for the device, and answer the question, “Why this device?” At the outset, good requirement planning sets aside the implementation details and focuses on the business need. Ironically, it’s necessary that you ignore the features, functionality, and coolness of the iPhone so that you can, without bias, develop a clear set of business requirements that identify the objectives you hope to achieve. This will yield rational decisions down the road.
As you flesh out requirements, start your process with some bulleted points that purposely avoid mentioning the iPhone or specific implementation details. This process will help you identify aspects of mobile marketing that are not so apparent. Indeed, the iPhone may ultimately be the focus of your new marketing initiative, but make that decision after you’ve decided what’s best for your prospects and customers.
2: Respond to new opportunities
Use of the iPhone is growing rapidly among consumers. With constant access to the Web via Edge and 3G, along with the fully functional Safari browser with embedded RSS support, a new generation of people actually uses their iPhone as a competent Web device. Couple this trend with more than 63,000 native applications, and suddenly, the iPhone represents an important and growing market target.
Fifty percent of all iPhone users are under the age of 30. Most iPhone users have had previous Apple products, and the majority of iPhone users are technically sophisticated. In addition, iPhone-initiated requests represents more than a third of all mobile search queries—50% more than those initiated by Windows Mobile smartphones. The growth and access of mobile-specific social media applications have intensified the amount of communication in which iPhone users engage. All this suggests that it may be time to plan for enhanced online marketing initiatives that specifically target iPhone users. The younger demographic suggests that a social media strategy (with viral opportunities) may be a key ingredient of these initiatives. If your company produces and wants to leverage social media for strategic gain, you might enjoy a free e-book titled Social Media: Built to Last. (Go to scribd.com and search on the title.)
3: Start with small, successful steps
There’s no point in trying to do everything at once. Begin with small steps and gather more information about your target customers and how they respond to your initiatives. Here are some relatively simple things you can do to start this process:
Incorporate RSS feed capability into your Web site
Incorporate RSS into your Web and/or blog site content, test it fully for the iPhone, and promote its availability to iPhone users. Create a simple URL that can be used to subscribe to the RSS feed without a lot of typing. Consider streamlining the subscription process by offering an SMS gateway (CellTrust.com provides a pretty comprehensive API for this feature). Ideally, your site would have feeds for product news, press relations, and perhaps customer support. RSS is an ideal way to push new information to mobile Internet device users, and the iPhone’s Safari browser supports RSS exceptionally well.
Create a product specials site for iPhone users
Introduce a Web site designed specifically for product deals available only through the iPhone. It should be able to automatically generate offers for your products and services, with special pricing if purchased via the iPhone. Couple this with frequent Tweets from a branded Twitter account and use viral marketing to spread the word about this purchase gateway.
Develop an iPhone app
Commission the development of a native, branded iPhone application for your company. Incorporate news (using RSS), convenient one-click contact with sales and customer support, and plenty of fresh content. Include doorways to let your customers say something directly to you.
4: Leverage the iPhone’s capabilities
The iPhone brings some pretty clever technologies to online marketing, and the most successful marketing initiatives will leverage these capabilities. Here are some possible scenarios:
A customer at one of your stores sees a garment she likes, but it isn’t available in the right size. She pulls out her iPhone, opens up your branded app, and photographs the barcode on the price tag. Your app sends the photo to your product database server, which identifies the product, checks store inventories, and sends an SMS message to the customer telling her that the garment in her size is waiting for her at the Glendale store.
Introduce a free, branded app that uses the new push notification service to inform customers of new products or services, special discounts, sales events, and other news. The app should have a special viral marketing feature that lets the user send an invitation to a friend to install the app. The customer who sends the invitation receives a 10 percent discount coupon for each app that’s installed. The discount coupons are downloaded right to their iPhone. To redeem a coupon, the sales person scans it from the iPhone’s screen—no paper, no printing.
Give away an iPhone app to augment your consumer loyalty program. Customers no longer need to carry a card and can now participate from their iPhone, using it to snap up offers and rewards from your Web site, catalogs, in-store sales, and more.
Before proceeding, you need to determine the scope of iPhone use in your target segment. You also need to consider how your customers interact with, and what they expect from, mobile solutions. After doing this, you may decide that it’s not feasible to do an iPhone-specific initiative, but you may still want to do one for the mobile users among your customers. If this is the case, you should consider Mofuse.com or a similar service. Mofuse provides a fast and simple way to provide mobile-optimized Web content across all Internet-enabled devices. It provides a wealth of experience and SMS subscription support, as well as optimized pages for iPhone.
Without question, the iPhone is a key marketing gateway to more business and your competitors are likely pondering this strategy.