Sparking Mobile and Online Consumer Engagement

Sparking Mobile and Online Consumer Engagement

The rapid advancement of tech industries in recent decades has consumers growing more attached to our tech devices. As a result, firms will spend more money on digital advertising. With the growing popularity of virtual and augmented reality devices in the last five years, it is easy to imagine a very near future where this augmented world could become an integral part of our normal one.

Of course, writers and movie producers have played with such ideas in fictional contexts for years, but the reality of this world is now upon us in the technical sense. Even holographic technology is under development, and a world like the one imagined in films such as this scene from Minority Report may not be far off:

There is no question that digitized ads will play a central role in such a future world, whatever form it takes. Holographic advertisements could become integrated into our everyday landscape as the technology becomes more advanced and the designs more practical. In the clip above, holographic ads customized for John Anderton are prompted by iris scans (another tech currently under development). But, in actuality, a simulated version of this landscape seems much closer to the forefront in the form of an augmented reality seamlessly woven into the fabric of our everyday devices.

The status of “everyday devices” does not quite describe the growing trend of technologies associated with augmented reality, but the phrase may not be too far off. Stylized headsets, visors and eyepieces designed to enhance our experience of the world around us could become as attached to some of us as our smartphones have become in a surprisingly short time. In a new world with a digitized overlay of augmented reality, digital ads could potentially be everywhere. From an advertiser’s perspective, the inevitable question then arises: how will advertisers and marketers break through the digital noise to penetrate the psyches of future consumers?

Scaling back to our present world, researchers are pointing to the fact that we as consumers have already become experts at blocking out the myriad of content we are bombarded with on our computers and smart screens to get right to the content we are looking for. A few years ago, online users were more easily distracted by onscreen ads and could sometimes be coaxed into clicking on a sidebar ad that looked like a potentially good deal on some random product. But internet users have become more savvy and seasoned. We’ve become experts at finding what we want when we want it and are far less likely to be enticed by simple paid advertisements. Even Google has recently done away with the sidebar ad setup on its search engine screen and is trying a different approach.

Because of this, many companies began developing systems to generate more customized ads. With the growing wealth of consumer and search engine data available, companies have been able to segment customers based on areas of interest and to customize display ads based on those interests. Yahoo’s email service is probably the biggest example of this. Users with Yahoo accounts will notice that ads posted on their email pages bear a striking resemblance to pages they have visited and products they have purchased online.

Still, this technique has some very serious limitations. The most obvious is the “creepy” factor associated with this reality. Many users (understandably) have an eerie, ominous vibe about the fact that a computer is “watching us,” calculating and analyzing our online activity without our knowledge or consent. Learning that our computer knows things about us and responds accordingly is rather disconcerting to some, and this negates the possibility of this form of advertising being fully effective. This same fact applies to push notifications and mobile location-based ads. Even though the reality of Big Data is upon us, and the level of online interconnectedness through our mobile devices is becoming the new norm, mass numbers of consumers with smartphones and other smart devices are still far from comfortable with their personal information being tracked at all times.

Returning to the point of customized display advertisements online, even for those of us who are not as bothered by this reality, the effectiveness of this approach may easily wear off. Much like with the random sidebar advertisements, users will most likely begin developing a stronger immunity even to customized ads tailored to their interests. In fact, some might argue that this is already the case.

Experts in digital advertising and marketing are well aware of this truth, which is why so many have turned to the avenues of personalized brand communications via social media, email marketing, and mobile apps. Establishing personal connections with consumers can be much more effective and a lot less “creepy” in the hands of skilled marketers who can handle these interactions the right way. But what exactly is the right way? Furthermore, as more and more firms develop CRM campaigns focused on this approach, how can marketing experts hope to pull away from the pack?

Developing a standard of best practices for segmenting and engaging customers through social media and location-based messages is a key component to gaining a competitive advantage among other players in any industry. The ultimate goal of engaging consumers online is, of course, increased profits from more online purchases and a stronger brand image.

One approach that some firms have found to be very effective for engaging customers online is soliciting user-generated content. A great example of this is the online review tactic developed by the company Coffee For Less. Through this strategy, the company “increased organic search traffic, conversion rates and time-on-site by encouraging customers to write product reviews” ( 

The biggest lesson to take from this is the “ease of use” factor. According to the case study, the setup for locating consumer reviews is very user friendly, which was a key contributor to the success of this approach. Studies indicate that consumers are more highly influenced by reviews of other consumers than other advertising methods. So, a platform that made it extremely easy to locate and navigate user reviews was a key ingredient in the Coffee For Less recipe for success.

Another company,, has been able to successfully increase online user engagement with their own unique approach. They began by determining which online habits told them who their high-quality customers were. Next, they developed a 5-step email marketing strategy aimed at increasing online engagement habits that would create more high-quality customers (

The key factor in this email onboarding strategy was prompting customers to download the app. Customer retention was greatly increased for those who downloaded the app, so the strategy was a
success based on the fact that “people who had read the email about the app download were 125% more likely to download the app . . .” 

Examining research on consumers’ attitudes and acceptance of such messages is also a necessary step toward achieving this goal. According to a study published in the JIAD on mobile location-based advertising, there are a number of factors that can influence the success of these messages. Some factors include the type of message (push vs pull), concerns about privacy, and the overall ease of use. Results of this study uncovered some very interesting facts about how each of these factors influences consumer acceptance of these messages individually as well as the combined influence of certain factors.

If we fast forward 20 to 50 years into the future, how will marketing strategies like these and others evolve? As the scene with the ads in Minority Report suggests, the future of digital advertising will lean heavily on segmentation, personalization, and message customization. Companies should seriously consider the new advent of augmentation and other rapidly developing technologies and focus on ways to exploit these developments. The most successful firms will be ones that develop innovative ads and marketing campaigns within the frame of this newly emerging digital context.

Editor’s Note:

Check out our detailed study on push versus pull messages, privacy, and other factors that influence consumers’ views and acceptance of location-based ads:

Mobile Location-Based Advertising: How Information Privacy Concerns Influence Consumers’ Attitude and Acceptance


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