Organisations today are under increasing pressure to grow their market presence in the face of heightened market competition and an overcrowded and noisy media landscape.

High customer adoption rates of mobile devices, combined with the constant need to increase customer loyalty, are driving organisations to invest in implementing marketing campaigns and programmes through the mobile channel.

Although all types of mobile apps are experiencing high levels of interest, one key driver has been the growing interest in consumer or market-facing apps.

Business-to-Consumer (B2C) mobile apps have emerged as potent weapons in the marketer's quiver, as they offer several distinct advantages over more conventional marketing vehicles.

A dream come true for a brand manager, their features include:

 - Delivering immediate and measurable benefits relevant to the individual end-user (such as secure remote data access, customised promotional offers, and personalised messages)
 - Optimisation of the capabilities of specific mobile platforms
 - Tracking and adapting to user behaviour and geographical location
 - Extending a branded User Experience (UX) that can be tightly integrated with the UX experienced through other marketing channels

The implementation of these customer-facing mobile apps requires extensive collaboration between the offices of the CMO and CIO, and their goals may not always align.

Aberdeen's research shows that that increasing top-line revenue is a greater focus point for marketers, while IT respondents indicated that improving customer retention was a higher priority.

However, the benefits of a successful B2C mobile initiative can be mutually beneficial.

Our May 2011 Metric-Driven Mobile Marketing study revealed that organisations using B2C mobile apps enjoyed an 11.4 per cent year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction, compared to only a 7.8 per cent increase for other organizations.

Top-performing organizations that successfully manage customer interactions to ensure customer satisfaction also had 22 per cent greater customer retention than all other respondents.

Companies using mobile apps as integral to their marketing campaigns grew more than three-times the number of opt-in subscribers in their prospect/customer database than non-users on a year-over-year basis.

This reinforces the customer-driven-business maxim, that the most successful businesses are the ones that best understand the needs of their customers, and address them with the right communication at the right place at the right time.

As a result, they are more likely to hold on to their most valuable customer base and positively impact their revenue.

The best practices of top-performing organisations reveal that while marketing often drives the initiative and budget for mobile apples, IT also plays a crucial role. These companies understand that well-designed and well-supported mobile apps define a superior end-user experience at product launch, as well as over the long term.

One of the key reasons to establish this cross-functional collaboration between marketing and IT departments is to properly manage the data supporting these mobile apps.

Defining, establishing, and managing this customer, prospect and company data is an essential ingredient of mobile marketing.

It helps organisations ensure the integrity and security of customer information, as well as the appropriate use of data to build precision marketing campaigns.

At a fundamental level, metric-driven mobile marketing will only be as effective as the accuracy and currency of the data gathered; as a consequence, internal IT resources are the ideal partner to provide marketing with a sound technical basis for data viability and analytics.

Eight out of 10 (82 per cent) of the businesses using mobile apps indicated extensive involvement of IT to plan, build, launch, and manage the data-driven processes at the core of mobile apps.

This affirms the need for marketing departments to establish close collaboration with their peers in IT to effectively leverage the valuable data within their marketing campaigns and programs.

Aberdeen recommends the following actions to both marketing and IT professionals that are implementing mobile app initiatives:

 - Listen closely to your customers and reach them where they live and on the move
 - Seek opportunities for collaboration between marketing and IT to ensure security and compliance of mobile apps
 - Streamline and optimised marketing's data management process
 - Clearly communicate the business value of the mobile channel initiative to all stakeholders.

If marketing and IT speak with one mind, the rest of the organisation will listen.

Andrew Borg is senior research analyst, Wireless & Mobility at Aberdeen Group

Pic: Bob Doran cc2.0