In my spare time, I love to cook. I don’t mean to brag… but I think I’m pretty darn good at it. I’m fairly picky about the ingredients I use, and I want to have the flexibility to switch things up on the fly if I want to. That’s probably why I haven’t yet cashed in on the plethora of meal subscription boxes promotions I see and hear about. I totally understand the appeal, especially if you’re too busy to shop/prep, you’re a novice in the kitchen, you want to expand your gastronomic horizons or it simply fits your lifestyle in some other way. But it’s just not for me.

This dynamic is surprisingly similar to the current state of the mobile marketing platform market.

“Huh?” you reflexively mutter, wondering where I’m going with this.

Stay with me. Hear me out.

The analogy dawned on me while working on Gartner’s recently-published Magic Quadrant for Mobile Marketing Platforms (client access required). The market comprises two primary types of offerings: purpose-built mobile platforms with analytic and engagement capabilities specific to mobile users or contexts, and multichannel marketing hubs that view mobile as one ingredient of a broader multichannel recipe.

Depending on your goals, circumstances and preferences, one type of solution might meet your needs more effectively than another. Do your prep work by asking four key questions before you start cooking with a mobile marketing platform (Yes, I went there)

1. What business goals am I trying to accomplish?

Any martech investment you make should have a clearly-defined business case to keep you focused instead of chasing after shiny objects. Mobile marketing platform users typically want to drive retention and growth through mobile engagement. They see the use of mobile analytics as a way to better understand and segment their audiences so they can effectively test and optimize content, messages, offers and experiences. They’re also looking to increase efficiency by streamlining campaign workflows, providing marketers with self-service tools to create and manage programs across SMS, in-app, push, mobile wallet and other channels. That way, marketers can focus on launching and analyzing campaigns instead of submitting feature requests to their engineering team.

2. Am I a mobile-centric or mobile-extender marketer?

Most mobile marketing strategies fall into one of two buckets: mobile-centric or mobile-extender. Mobile-centric organizations take advantage of the unique capabilities availed by sensor-laden, always-on mobile devices to deliver compelling engagements. Mobile app integration via SDKs for real-time data collection, analytics and message delivery is a common requirement. For mobile-extenders, adaptability is a key requirement. They seek to deliver an optimal mobile experience in the context of a broader channel mix. In one instance, a lead form might have fewer fields or a step-by-step flow when opened in a mobile browser. In another, an SMS message with an offer might be triggered if an email hasn’t been opened.

3. What’s the composition of my existing marketing technology ecosystem?

Modern marketers are overwhelmed by today’s technology landscape, as well as their own collection of tools. I constantly hear from Gartner clients embarking on projects to rationalize their stack and consolidate disparate point solutions into a smaller, interconnected martech universe. Idealistic? Maybe a little. But some purpose-built vendors see an opportunity, so they actually partner and integrate with multichannel marketing platforms to provide richer mobile support within an existing toolset.

There’s also value in using a purpose-built mobile marketing platform. Startups in the process of building their stack, brands in emerging markets where mobile is the dominant touchpoint, and other companies that require a deep bench of mobile-specific capabilities lean toward purpose-built offerings. In all cases, data integration and connections to upstream and downstream systems are critical to delivering relevant mobile experiences.

4. How will my mobile marketing needs evolve over the next 3 years?

If you’re a mobile-centric marketer, you likely prioritize rapid innovation. Capability enhancements of mobile hardware, operating systems and networks continue apace, which means you need partners that will help you stay one step ahead of the mobile technology curve. Purpose-built vendors pride themselves on continuous mobile R&D. For mobile-extenders, you face a fork in the road: will mobile continue to be one component of a bigger marketing picture, or will it become the focal point of your efforts over the next 3 years? Deploying a purpose-built platform could be a catalyst for making mobile the starring role of your programs. But don’t overlook the mobile features offered by the existing tools you’re using. Push them to the limits before making a substantial new investment.

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