Many of the hundreds of thousands of links that Google offers in response to this search request offer guidance to marketers on how not to succumb to SOS. Like most things in life, the shiny objects cited in these links are themselves not bad tools for marketers. The problem — hence the syndrome — derives from marketers becoming infatuated with them and failing to properly prioritize their role in the overall marketing palette of options.
To illustrate, let’s take one of marketers’ current darlings: voice-enabled speakers like Amazon’s Echo products and Google Home. These devices are very popular with consumers, with tens of millions flying off the shelves since their introduction. (Isn’t language funny? That phrase used to refer to shelves in retail outlets, not in warehouses). Brands are trying to understand the role these devices play for their customers and how they should build a presence on them. Vendors are building solutions to incorporate voice-centric devices into the mix of channels they support. “We need an Alexa Skill” is today’s version of 2009’s “we need an app”.
Marketers have a variety of objectives but one of the most important is driving sales, and a recent article in The Information reveals that on this front Amazon’s devices are a less than optimal option. Specifically, two sources briefed on Amazon’s internal figures say that only 2% of those with an Alexa-enabled device have made a purchase via voice in 2018. Granted, there is a growing cadre of Alexa-powered devices on which shopping may not make sense: Sonos audio systems, Ecobee thermostats and Ford vehicles come to mind. Still, any marketer attempting to build a case for voice investments on a foundation of commerce clearly has a tough row to hoe.
Like voice, mobile too was once a Shiny Object. The digital bit bucket is chockablock with apps discarded by users who found no value in them (if they even bothered to open them), SMS offers for items in which customers had no interest, QR codes that led to virtual dead ends and myriad other stillborn mobile marketing efforts. But such tone-deaf efforts are now the exception rather than the rule.
Marketers prioritize mobile over other channels, allocating more of their channel marketing budget to mobile than to any other channel. More of them identified mobile, along with social, as the most effective channel throughout the customer journey — in particular the critical conversion phase. (Gartner clients can view the detailed findings here).
More important than their standalone success in direct mobile marketing efforts is marketers’ newfound skill in using mobile to connect their marketing programs, both online and offline. Companies like Walgreens who integrate their point of sale systems with back end loyalty and coupon/offer programs give their customers who use Apple Pay or G Pay a seamless and fluid experience that ties together payment, redemption, receipts, and loyalty rewards. Mobile marketing platform vendors now embrace a wide variety of channels, enabling their clients to design and orchestrate programs that encompass a wide range of channels, reflect the most up-to-date profiles of their customers, and deliver to their customers their most compelling message in the medium that they prefer. (See our Magic Quadrant on these vendors here, Gartner clients.)
Are there still mobile Shiny Objects? Certainly, but some of them have begun to prove their worth as marketers figure out their true value and/or costs decline. For example, retailers and mall operators who deployed beacons with the intent of pushing messages to store visitors to get them to open their wallets have now realized that these devices provide a detailed view of footfall traffic previously only guessed at. Major League Baseball stadiums and other venues are using beacons to significantly improve the fan experience. Liberated from the need to download a devoted application, QR codes are resurgent. And, as the price of NFC tags continues to plummet and test programs deliver strong engagement metrics, liquor brands like Kilchoman Distillery are opting to use them in their labels. The Shiny Objects are now the exception — mobile is a marketing workhorse (but with a nice shiny coat).