Mobile marketing needs to be contextual

What does contextual marketing mean and how does it apply to mobile?

Contextual marketing is a term that has been used with more regularity this year (2013) by marketers such as myself. It is a clean way to describe how you can now market to your customers with a more personal and targeted message that is in sync with your customer’s lives.

Customers expect you and your brand to be available when they need something, and this can be achieved with contextual marketing. This relates to sending messages or alerts and also updating content already sent. Forester’s, in its Mobile Mind Shift, describes it as: “The expectation that any desired information or service is available, on any appropriate device, in context, at your moment of need” Read more.

To put it more simply, it involves the right content at the right time, with the right action; making sure your messages are contextually relevant to every customer, in every situation they see your message.

The large rise of mobile device usage has opened up a data source of customer interests and behaviour that we have not been able to use before. This is great for marketers, but you have to have a clear strategy and understanding before you start messaging with this data and on these new channels.

So what is contextual and how does it break down?

Each one of these areas could be (and will be) separate posts; however, the information below hopefully provides a thought provoking overview of each area:


Location, if used correctly, can be all powerful – and is synonymous with the term ‘mobile’. Location involves ensuring both your message and content is relevant to your customer’s location. We all are constantly on the move and carry a computer in our pocket; as a result this has opened up many greenfield opportunities of location based marketing strategy which were not previously available. The days of making your message appear in one place where you assume your customer is located are over.

Using location marketing allows you to target customers where they are AND where they have been using both app location and app tracking.

Think about taking this to the next level and combining location information, using segment rules, with other data sources such as stock feeds or previous purchases.

For example, a retailer could promote shoes to customers that have previously browsed and purchased shoes, and have been near the store in the last 60 days.

Other use cases:

  • Show nearest stores to your customer in an email, based on the location at which they open the message
  • Send push notifications when your customer is in a certain location and a store nearby has a special offer or new product line
  • Make rich-app pages relevant to customer location when they visit the app or click through on a message

How does it work?

Location based email marketing* uses GEO IP which is not 100% reliable, but is still very powerful.

Push notifications use the GPS of the mobile device, if permission has been given at download, and if notification setting is turned on (depending on device).

Therefore it is personal and must be used with a clear strategy.


Your brand should be there when your customers are taking action. This is the ‘at your moment of need’ component of the Forester research quote above.

Timing is tricky because how do you know when your customer is going to act, and also should you not be sending messages that drive a customer action? But why not do both?

Lets take an email example: making content relevant at the time of open*. Traditionally email is only relevant at the time of send and therefore loses its relevance the later from send time it is opened.

However, making content relevant allows you to show different images if opened during a weekday vs. weekend or show different product images based on the weather (that is actually location and timing).

Carry this over to the app channel and you can make sure push messages are sent/triggered based on timing. You could trigger messages based on the following timing examples:

  • Leading up to an event
  • Before a customers goes on holiday
  • Flight details and flight delays
  • Sale announcement for a retailer

*Disclaimer: I am the Co-Founder of Kickdynamic, a live email content platform that has these products.


The type of device also provides an important data point that can be used to ensure marketing messages and content are relevant. Smart phone, tablet and laptop are the three main categories of devices.

Mobile marketing ensures your content and message is relevant no matter what device your customers use. This provides a consistent experience with a brand. When I move from my laptop to my iPhone, I don’t want there to be a change in marketing messages or any barriers to browse, shop, etc.

There are going to be situations where a brand has only an iPhone app, for example. So any in-app or push messaging is going to be iPhone only. However, you can be device specific when promoting app-download.

For example, you can display a call-to-action in email messages for iPhone openers to download the app. However, if users open on android or laptop, they see a different message.

Combine the above for highly personal messages, content that converts to build customer loyalty.

Using segmentation rules to combine the above data elements to send messages and update content is the goal. We expect and need a good brand experience that is in tune with our lives.

What else do you think is contextual?

Look out for future blogs analysing each context area in more detail.

About Matt Hayes

I'm immersed in the mobile marketing world and the Co-Founder of a live email content platform.

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