Mobile usage has become an integral part of the path-to-purchase. Consumers are tapping into their smartphones at home, in store aisles, and on-the-go to read news, research products, compare prices, engage with brands and receive special offers and coupons.

Brands are finally realizing the potential of mobile marketing to produce business success. In Q1 2014 mobile commerce spending on smartphones and tablets was $7.3 billion up 23 percent vs. a year ago according to Comscore. It’s clear the way consumers engage and make purchases is changing and marketers and advertisers must find a way to interact with them in a personalized and relevant way.

Mobile has changed the game – its personal. Its no longer acceptable to be a bullhorn of a company, blasting out messages without taking in to consideration the consumers interests or what they have opt-in to. Content must be a two-way street. Marketing must start with relevancy as its first and last goals. Otherwise you’ll lose your customer.

Fortunately, there are a handful of easy-to-implement tactics to personalize the mobile experience for customers. Understanding each will help brands market to their customers and monetize mobile more effectively.

1. Opt-ins are key

Perhaps this is obvious, but getting an opt-in opens up infinite possibilities for personalization. Be bold when encouraging customers to submit their phone number to receive mobile alerts, or authorize push notifications when downloading apps.

For brands used to direct mail, traditional advertising or digital retargeting, mobile presents a new realm of legal regulations that, if not followed, could cost you big time.

The most important guideline to follow is the “opt-in” regulation for text messages. Any text message you send can only be sent to a user who explicitly opted-in to your message service. Meaning, buying lists or automatically enrolling loyalty club members into your text message database is a big no-no. So brands should focus on getting their customers opt-in. Once that occurs brands can continue to build on the data they have collected to deliver increasingly personalized messages.

2. Understand your consumer’s complete mobile lifecycle

Effective mobile marketers take a cross-channel approach that integrates the various mobile channels, such as SMS, app, Web, and social.

Value comes behind the scenes, as brands can learn tons of useful information from mobile interactions. For example, customers reveal their operating system when they download an app or open their Web browser. Smart marketers collate such data points into one centralized customer profile—an ideal asset to maximize personalization for mobile.

Companies just getting started with cross-channel mobile marketing should focus on small wins. True cross-channel takes time and optimization, so commit to integrating what makes sense over the short, medium, and long term instead of trying to do everything in parallel.

3. Location, location, location

Mobile devices go everywhere. Take advantage of how that information can create personalized experiences.

On SMS, marketers can request that customers share their ZIP code. As long as customers see the value in the call to action requesting location the message won’t come off as intrusive or pushy.

For those stuck on how to use location, start with four straightforward applications: time, weather, calendar, and geography. Messages like “Get an additional 20% before 5PM today,” “Beat the winter blues with this offer,” “Back to school special” or “Special deal for the summer,” messages will establish a stronger consumer/brand connection.

4. Choice drives Engagement

Giving customers a choice about what they are opting in to allows for personalization through customization. For example, during the World Cup a major brand enabled its customers to select the types of alerts they want to receive to create their own mobile experience.

5. View mobile through a data lens

When most marketers approach mobile, they gravitate toward viewing the technology as a communication channel. Savvy marketers understand that mobile produces much more value as a data channel.

Analyze your data across channels to create and serve relevant content to your customers or potential customers. Build around your opt-in text message database. Once you have a person’s cell phone number, you can use that personal identifier to connect the dots with your CRM, loyalty programs and even users’ social media profiles. The more you know about your consumer’s buying habits and engagement, the better you can serve them pertinent and relevant information directly to their smartphone or tablet.

Personalizing mobile interaction will immediately increase consumer engagement and loyalty with your brand. Mobile marketing and advertising, done legally and relevantly, has tremendous potential to reach customers on devices that they always have within arm’s reach.

About the Author: Greg Hoy is a 12-year veteran of the mobile industry. He is currently the vice president of mobile solutions at Hipcricket (, a mobile marketing and advertising company.