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The Hidden Risks of Mobile CRM

The Hidden Risks of Mobile CRM

There's no stopping the mobile CRM revolution, but those who rush into it headlong with an eye only to the many benefits may be in for an unpleasant shock. Mobile CRM is laden with risks, too -- from getting on the wrong side of the customer to getting on the wrong side of the federal government. Then there are the myriad security concerns that go along with making sensitive company data accessible on a device that may be woefully insecure.

This story was originally published in two parts on April 12 and April 19, 2013, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

As mobile marketing evolves, so do its risks.

The Federal Trade Commission last month released its updated "Dot Com" guidelines. An update long in coming -- the first since the report was released in 2000 -- the guidelines take special note of mobile.

In short, they state that the same rules that apply to ads in newspapers, radio and television apply to mobile devices -- and social media too, for that matter. All disclosures must be clear and conspicuous.

Furthermore, if a disclosure cannot be made clearly on a device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used, the FTC said.

Now mobile marketers can add regulatory risk to their list of concerns. If the FTC hadn't been inclined to crack down too hard on obscure mobile ad disclosures before, it will surely take a harder position now that it's released its new guidelines.

Inconsistent Content

Ad disclosures are just one of many challenges for mobile advertisers, however.

Others include reconciling inconsistent content that may have to be replicated over mobile channels versus traditional channels, and addressing new security concerns such as data being stolen from a mobile device or a mobile app being cracked, said Pegasystems Senior Director of Product Marketing Steve Kraus.

"There is also a risk that information is misinterpreted based on how it may be poorly presented on a mobile device," he told CRM Buyer.

Security is also top of mind for Syed Hasan, CEO of ResponseTek.

"Mobile CRM is potentially full of highly confidential company and customer information," he told CRM Buyer. "We live in a world where people do not protect their mobile devices in the same way that they do other devices that can access business systems, such as laptops or desktops."

Furthermore, mobile devices are typically more social than personal laptops and are often handed to friends or family to use, he continued. "This combination of access to confidential information on a device that is typically unsecured can provide significant risk to a business."

'The Right Level of Interruption'

The annoyance factor is a serious risk, noted Minoo Patel, VP of the mobility and social media practice at NIIT Technologies. Usability on small form factors is always an issue.

In addition, "care needs to be taken to ensure that marketing applications maintain the right level of interruption so that the consumers do not find the app too intrusive to be of value," Patel told CRM Buyer.

Annoyance can be a factor in-house as well, Marci Weisler, COO of EachScape, told CRM Buyer.

One potential issue is the updating process, she said -- for example, when a retailer rolls out an in-house app for sales associates.

"Retailers who go in this direction must be sure they have the right networks accessible or in place, and a mechanism for updating info either on regular schedules or real time," advised Weisler, "so that any recent info that is needed for a seamless customer experience is at their fingertips."

If the updating process is not in place, a tool that was set up to bolster productivity and make sales staff's jobs easier could backfire and hurt the brand by creating confusion, she concluded.

This is true from the customer's perspective as well, Weisler noted. It is important for a retailer, say, to view its customers holistically.

"She is the same customer online and offline and may have multiple buying patterns, but they need to be united into a common profile so that she is viewed as a single entity," explained Weisler. "Online rewards should complement offline rewards, and sales associates need to be able to leverage online buying patterns to drive both online and offline sales, and should be incentivized properly to do so."

A Consistent Message

As people collect devices and connect with the Internet through multiple access points, keeping a marketing message consistent is becoming more essential. Fortunately, companies have available to them modern platforms that enable developers to build applications in a single place and then allow access to content through a variety of channels, including mobile devices.

"By doing this, businesses can monitor a single system and control their communication amongst their employees and between employees and prospects/customers, regardless of the channel and device," said Kraus.

"It's crucial to be able to design and deploy an overall communication strategy and then specialize it for a mobile device in order to avoid content replication, provide more control over access points to data, and get better insight into who is using which device and how," he told CRM Buyer.

There are a lot of reasons to focus on coordinating messages and branding across channels, not the least of which is the potential impact on a company's bottom line.

Consistent marketing has a cross-channel impact on sales, at least two separate studies have shown.

For example, shoppers in retail stores who previously visited brand websites spent 37 percent more on the brand than did non-visitors to the sites. Also, the length of time that visitors spent on a brand's website helped determined their likelihood to buy the brand's products in retail stores, according to a study conducted by Accenture, comScore and dunnhumbyUSA.

Further, satisfied mobile users were 40 percent more likely to purchase the same company's products through other channels, found a study by Foresee.

Security Concerns

Security is another risk mobile providers have to take into consideration -- especially as study after study has shown that security concerns are one of the primary factors holding back mobile commerce.

It takes just one high-profile loss for consumers to completely lose faith in a retailer's or national brand's mobile operations. After all, m-commerce is not yet viewed as a necessity for modern life. Consumers aren't as attached to it as they are to social media or 24-7 cellphone connectivity.

If mobile commerce seems unsafe, it doesn't cause much hardship to avoid it.

You only get one chance to get it right with customers, Hasan noted. "So our suggestion is to make sure you design your mobile CRM app with this context in mind."

Make sure there are additional security layers in the app so a login is required periodically, he advised. Also, think about the data that is really relevant for a mobile user, taking into account the device and use cases.

"We believe in making sure our mobile CRM apps are functional and useful, but the data available is contextual to the user and use case," noted Hasan. "This reduces risks of the wrong data getting into the wrong hands."


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.


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