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5 Ways to Communicate on the Small Screen

By COLLOQUY Staff on January 31, 2017

How well do your loyalty guidelines hold up to a palm-sized display? As the loyalty experience migrates to digital channels, its approach to communication must change. We have five tips to help.

Here’s a new consideration for loyalty marketing communications: Just how well does your messaging hold up under harsh sunlight?

This and many other factors now influence loyalty communications, thanks to the small screen.

With a greater portion of the loyalty experience moving to digital channels, it is time for loyalty marketers to craft communications to match. The lengthy standard guidelines on how to earn and redeem often don’t cut it when they arrive in printed form or on a desktop. That alone is a wake-up call. Plop them onto the faces of smartphones, which have become unique extensions of their users, and these communications are at risk of being worse than random – they can be outright annoying.

For those unsure of the importance of mobile reward apps, here’s a lightning bolt: Two-thirds of companies (66%) that saw a decline in customer loyalty in 2015 did not have a mobile app, according to AccessDevelopment.com. Make no mistake – once a company adds an app, the words are important.

“Since you only have a little bit of space on that screen to get the customer’s attention, you have to make sure you communicate the right message, which will differ across customers,” said Scott Neslin, professor of marketing at the Tuck School at Dartmouth College. 

Yet crafting general program communications for the little screen is a highly specialized skill. Not all marketers have the talent on board to know even the basics, such as which colors to use and what the onboarding message should say. So we found a couple experts to share five instructive tips.

1: Honor the pyramid: Program operators should view the communication path like a pyramid, suggests Steven Jeffes, a customer relationship management and marketing expert in Albany, New York. This means keeping the very first level of communication brief and beneficial to the member. In short: Give her a reason to read on. “If the message implies an advantage to the member, she is more likely to click to the next level, where she can explore opportunities to achieve more points, reach the next level or redeem,” Jeffes said.

2: Sell, but softly, and use a big stick: Marketers should not try to sell to members until they reach levels two or three on the pyramid. “Once you gain their trust you can say, ‘By the way, we have these offers,’” Jeffes said. “It’s secondary.” Along the way, the content should become progressively stickier, making the app a cool place to hang out. Tips of the day, educational content or scavenger hunts are good examples. The company Scavify creates mobile scavenger hunts and similar challenges that brands can use to engage and reward members, while embedding brand information.

3: Paint a relevant image: Sounds simple, but sometimes the temptation to be visually creative could derail a transaction, said Leslie Handmaker, a Denver-based digital marketing consultant specializing in conversion-rate optimization. “I've done some split-testing with images to understand the effects on conversion rates,” she said. “There's definitely a higher potential for conversions when more relevant images are used.” So what’s relevant? Think immediacy – a printing company selling business cards should use images of actual business cards, not of businessmen handing their cards to clients, she said.

Also, it’s a beginner’s tip, but worth emphasizing: Be sure the images can adapt to varying screen sizes without the need for additional coding.

4: Be easy on the icons: Merchants also should resist getting too cute with their icons. What makes sense to a 30-year-old may be harder to grasp for a 60-year-old. “Intuitive examples include icons of tickets, shopping carts, hearts, etc., to help the user navigate the app,” she said. And while at it, marketers should not jam too many elements on the screen for risk of making the icons hard to find and follow. Both ibotta (a mobile shopping app that gives cash back) and Ticketmaster have apps that make good use of icons and avoid text-heavy interfaces, she said.

5: Seek contrast: No matter how catchy the message, it will not be clearly seen if it does not stand up to the varying conditions of a mobile user. Ask, for example: Does it read as well inside as outside? In addition to using just a few words per screen, marketers should pick high-contrast colors that will stand out, regardless of the light source. “So even if your phone is in the sun, you can see it,” Jeffes said, “like sharp yellow fonts on a dark green screen.”

That alone may be an eye-opening tip for many marketers new to the small screen. For them, as well as operators revisiting their mobile strategies, these tips should help to hold up under harsh light.

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