Monday, January 28, 2013

Tips from the FTC for Mobile Marketing




Mobile applications are critical to today’s marketing environment.  The number of Smartphone users is skyrocketing.   The Pew Research Center indicates that 45% of adults and 66% of Americans aged 18-29 have a Smartphone and 25% of adults own a tablet.   According to a survey by ReturnPath quoted in Joel Book’s Exact Target blog, nearly half of all emails are read on mobile devices.  What this trend means is that marketers need to get savvy about all aspects of mobile marketing, including best practices in privacy and security.  Mobile marketing has expanded to include SMS/text messages, in-app advertising, mobile action codes like QR codes, mobile coupons, check-in promotions, mobile payments or other aspects of digital wallets, emails, telemarketing calls to a mobile devices, RFID tags and much more.

Mobile Marketing has its challenges because fewer ads display on mobile devices and users are still somewhat reluctant to purchase on them (although they seem to be more likely to purchase on tablets rather than Smartphones).  All this will certainly change as users become more familiar with these devices.

I recently attended the Promotion Marketing Association Marketing (PMA, recently rechristened BAA, Brand Activation Association) Promotion Law conference in Chicago which covered some practical tips for launching mobile applications.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is only one agency involved in the oversight and regulation of mobile marketing is charged with protecting consumers and suggests these tips for implementing mobile marketing applications.

      1.  Tell the Truth.  Tell the truth about what your app can do.  False or misleading claims anger users and can land you in legal hot water.  If you have health safely or performance claims (i.e., our pedometer will help you lose weight), you need to back these up with solid scientific evidence.  Disclosure must be ‘clear and conspicuous,’ which is not always easy on small screens.

      2.   Respect Privacy.  The mobile application, unlike the company’s legacy applications, may offer the chance to incorporate privacy concerns from the beginning, which the FTC calls ‘privacy by design’  The FTC suggests only collecting the information you need, storing it securely and disposing of it when no longer needed.  Some other privacy tips include:
a.       Being transparent about data practices
b.      Honoring published privacy practices
c.       Protecting Children’s privacy by adhering to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and getting parental consent before collecting information from children under 13 years of age.

      3. Offer choices that are easy to find. Tools that allow for choices in how to use the app and have privacy settings, opt-outs and other ways to control their information is good business practice.  The standard should be ‘clear and conspicuous;’ make privacy choices easy to use and then follow through on your promises.

You can get more information from the “Marketing Your Mobile App Get it Right from the Start” and other documents available at business.ftc.gov.  How hard do you think it is it to follow these guidelines and implement a successful mobile app?
By Debra Zahay-Blatz.
You can find Debra on and Twitter as well as LinkedIn.
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