Melding Multi-Channels with Mobile

Posted on May 10th, 2010 by

“Mobile Will Be Bigger Than Desktop Internet in 5 Years.” – Morgan Stanley

“Sooner or later, more people nationwide will go online through their mobile devices than their computers. It’s not a question of if, but when for retailers. Absence from mobile will cost them market share.”- Mickey Alam Khan

Recently the e-tailing group attended the Heartland Mobile Council’s Mobile University, which is part of an ongoing effort to “educate brands about the importance of a long-term strategic approach to mobile marketing and how to integrate mobile into their businesses.”

A wide variety of topics were discussed, but one of the strongest messages conveyed was that mobile marketing efforts must be integrated across channels for multi-channel merchants.  In a presentation at the Retail Innovation & Marketing Conference, Tracy Benson, Senior Director of Interactive Marketing at Best Buy, debuted a video that shows clear examples of how this multi-channel “meld” is only going to gain in importance as mobile technology continues to become entrenched in our day-to-day routines.

In the United States alone, 91% of the population owns a cell phone according to cellular-news.com. And findings from a recent consumer survey by Sterling Commerce “continued to highlight consumers’ desire to link the online and physical experience.”

In spite of these staggering statistics, according to the e-tailing group’s 9th Annual Merchant Survey, 73% of those surveyed “are not engaging shoppers in mobile in any way.”

In response to merchant’s slow adoption rate of mobile technology, Mickey Alam Khan, Editor-in-Chief of Mobile Marketer, suggested,

“Retailers need to launch mobile sites and – where necessary – mobile applications, as fast as they can. They can’t afford to play catch up. The consumer is already ahead of them in mobile web adoption. Retailers also need to quickly launch SMS programs that tie in with their multichannel loyalty and database marketing efforts. Both efforts are not that difficult but require will within retail organizations that are still trying to put this weak economy behind them.”

Just as the e-tailing group was in the forefront of benchmarking e-commerce we too want to understand the consumer mobile experience from the shopper perspective and will look to once again set industry standards for selling smart via this new channel.

Merchants must sensibly respond to consumer demand assessing their brand and their customer base.

GETTING STARTED IS AS EASY AS 1, 2, 3!

  1. Send SMS.  According to 4Info, 70% of the US population is currently using SMS (texting) technology. So starting with SMS to drive traffic to bricks-and-mortar stores is a good strategy. Use free offers and incentives to entice consumers to opt-in for future text messages. Roger & Holland’s campaign attracted over 1,300 members to its mobile program in two months! They’ve also tracked $18,000+ in business directly back to their mobile club efforts. Then, continue using text messages to deliver alerts of store openings, new merchandise, special offers, coupons and discounts. Also, include links to drive traffic to mobile sites. As Gary Schwartz, President/CEO of Impact Mobile said during one of the Mobile University’s panel discussions, “It’s about understanding your consumer, who is text messaging and using the mobile web—you want to be part of your audience’s communication channels.”
  2. Build a mobile-friendly website that works on all smartphones. Ensure the site has:
    • Strong search functionality. Just as on websites, Google-minded consumers want to search
    • Branding elements consistent with the store and online experience
    • A store locator function.  Have a store locator button on every single page supporting cross-channel needs.
    • Special offers or the latest store circulars
  3. Create an application if relevant. An application is advisable for retailers with weekly circulars and loyalty programs. Jared Horowitz, Manager of Business Development and Direct Marketing at Steve Madden says, “Seventy-five percent of users coming to the website via mobile are coming from the iPhone or iPod touch, so an iPhone app is part of our multichannel strategy”In April, the Gilt Groupe reported that 7% of their weekend sales came from the company’s iPhone app. In addition, they offered an incentive for customers to download their new iPad application which gleaned 3% of their sales with the first two days after being launched!

Experts agree that, as web-enabled smart-phones and affordable data plans become commonplace, retailers and marketers will be forced to rethink their cross-channel marketing strategies to target on-the-go consumers.

So with over 285,000,000 mobile phone users in the US alone, how will your organization “mobile-ize?”

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