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Making The Most Of Mobile During The Holiday Selling Season

  • Written by Alicia Fiorletta
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Mobile has become a hot-button topic for retailers strategizing their 2011 holiday marketing plans. If Google’s recent projection is on target — an estimated 44% of total searches for last-minute gifts and store locators will take place via mobile devices — then retailers opting to take a wait-and-see approach to mobile may find themselves left behind.

A group of industry experts shared their views on the use of mobile during the recent webinar titled “Holiday Mobile Marketing: How To Satisfy Demanding Consumers In This Economy.” Panelists included: Joy Liuzzo, VP of InsightExpress; Patrick Moorhead, SVP and Group Management Director for Mobile Platforms of Draftfcb; Matthew Valleskey, Director of Marketing, Mobile and Registry Services for Neustar; and Craig Etheridge, VP of Mobile Advertising Sales for USA Today.

In developing an overall mobile strategy, retailers should focus primarily on understanding their target consumer base, according to the panel. Once the makeup of the consumer base is clarified, retailers can determine which channels are most effective in boosting engagement and overall purchase rates.

“You have to get comfortable with what you’re trying to do with your audience and what aspect of mobile you’re using,” explained Moorhead. “Having a clear strategy up-front and then understanding how your consumers behave around the technology and getting to link those two together is the basic idea.”

Regardless of overall strategy, mobile is the must-have tool for successful holiday sales, added Liuzzo. “I think the industry is going to be surprised at how many sales, or lost sales, are influenced by the mobile phone,” she said. “I am not talking about coupons and deals, but information-gathering behavior. This includes comparison shopping, requesting price matches, checking inventory at other stores and so on. With consumers tightening their belts again this year, they will want to go into their shopping activities feeling informed and in charge.”

However, citing statistics from InsightExpress’ Digital Consumer Report, Liuzzo noted that mobile-driven holiday shopping skews towards the male gender. “Not only can you promote items that can be given as gifts like clothing and jewelry, but you can also promote more male-appealing items like electronics, music, movies and books to get them interested in something for themselves,” she said. “One thing we learned from our study is that this group is more stressed out about holiday shopping, so anything you can do to help with that is going to be a welcome message.”

SMS And QR Codes Contribute To Holiday Success
Many retailers have rolled out a SMS (short message service) strategy to send targeted, timely messages to consumers based on relevant data such as purchase behavior, and special announcements such as flash sales.

“SMS is still the most ubiquitous way to do mobile marketing,” Valleskey said. “Every phone is SMS capable, and more phones are becoming MMS (multimedia messaging service) capable. So using a shortcode through that marketing is not only a great way to get that information out. It’s a great way for brands and advertisers to start to develop an opt-in database.”

Valleskey further explained that retailers can use their opt-in database in order to customize marketing initiatives and develop targeted deals based on items such as keywords, past purchases and search history. By pairing a SMS initiative with a QR Code offering, retailers can provide a media-rich experience that brings customers across multiple touch points.

“Barcodes are just a new gateway,” Moorhead noted. “So it’s not necessarily about the code, it’s about what’s behind the code. If you click a barcode and essentially get an amusement park of awesome content, experiences, videos and deals, that’s where we’re seeing the most success.”

Moorhead explained that the holiday season is the prime time for scanning capabilities in-store, be it via GoogleShopper, QR code or barcode scanning. However, the number of steps to reach the content they’re searching for may deter some shoppers.

“You’re asking consumers to jump through a lot of hoops to just give them a standard item they can get anywhere else,” Liuzzo said. “Ideally, what’s going to happen if you are going to use QR codes is make sure you’re giving them a lot of reward and make sure it’s worth their time to get there. Otherwise, don't waste your time. Find another gateway to use and you’ll be better off.”

Geo-location applications, such as foursquare, also have the potential to drive foot traffic during the holidays, the experts noted. However, if retailers don’t have a clear value proposition in place, their strategies may quickly fall flat. “We try to look less at the technology and more at the behavior that’s driving it,” Moorhead noted. “Part of it is vanity, while part is functional or a value proposition or exchange that involves discounts and offers, or special treatment. You can then form a strategy around how a retailer might use that.”

Liuzzo also warned retailers not to be stingy with rewards. Many companies require shoppers to check in multiple times before receiving a coupon or offer, which can encourage shoppers to take their business elsewhere. “If somebody is taking the time to check in, they’re taking efforts, opening an application, finding a store, checking in, so you should give them something back,” she said. “Retailers can have levels, but make sure you acknowledge and appreciate somebody for being there because during the holiday season, chances are they’re not going to circle around three or four more times to check in at your location.”

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