Strategies to Optimize Cross-Channel Engagement With Mobile and Email Marketing

Industry experts share insights at Customer Engagement Conference

Creating a sense of shopping urgency, offering exclusive online engagement, and viewing opt-outs as a time for opportunity are just some of the tactics necessary to engage the cross-channel consumer.

With the wave of the future in retail moving toward the mobile phone and Web 2.0 technologies, retailers can’t ignore the consumer’s changing lifestyle and preferences. At the recent Retail TouchPoints Customer Engagement Conference, two cross-channel experts shared their insights on how to appropriately engage through email and the mobile phone.  This session and others presented at the August 6, 2008 live virtual event will be available on demand through October via

Engaging the Mobile Consumer
“We’re talking about people here, not just their wallets,” said Andy Nulman, during his presentation titled, One Hand in Their Pocket. During the presentation, Nulman shared insights on how to engage the mobile consumer and use the mobile phone as a marketing medium as well as a means to communicate with customers and sell new concepts. Nulman is president and CMO of Airborne Mobile, a mobile content provider for clients including Maxim, NHL, Taco Bell, and Family Guy.

Nulman noted that mobile marketing should not be a “proverbial drive-by shooting,” because that becomes disruptive. “Mobile marketing should not be disruptive,” he said. “It’s not advertising at all. It’s a precision targeted one-to-one communication with customers — that’s all it is.”


When used properly the mobile device could help acquire more customers and expand the basket of those retailers may already have, according to Nulman. The mobile phone is a medium to establish trust and permission, which ultimately, licenses retailers to communicate with their customers.
For mobile communication in retail to be successful, it should:

•    Be Targeted Near-by: Customers are not coming from the next country or state. It has to be relevant to the radius in which the store is.
•    Be Limited: There has to be a limit on what you’re selling. Keep it special. In an infinite sea of products, individual items will lose their appeal.
•    Have a Wow! Factor. The offer must be compelling. Consumers will not be attracted to a 10 percent discount. The offer must be important and relevant so consumers feel the “wow” at and then are motivated to take advantage of the offer quickly.

One more tip from Nulman: Be sure to test market offers before investing in a full roll-out.

Five ways to make mobile marketing more effective:

Nulman provided five different examples of mobile promotions that work:

1.    The NOW Whisper: Make it a limited time offer. This shouldn’t be a regular offer. Consumers should wonder why they haven’t seen this offer from you before. The messaging should be short and to the point, with no scrolling.

2.    The Secret Sale: This is opt-in. Offering consumers the option to text message an SMS for random discounts in store will provide a return message with the details.

3.    The In-Store Experience: Give consumers non-intrusive value added information; something they can look at. Make sure to communicate in the consumers’ language with offers like “Win three times today’s purchases in cash! Text trip to 51945!”

4.    The Woot-Like Countdown– sells one product every day until its stock is depleted. This is a great idea as it gives customers the urgency to hop on board quickly before the offer is over. Give them a countdown of how many of an item is left so they know they have to act immediately!
5.    The Mini-Net: WAP sites are a shift from the pull message the presentation talks about. This is a push message, like a digital circular.  This plays in consumers’ minds and provides an emotional attachment to your store. It has to be simple and provide concepts like “new and noted,” “smoking deals,” and “need to know,” offering consumers reasons to opt in.

Heating up the Products

To create the hot commodity, Nulman said marketing strategies have to be HUMID:

Hyper-local: When these programs are a part of national effort, marketing must feature regional differences. Give local managers the tools to customize these programs for their customers so each has the right service offering.

Have a Sense of Urgency: “Text messages hit; emails sit.” Eighty five percent of consumers will respond to a personal text message in less than 30 minutes, but not as quickly with email. So, when a quick response is the goal, use text messaging.

Measurable: All of these marketing activities are measurable. Text message and mobile marketing is a data cruncher’s dream.  You can acquire direct dollar attribution and customer history with rich data. You can set the metric you want and follow it.

Immediate: These efforts are not so much about image building. This creates cold, hard, fast sells and demand.

Dynamic: Create rapid reaction time. Reach out and send a message to your customers.
Nulman noted that since 2008 has been a difficult year economically for retail it’s important to “cozy up to consumers like never before,” as it’s important to build customer loyalty. “The whisper concept is an additional level of loyalty and those types of programs — this is a platinum version of the gold loyalty programs,” he said. “It’s not to replace what you do online and in direct mail, but it augments it and is an adjunct to what’s already in place. These are the secret messages that are worthwhile.”

Email as the backbone for multi-channel marketing

Bottom line: retail strategists need to take email seriously. “Retailers think of email as its own little system, when they should see it as a way of intersecting all channels,” said Chad White, director of retail insights and editor-at-large for the Email Experience Council, during his presentation.  
Permission email marketing now accounts for 27 percent of the email that consumers receive in their primary personal inbox, up from 16 percent in 2003, according to Jupiter Research.

White said retailers must agree on how they are defining customer engagement when it pertains to email campaigns. An open; a click; a conversion; a forward; an offline action…successful engagement? Yes, but the breadth and duration of engagement must be considered, according to White. As an example, White described an email campaign by EB Games which featured a sidebar of new and upcoming releases as a great way for planning purchase decisions.

Email’s synergy with other channels
Retailers should use email to promote new items on their Web sites and create exclusive online engagements, suggested White. Using email retailers can test different marketing promotions to determine what might work in stores.

White said there’s more opportunity in the opt-out process than there may appear to be. “Even if [email recipients] don’t click through or continue involvement, it will allow them to decide whether they want to keep that email. By the number of people clicking, you can get an idea what percentage of your audience is viewing your emails, which is valuable information.” He added: Use the opt-out time to offer a catalog request. “Give customers a chance to opt in through a different channel.”

Retailers also should use email to promote the use of their call centers — a key channel that drives customers to upsell opportunities. “Figure out where your strengths are and use that accordingly,” White said. “Use what you have and take stock of all the different way you can use what you have and weave it into your emails.”

Review best practices to prepare for the holidays
Major retailers send about two emails per week, with that spiking to more than three times per week during the holiday season, plus email competes with other channels.

For the holiday season, White advises to look at the previous year’s campaign. “Identify what subject lines worked and which emails were forwarded the most,” he said. Take stock of what you did. Although you should be aware of what your competitors are doing, you should start with your retail company and make sure you have a good understanding of what things did and did not work. Try to repeat the successes and avoid some of the mistakes.

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