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Three ways retailers should use mobile to attract customers this holiday shopping season


Have your competitors already started singing ‘Tis the Season’ to woo customers? As the battle for shoppers heats up, theres a better way for retailers to give themselves an added advantage: focus on mobile marketing. Nishma Shah explains three simple methods for targeting mobile users.

The outlook for the 2010 holiday sales appears to be, in a word, tepid. Consumers are concerned about the state of the economy and they’re proving to be cautious in their shopping and spending habits.

So savvy retailers are taking matters into their own hands… by putting their message into the hands of consumers.

That’s right. One of the fastest emerging strategies for attracting new customers, generating repeat business and improving campaign analytics involves the use of easy-to-execute mobile marketing programs.

All the evidence suggests this is a sensible move if retailers want to give themselves an added advantage as the battle for shoppers heats up. In 2009, research showed that 51% of holiday season shoppers used their phones for in-store shopping related activities, such as checking product details or comparing costs.

In 2010, these figures are expected to grow significantly, with comScore reporting a 500% increase in mobile web traffic and Gartner predicting mobile web usage will soon overtake browsing from a PC.

Reaching out to customers through their mobile handsets has other added benefits for retailers. It allows for personalised marketing activity and the ability to create immediate incentives to drive customers to stores. Location tools can also be used as part of the communications and all activity can be tracked and measured to show a clear return on investment.

Despite these compelling reasons, there are a significant number of retailers that haven’t yet developed a strategy to target customers through their mobile devices. For these businesses, here are three ideas to get started.

1. Create a mobile opt-in database

Encouraging customers to register their mobile numbers is an important starting point. The easiest way to do this is to buy a keyword and shortcode through a mobile services provider. This creates an automated system where customers can text the keyword to the shortened mobile number (e.g. text CARD to 19954536) to register to your database.

To encourage registrations, it’s important to show an immediate benefit (e.g. 10% discount in store today) and to display the keyword and shortcode prominently in store, online, and in your existing marketing channels.

By creating a database, retailers can instantly begin targeting customers through SMS, a simple and cost effective way to begin mobile marketing. Research shows that 90% of SMS messages are opened within three minutes of being received, and 99% are opened overall.

These text messages can be used to deliver timely and relevant offers, encouraging foot traffic and repeat customers. If used as part of a wider mobile strategy, they can also link through to dedicated mobile content such as store finder tool, exclusive offers, or mobile coupons.

2. Create a mobile website

Given the wide variety of mobile devices on the market, a mobile website can offer a much wider reach than a device-specific app and can also be used effectively as part of a wider mobile strategy, for example as a landing page for a SMS campaign, allowing you to track click-through rates.

Thought should also be given to what content is more appealing to someone browsing via a mobile device rather than a PC. Helping people check store locations or opening hours, promoting that day’s best buys, or encouraging opt-ins to an SMS service can all be more effective on mobile than your normal web content.

3. Create or enhance loyalty programs

Mobile communication delivers a higher response rate and therefore a significantly increased ROI from loyalty programs. It also allows retailers to accurately time the moment messages are read and which customers receive them, allowing offers to be highly targeted, interactive, and compelling. As a consumer, if I get a special offer for a complementary item to something I’ve already purchased, say insurance for a TV or cute boots to go with my leggings, I am going to be much more likely to convert on that purchase.

Mobile can be used to distribute coupons and loyalty cards, with unique codes that can be scanned at the point of purchase and their use tracked and evaluated. This can eliminate the need for consumers to carry all those plastic loyalty cards altogether.

Also, by eliminating the need for expensive print and distribution, mobile loyalty campaigns can be much more cost-effective and friendly to the environment.

Did you know?

  • There are 5 billion mobile handsets worldwide compared to 1 billion PC/laptops.
  • Thirty-three per cent of smartphone users conduct price comparisons while in your store, 50% review product information and 28% purchase goods via their smartphone.
  • Facebook is accessed more by mobile handsets than PCs.
  • In 2009, Amazon transacted more than $1bn via mobile.
  • eBay predict between $1.5 and $2bn in transactions via mobile in 2010.
  • Predictions suggest mobile will be the primary internet access route within 2-3 years.

In short, the mobile device has become an acceptable and in many cases preferred, highly effective and rapidly growing consumer channel to market. Is your business taking advantage?

This season, put some real yuletide spirit into your mobile marketing.

Nishma Shah is a Products & Mobile Marketing Manager of 2ergo Australia Pty Ltd, an end-to-end mobile solutions provider. Prior to joining 2ergo, Nishma has worked in senior positions with several companies.

Image by Matti Mattila