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Add mobile component to catalogs, DRTV, ecommerce: panel

August 25, 2009

addNEW YORK – Mobile’s biggest advantage is that it gives legs to other channels such as catalog, retail store, direct response television and ecommerce, according to a panel at Mobile Commerce Spotlight.

The simple addition of a common short code and keyword can transform a campaign, call-to-action, store front or loyalty program. Add to that a mobile friendly site and applications for devices such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia, Android, the Palm Pre and others. With this combination, retailers and marketers can breathe new life into their customer acquisition and retention efforts.

“Putting a mobile bar code in newspaper ads, catalogs or outdoor media so consumers can immediately interact with products by scanning a code that’s unique so they can go to an order page, scan their code and browse products in the catalog makes classic media a whole lot more interactive and a whole lot more convertible,” said Pete Langlois, senior product manager of mobile services for NeuStar.

NeuStar specializes in common short codes, bar codes and a new access method: abbreviated dial codes.

“The idea is powerful—being able to dial a phone number, hit send and the response comes back as a Web page, invokes the data session and gives it back to you as a Web page,” Mr. Langlois said.

In the U.S., there are about 1,000 companies that own 3,000 short codes, out of about 9,000 codes that are available. Those companies are running around 10,000 individual campaigns with various keywords.

“Brands should explore all methods for the consumer to have access to specific deep content they want to reach via mobile—click here to get our 800 help desk, click here to pre-populate a text message or send an email,” Mr. Langlois said.

“There are multiple methods to achieve interactive sessions over mobile, and as companies learn to adapt over time, and as mobile phone technology and camera phones and ability of consumers to use them broadly evolves, we’ll move toward other media like bar code interaction.

One inhibitor to bar code adoption is point-of-sale redemption difficulties and the need to pre-install barcode-reader applications.

“We’ll see the operators beginning to put bar code readers on handsets preinstalled within two years, and then there’ll be a lower barrier to entry than short codes as we know them today,” Mr. Langlois said.

As for the length of time required to get a short code approved—often as much as three months—and the cost of leasing a short code—$500 a month for random numbers or $1000 per month for specific vanity numbers—NeuStar says it is not to blame.

“Once a short code is ordered, it has to go to different carriers, sending out a data set for each carrier to put into their system and provision it, because you want the code to be ubiquitous across all the operators,” Mr. Langlois said. “CTIA sets the prices for short code programs, and the vast majority of the monthly fee goes to CTIA.

“It is a value based program, and the idea that it has been wildly successful as a medium, an interactive work across carriers, indicates the value to support those price points,” he said.

Integrating mobile calls-to-action into traditional media has proved effective for marketers.

“When you see something in the media, you should be able to get it using your phone, whether it’s in a magazine, on the radio, or on TV,” said Adam Lichstein, chief operating officer of ShopText. “People have their cell phone in their hand all the time.

“Dillards ran a campaign where consumers can pick up any of the magazines where they’re running ads, Self, GQ or Glamour, and each product has a keyword,” he said. “If you want to buy the glasses, text the keyword to the short code and we know exactly which product you want and we allow consumers to complete that purchase.

“If brands deploy different keywords across different media channels, we can measure responses in real time.”

For example, a brand could use the same creative, but use different keywords—text watch1, watch2, watch3, etc.—and compare the response rate for each keyword.

“Offline traditional media becomes much more accountable, and brands can optimize their spend over time,” Mr. Lichstein said. “Get an SMS call-to-action into all of your media, newspapers, magazines, TV, out-of-home on JumboTrons or on the back of someone’s t-shirt, and allow the consumer to text in to make a purchase.”

Bowflex uses mobile for lead generation. One campaign offered consumers a free DVD with information about the product. The call-to-action was ‘Text WALK to short code 467467 to get free a DVD.’

Another magazine ad offered consumers a number of products for opting into a campaign via SMS. One prize was a $5 CVS card driving consumers into CVS stores to make a purchase.

One effective tactic is capturing consumers’ preferred credit card during the first transaction, then allowing them to select a PIN number for future purchases.

“The best thing is to promote mobile programs to promote those within the mobile channel, using mobile to sell mobile and create larger opt-in lists,” said Michael Foschetti, managing director of Mobisix.

“We’re working with shopping mall chain General Growth to help them get their fair share of media spend, leveraging keywords to retail-focused lists based on consumers’ preference data,” he said. “To generate store traffic, we use digital and mobile channels to promote the list, as well as in-mall media such as table tents in the food court and sky banners.

“The success rate is such that the mobile initiative has gotten visibility with several trade associations, and we’re building out for the entire shopping mall industry, because the 6,000 shopping mall owners in the U.S. make money as a landlord, but they’re also looking for ancillary revenue streams, and we’ve always tried to figure out how to activate those properties, and mobile is the best way.”

Those campaigns are primarily SMS-based, with the goal of driving retail traffic, with the next step being true mobile commerce transactions.

The diversity of the user base that is opting in is not just females, not just 18-24-year-olds, according to Mobisix.

“The diversity of the gender and age range of opted-in consumers will apply to a lot of different retail categories,” Mr. Foschetti said. “Opt-ins are growing incredibly rapidly.”

Initially weekly offers from General Growth include mall-specific gift cards, as well as Visa or American Express gift cards.

The mobile space is bucking the negative trends of the recession for the most part, and a rising tide lifts all ships.

“Mobile is going to continue to grow—we all know that the tide is rising in this space,” said Eric Holmen, president of SmartReply. “When mobile reaches critical scale, it’s not just a line item, not just to drive traffic but to drive revenue.

“Brands should ask consumers to text a keyword to a short code in a combination of all of their media—radio, television, online, in-store, etc.,” he said. “Opt-in rates are still too low for what they need for their business to move the needle, and it’s not just about integrating with traditional media.

“You have to do that, but you also have to fish where the fish are, and brands need to get confident buying mobile advertising, whether text messaging or rich media—opt-out rates are less than one percent, and high-value high-retention consumers are driven through mobile advertising.”

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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