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Cabela’s cranks up mobile investments to refresh brand

September 16, 2013

Cabela's mobile app

NEW YORK – A Cabela’s executive at the Mobile Marketing Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 unveiled a number of new mobile initiatives that the company will roll out later this year to revamp the brand.

In the session “Using an omnichannel approach to bring the outdoors to mobile” the Cabela’s executive discussed the company’s failed first attempts at mobile and its recent decision to invest in a fresh start. Cabela’s has grown its digital department to around 65 employees and plans to launch phase one of its mobile plan on Nov. 1., kicking off with a new mobile Web site.

“We’re still very new to a lot of this stuff,” said Greg Hickman, mobile marketing manager at Cabela’s, Sidney, NE.

“When we did start dabbling in mobile we didn’t do it the right way,” he said. “We were very reactional, very tactical.

“We’re starting fresh. We’re using this year to decide what mobile success should look like going forward.”

The Mobile Marketing Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 conference was a Mobile Marketer event.

Mobile site
When deciding Cabela’s first step in its mobile facelift, the company chose to focus on its mobile Web site before moving on to more complex mobile efforts.

According to Mr. Hickman, the company’s current mobile site does not appropriately reflect the branding of the retailer.

“We found out that most of the people that would visit our mobile site would click out to full Web site because it didn’t feel like Cabela’s,” he said. “That’s a problem. People are coming to our site and don’t even feel like it’s Cabela’s.”

A preview of the new mobile site

On Nov. 1, Cabela’s mobile Web site will provide better feature functionality and integrating Cabela’s Club Visa program.

The company is trying to keep as much of its mobile efforts in-house as possible although it has reached out to a few vendors for certain campaigns.

Cabela’s does already have a consumer-facing mobile application, but according to Mr. Hickman, it is not yet where he would like it be.

However, he understands that apps are primarily for loyalists and the company needs to first improve its mobile site before moving on to consumer apps.

Mr. Hickman presenting

Revitalizing SMS
Another mobile initiative that Cabela’s is focusing on is leveraging SMS to connect with customers.

The company originally tried using SMS in 2009 but failed to really get anything out of it.

Cabela’s ran an SMS sweepstakes but never communicated with the database it acquired after the sweepstakes had ended. Those numbers eventually expired and the company had not capitalized on the database at all.

According to Mr. Hickman, Cabela’s is attempting to retry SMS and initiating a pilot sometime this winter.

SMS could be particularly helpful for a company like Cabela’s, whose core customer is about 57 years old. Many members of its target audience still have feature phones and even if they have smartphones are less comfortable with browsers and apps, so SMS could be a great way to engage them via mobile.

Mr. Hickman explained that one of the most important things that he has learned in the industry is patience. Cabela’s has a lot of work to do in mobile, but it cannot get it all done immediately.

“We’ve been around for 52 years,” Mr. Hickman said. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re still focused on the basics. Take baby steps, do it right.

“Each of your customers are different. We’re looking for the right way to connect to those folks.”

Final Take
Greg Hickman is mobile marketing manager at Cabela’s, Sidney, NE

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Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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