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Harrah’s exec: Fragmented handset market impacts campaign strategies

September 23, 2009

Harrahs Neal Narayani and Moosejaws Gary Wohlfeill

Harrah's Neal Narayani and Moosejaw's Gary Wohlfeill

LAS VEGAS – Executives from Harrah’s Entertainment, Moosejaw and Fandango made a case for mobile marketing and commerce during a session at

At this interactive session, audience members were primarily retailers that have or plan to deploy mobile commerce initiatives. Mobile Marketer’s Mickey Alam Khan moderated the panel.

“We realized that not only are our customers texting, but our staff members are texting each other even when they are sitting right next to one another,” said Gary Wohlfeill, creative director of Moosejaw.

“We wanted to interact with consumers and since they are actively interacting with their phones we became very attracted to the space,” he said.

Moosejaw is an outdoor apparel retailer whose target audience is young, anticorporate and very energetic. 

The Moosejaw brand is known for its rather untraditional marketing techniques and is what sets the brand apart from the competition.

The company launched its WAP site in 2006 ( Consumers were able to search and check product information, but the WAP had its limitations.

It was not the full experience and it was nothing like what the brand was known for – its madness.

Additionally, the checkout process on the WAP was really cumbersome, which turned consumers off.

In May 2009, Moosejaw launched its iPhone-optimized site where the payments were linked to a consumer’s PayPal account, making the process much easier and more comfortable for users.

“The reason we launched the smartphone-optimized site was to eliminate the silos,” Mr. Wohlfeill said. “Our mobile site did not feel like our PC site, which is what our customers know and love.

“We wanted a media-rich madness section and wanted the design to look like,” he said.

The madness section on does not sell anything. It is just a content section that has things that the company finds to be outrageous. Users love it as a source of entertainment.

Mr. Wohlfeill said that it is important to have a consistent branding experience on mobile and online to break down the silos.

“Remember that customers don’t think in terms of channels,” he said.

Moosejaw’s new mobile site at includes a madness section, every customer review and a click-to-call check out.

“We felt so strong about the brand experience and having a presence on mobile that we launched the site without purchase [capability],” Mr. Wohlfeill said.

The future for Moosejaw looks bright, as the company plans to launch an integrated shopping cart across its online and mobile sites within the next 6-8 months.

An audience member asked Mr. Wohlfeill why Moosejaw didn’t just launch an iPhone application. He said that smartphone-optimized sites do not limit you to just one platform or one carrier.

“We wanted it open to everyone,” he said.

Gary Schwartz, president of Impact Mobile happened to be in the audience and he chimed in. He said that research shows that there are usually only about five applications that are the threshold for consumers on their phones.

He agreed with Mr. Wohlfeill’s notion that smartphone-optimized sites are open to more people than, say, an iPhone application.

Harrah’s knows mobile
Neal Narayani, senior manager of mobile and email marketing at Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., talked about the company’s experience with mobile.

Harrah’s decided in the first quarter of 2008 that it needed to innovate to keep up with consumers and their uptake of technology – specifically the mobile phone.

By the third quarter of 2008, Harrah’s built its mobile WAP offering for customers. Consumers were able to check rates from their handheld.

The hotel and casino chain piloted a few SMS messaging alerts and explored the mobile space through these tests.

By the third quarter of 2009, Harrah’s was ready to deploy and support an enterprise-wide ability to communicate with consumers using mobile.

“The fragmented handset market impacts campaign strategies,” Mr. Narayani said.

Harrah’s experimented with a Mobile Concierge program at its Rio hotel brand. It did last-minute inventory text alerts for the Paris hotel and text-to-win programs in other chains.

“We learned some lessons from when we first got started in mobile,” Mr. Narayani said. “It is important to establish your baseline mobile Web presence and identify where mobile can serve as a business need.

“Know your audience in terms of the demographic, their behavior, device and etcetera,” he said. “And build programs in consideration of who you are targeting.

“Lastly, establish success criteria, measure and refine.”

Approximately 3 percent of Harrah’s ecommerce sales come from mobile commerce, per Mr. Narayani.

Fandango masters mobile
Fandango is the nation’s leading movie ticketing source and one of the top five mobile commerce sites in the Unites States, according to Nielsen.

The company first launched its WAP site in October 2005. It also made its services available on carrier decks for Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

In March the company launched its iPhone application, which has been downloaded 2.5 million times since then.

“Our iPhone application has consistently shown up as one of the top free entertainment apps in Apple’s App Store,” said Ted Hong, chief marketing officer at Fandango. “Mobile has fundamentally changed Fandango’s value proposition.

“Tickets sold on mobile are on average 1.5 to 2 hours closer to the showtime than tickets purchased on the Web,” he said. “User behavior is different – mobile users browse more and more often and this creates new advertising opportunities.”

Fandango marketed the application via email, on-site, house ads and PR. Also the fact that Apple features the application in its television commercials is a plus for the application as well.

Mr. Hong had a few suggestions and best practices for the audience.

“If you build it, they may not come so make sure you have a reason for being on mobile,” Mr. Hong said. “Take your time and build your product right.

“Not everything on the Web will work, nor does it need to be in your mobile app or on you mobile Web site,” he said.

It is important to be focused on being practical. Utilities have a staying power.

According to Greystripe, the average iPhone application is accessed almost 20 times and then discarded.

“It is important to dedicate adequate resources and determine a roadmap,” Mr. Hong said. “Choose wisely.”

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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