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How mobile should fit into a retail marketing strategy

May 12, 2010

transactRetailers need to invest in mobile to drive sales and marketing initiatives, according to Tobe, an international fashion and retail authority. 

From streaming video to smartphone applications, a number of new technologies can directly translate to sales, a Tobe report points out. Retailers can use mobile to market new promotions through mobile coupons and SMS clubs.

“Today’s always on-the-go customer has become more challenging than ever to reach,” said Catherine Moellering, executive vice president of Tobe, New York. “In order for retailers to effectively communicate their brand message to what has become a ‘moving target,’ new strategies must be continually explored and evaluated.

“If you can’t reach consumers via traditional media channels like TV and print, then it is imperative to take your cues from the consumer and shift to more interactive media,” she said. “Consumers are in control of what they view, when they view it, how they view it and where they view it.

“They can tune your message in or out in the blink of an eye.”

Mobile marketing
As mobile phone usage increases, consumers expect more functionality from their devices.

Talking on the phone has almost become secondary to other activities. Texting has quickly become the top-ranked mobile phone feature.

One of the major advantages of mobile marketing is that retailers can reach consumers while they are commuting, working, traveling, shopping and involved in other activities.

“When consumers are home or at work responses are typically delayed for obvious reasons – you have to wait for customers to visit your store and the chances are it won’t even be the same day,” Ms. Moellering said. 

“Messages can be customized to each customer’s profile, information you acquire when they register or opt-in to receive your marketing messages,” she said. “Targeted messages specific to customers’ needs and interest have added value for both retailers and consumers.”

Messages can include gift-giving reminders, contests, coupons, special promotions/sales, in-store events and personal appearances.

Mobile marketing campaigns should offer information and insider deals that give customers an incentive to sign up – a sense of exclusivity and a first-to-know kind of relationship.

Ms. Moellering said that mobile marketing is a powerful opportunity for retailers to engage with customers in a more personalized interactive manner, to increase loyalty, generate word-of-mouth, improve store and Web traffic and integrate other channels into their multichannel business strategy.

Mobile commerce
Per Ms. Moellering, mobile commerce is the next frontier and allows retailers to target niche groups including moms, the primary and most influential shopper in most families, especially in the current economy.

The mobile channel is getting a lot of hype as the next big commerce initiative, with the potential to drive sales to both bricks-and-mortar stores as well as Web sites.

Advice to retailers: develop dedicated mobile formats that simplify ease of use or customers will quickly turn to other companies that do.

Creating a mobile version of a Web site that consumers can download to their mobile phones is key.

Consumers need to be able to easily navigate Web sites using their mobile phones, especially if retailers ultimately want them to place orders using their device.

An example of how mobile can help drive sales: A customer who has opted-in to receive marketing messages from a company might be in the local mall.

GPS-integrated tracking detects that she is in close proximity to a store and that store quickly sends her a text message alerting her to a special one-day offer.

The offer piques her interest, she heads to the store and ultimately purchases something using the coupon code the store texted her.

Another scenario may have a retailer emailing a customer telling them to visit its mobile Web site for a one-day-only sale.

If they have already downloaded the mobile version of the retail Web site, they can respond immediately and order directly from their handset.

“Mobile marketing campaigns have been primarily centered on text messaging and emails, but mobile Web sites are fast becoming a focal point as consumers increasingly favor interactive visual media,” Ms. Moellering said. 

“Text messages and emails can be used to drive visits to mobile Web sites so strategies employing all three should be integrated,” she said. “The introduction of downloadable mobile phone applications has facilitated the use of mobile Web sites and the ability to purchase online products using cell phones.

“Prior to this it was often awkward to access the Internet using mobile phones.”

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

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