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Office Depot prioritizes mobile personalization following strong holiday sales

January 16, 2014

Office Depot bets on mobile

An Office Depot executive at Mobile Marketer’s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference said that mobile represented 24 percent of Cyber Monday Web traffic in 2013, fueling a stronger focus on personalization this year.

The closing “Office Depot: How the Office Supplies Retailer Weaves Mobile Into Marketing” keynote presented an in-depth look at how mobile fared for the office supply retailer in 2013. The session gave attendees specific examples of mobile tactics that worked and did not work this year.

“Basically, the customer expects a highly personalized experience,” said Gabriel Cabrera, head of mobile business strategy and program owner at Office Depot, Boca Raton, FL.

“It’s no longer optional – it has to be personalized,” he said. “No longer generic banners, no longer emails that are just being flown in the sense of almost spam.

“Mobile is the connective tissue — some call it the glue. Basically, we are the ones facilitating a true omni experience and actually supporting our tech-savvy users.”

Driving mobile sales
During Cyber Week, mobile revenue tripled from 2012.

Black Friday was also a big hit for Office Depot this year.

Mobile represented 34 percent of total traffic on Black Friday, and mobile-generated transactions doubled year-over-year.

Throughout 2013, Office Depot leveraged a variety of different mobile tactics as part of campaigns. These include SMS, push notifications, mobile wallets, in-store app modes, circulars, mobile advertising and geo-fencing.

However, not all of these tactics are equally as effective.

For example, Passbook paid off for Office Depot in acquiring new active users.

Office Depot launched Passbook in February, which resulted in three times the number of active iOS users.

Android users are also increasingly converting more on Office Depot’s mobile app.

Additionally, Office Depot rolled out a back-to-school campaign as part of a partnership with musical group One Direction that incorporated augmented reality into the brand’s app (see story).

The augmented reality component to the iPhone and Android app increased app usage by three times during the campaign.

On the other hand, QR codes have not proved their worth. 

Mr. Cabrera cited a mobile bar code initiative that only generated a 9-10 percent usage rate.

Additionally, the executive said that mobile advertising needs to become more creative and engaging than basic banner advertising.

During back to school season this year, the retailer rolled out mobile point-of-sale technology to streamline the in-store experience.

This year, the retailer is testing  Bluetooth Low Energy.

Gabriel Cabrera at Mobile FirstLook

Mr. Cross-channel shoppers

Office Depot is also experimenting with responsive design, which will continue to be a big priority into 2014.

Despite the fact that mobile, Web and tablet traffic is intended to be served up across the same code, there are significant user behaviors across devices, and Office Depot is tailoring the experience for individual consumers.

For example, Office Depot has two times the number of smartphone sessions than tablet sessions. Therefore, content needs to be tailored to specific groups of consumers.

This plays into Office Depot’s initiatives for 2014 around personalization and custom content.

At the same time, performance is still critical in getting consumers quickly to mobile content.

According to the executive, the mobile site should load in three seconds or less on mobile devices.

“Our goal as marketers is to get and keep customers,” Mr. Cabrera said.

“Mobile is a key facilitator, it’s a connective tissue in any omni engagement, brick-and-mortar conversation, and it has to be treated as such from day one,” he said.

“So this is not an after-thought – it’s a mobile-first. Basically, we can check if a company has a mobile-first mentality if we actually go to the CEO. We ask the CEO about the mobile strategy and he or she is able to clearly articulate what the company is trying to do.”

Final Take
Gabriel Cabrera is head of mobile business strategy and program owner at Office Depot, Boca Raton, FL

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