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REI exec: Mobile email drives browsing, not conversions

October 31, 2013

REI's mobile app

LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ –An REI executive at the Mobile Shopping Fall Summit said that the marketer is leveraging push notifications and email to engage with consumers based on their specific intentions on mobile.

During the “High impact mobile messaging through push, SMS and email” panel executives from REI and Choice Hotels discussed how they leverage push notifications, email and SMS in different ways to connect with consumers. The panel was moderated by Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer, New York.

“When I open an email on my smartphone, I’m not in the behavior of ready to buy; I just want to take a glimpse and I’ll convert later on through another channel,” said Jeff Klonowski, senior manager of digital retail – mobile at REI, Kent, WA

“That’s not a bad experience,” he said. “That’s a good experience. The question is how do you attribute that?”

Mobile messaging
REI launched push messaging earlier this year in its specialty application REI Snow Report. The app gives users updates on weather conditions at ski resorts.

Users can get push notifications based on snowfall, and they can set up preferences to be alerted for specific amounts of snowfall.

Now REI is leveraging push notifications in its commerce-focused app to push alerts for sales. However, these push notifications are not personalized.

The general push messages simply promote an REI event such as an anniversary sale.

According to Mr. Klonowski, these notifications have a large opt-in rate and very low opt-outs once users join.

Next, REI is looking into mimicking the personalization of the Snow Report app on its commerce-based app to send more targeted messages as opposed to general alerts about sales.

REI is also making the push message richer by deep-linking to different parts of the app.

While REI has yet to jump into SMS, the retailer does plan to do so in the near future.

Mr. Klonowski is most proud of the company’s responsive emails. He said that REI has seen a lot of success in terms of engagement.

REI views mobile email and messaging as drivers of browsing more than purchasing. Yet, Mr. Klonowski does not think that that is necessarily a bad thing.

As long as consumers are engaging with the brand, REI is content.

The Mobile Shopping session

Different channel, different purpose
Choice Hotels leverages push notifications, email and SMS already. However, the company uses each tool in a slightly different way.

The hotel brand leverages push notifications as more of reminder tool to tell consumers when they have an upcoming reservation or if they need to guarantee a reservation with a credit card. Choice Hotels only sends a notification to rewards customers who have already made a booking.

Choice Hotels leverages SMS to promote flash sales. During high booking seasons such as between July and August, the brand sends a lot of SMS to consumers to promote deals.

According to Nathalie Baier, director of digital mobile commerce and search and affiliate marketing at Choice Hotels, Rockville, MD, Choice Hotels uses email more than SMS and push notifications because it is less intrusive. The marketer sends email as a form of constant communication whereas SMS and push are used for last-minute messaging.

Regardless of which form of messaging Choice Hotel uses, however, the company makes sure to be clear and concise.

“I recently read that about 75 percent of customers actually read email while in bed,” Ms. Baier said. “You need to make sure that your content is engaging.

“We change the subject line based on device,” she said. “For mobile devices it has to be very catchy and concise. When you read an email on a tablet, you scan through a bigger email in terms of spacing and you can look at the whole subject line.

“I think that the key is that if you can drive the call-to-action right at the front of the email, we would say ‘Low rate, book now,’ something along that lines.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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

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