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Sears, Fandango add mobile to marketing mix

August 18, 2009

searsfandNEW YORK —  Department store chain Sears and movie-ticketing specialist Fandango have turned to mobile bar codes and texting for serving product information and promotions to consumers. 

While mobile is a natural extension for some brands such as Sears and Fandango, others face issues unique to this highly personal channel, per panelists at the Mobile Marketing Association’s Mobile Marketing Forum yesterday.

“People like coupons and freebies and things but it’s hard to try and get into that especially via mobile,” said Tom Emmons, lead developer of strategic innovation at Sears, Hoffman Estates, IL. “How do you go from driving customers to print and other more traditional mediums for promotions to mobile?”

For Sears it was a synch. The company knew that mobile was the way to go to address some problems that consumers were having.

The retailer had to find a way to help customers bypass search and discovery. It implemented Scanbuy Shopper, a downloadable application that lets consumers take a picture of a bar code on an individual item to get more information on that product.

“Consumers in a store do not have the time to browse the store’s Web site on their phone for products, product reviews, technical specifications and inventory information,” said John Bulkeley, CEO of Scanbuy, New York. “It would take too much time and clicks. The Scanbuy application takes less time, effort and clicks.” has been dabbing its feet in mobile as well.

The company had a banner ad that asked site visitors to text MOVIES to the short code 224421 to win free tickets to see the “Kung-fu Panda” movie.

The first 50 people to text will receive a text back with a unique ticket code that allowed them to redeem their free tickets either at a participating theatre or on the site at

The promotion was created by interactive and mobile marketing firm Buongiorno.

“The process to redeem your free tickets cannot be complicated, otherwise no one will bother,” said Carsten Boers, president of Buongiorno, Los Gatos, CA. “Don’t disrupt the process.”

Mobile coupons are not for everyone, however.

Mr. Bulkeley said that Continental Airlines now does its ticketing via mobile but it hasn’t been working out so well.

Due to the glossiness of certain handsets’ screens, the scanner at the gate is not able to scan the bar code and, therefore, many mobile ticket holders are sent back to print out paper tickets.

Additionally, there is the challenge of fraud.

People who receive coupons can send them on to their friends and the multiple users can try and redeem prizes. For some, multiple of use of a mobile coupon is abuse.

On the other hand, multiple usage is good for a company that wants its coupon passed around for  word-of-mouth promotion around the product.

Companies such as Borders, Starbucks and McDonald’s are doing some cutting-edge stuff with coupons, Mr. Bulkeley said.

“When choosing what type of mobile medium to use, you must think about how your customers move around their phones,” he said. “Figure out how customers look for things on their phone and then you can decide on how present them with the information that they need.”

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

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