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Walmart launches holiday mobile alerts programBy Mickey Alam Khan
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, is taking its cost-savings message to another interactive channel with the launch of its Walmart Holiday Mobile Alerts program.
The mobile effort, introduced without fanfare, targets shoppers with the promise to deliver them early news of bargains in-store or online at Walmart. It is also an opportune attempt by Walmart to build a database of mobile consumers for marketing offers and deals.
“It’s your opportunity (to save money) calling,” says the callout on the Walmart Holiday Mobile Alerts page on http://www.walmart.com.
“Now there’s a new tool for saving money — your mobile phone,” the copy reads. “Sign up for Walmart Holiday Mobile Alerts and you can be among the first to hear about special savings.”
The Walmart holiday alerts program’s launch coincided with Internet rival Amazon.com’s similar SMS marketing effort to encourage consumers to opt in and shop or buy by text over the Thanksgiving weekend and for today, Cyber Monday (see story).
Consumers who want to participate in the Walmart program are asked to enter their mobile phone number on the walmart.com site. Consumers also have to check a box agreeing to the terms and conditions of the program.
Once the number is entered, shoppers receive a text message from the short code 63257.
The text message reads, “FREE MSG: WMT Holiday Alerts. You’re now enrolled & will rec up to 3 msgs/wk. Reply HELP for help or call 866-569-0347 then 0. Reply STOP to end CB: 866-569-0347″.
Once enrolled, Walmart will send offers, such as this one delivered via text at 8.20 p.m. Eastern time on Nov. 29: “FREE MSG: WALMART HOLIDAY SPECIAL! Samsung Blu-ray player for $248. Was $298. Click for all specials http://m.walmart.com/1 or go to walmart.com/savings.”
Walmart Holiday Mobile Alerts are available on AT&T, Alltel, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
However, the program may not be compatible with all mobile phone models, Walmart cautioned.
The retailer’s terms and conditions for the program included certification that those opting in were the mobile phone account holder or had the account holder’s permission to opt in.
Another privacy and mobile marketing best practice followed was the disclaimer that Walmart Holiday Alerts was a monthly subscription, albeit free. Consumers will receive up to three alerts a week on the category they have chosen.
The confirming text message reinforces the opt-out option by letting consumers reply STOP to any text message they receive.
Walmart is also letting consumers enroll for the program by dialing #WMT and hitting “Send” on the mobile phone.
Opted-in consumers will get text alerts on instant gift ideas, product information and reviews.
Once the holidays are over, #WMT will continue to offer seasonal features and cost-saving tips and tools.
Like a few other retailers, Walmart also has developed an iPhone application for Walmart.com.
The iPhone page has multiple tabs featuring the Walmart.com product list, store locator and #Services. Consumers can also create and store their own shopping list within that application.
Walmart is encouraging consumers to add the Walmart.com icon to their iPhone home screen for easy navigation.
Separately, consumers can buy ringtones and wallpapers for their mobile phone from http://wmtmobile.com.
The site is branded “PlayPhone Presents Walmart Mobile,” highlighting San Jose, CA-based PlayPhone’s role in supplying mobile content to Walmart.
Meanwhile, the Walmart WAP site at http://m.walmart.com bears the same holiday theme.
Designed in blue with a top-down layout, the site home screen has the Walmart name and logo in the header, stacked above the corporate tag line, “Save money. Live better.”
Below that is a line saying, “Holiday Specials,” with an image of a red ornament ball with a green ribbon tied to it. The menu listing follows, starting with ”Electronics,” “Apparel,” “Home,” “Entertaining” and “Rollbacks.”
Lines below that department listing say, “Find Your Store. Enter your ZIP code.” A box for the ZIP code and the Find button are placed below.
At the bottom of the site home screen is standard legalese, “(c) Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.”
All the department links on the home screen are clickable.
So, for example, clicking on the “Home” category takes the mobile consumer to a listing of holiday-related home products with price, image and a one-line description of the item.
Top of that page on Sunday, Nov. 30 was an item described as a “7ft Pre-lit Faux Douglas Fir Tree,” priced at $88. Below that was ”24-count Shatterproof Ornaments” for $5 and a 46-count equivalent for $15.
Clicking on the 24-counts ornaments’ description takes the visitor to the product page with a bigger image and a line below that says, “Fit more sparkle in your holiday budget.”
The site does not seem set up for mobile commerce. Instead, each page has a link to find the Walmart store nearest to the mobile consumer. So here, the goal is to use mobile to drive traffic in-store.
Walmart’s mobile efforts are part of an overall store, circular, online and wireless push to encourage consumers to shop more with the retailer during Thanksgiving and the holidays, particularly when the economy is slowing.
The retailer has rolled out heavily discounted products in electronics, toys and video games with free shipping via its Site to Store program. It hoped to entice shoppers with special store-only deals for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when retailers are typically supposed to turn a profit.
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