Are You Ready for Black Friday / Cyber Monday?

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Matt Silk
Matt Silk

The economy is down. Unemployment is at a 26 year high. Analysts, politicians and shareholders are all on pins and needles, waiting to see how retail stores will perform during the critical holiday shopping season.   

With the biggest shopping days of the year upon us, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we will know soon enough.

To draw consumers in to stores, retailers will need innovative plans and great sales.  The tougher the economy gets, the more tightly consumers hold on to their wallets – and the more savvy they get in the hunt for deals. This holiday season, retailers need to expand the ways they engage customers in order to get a bigger piece of what will most likely be a smaller pie.

Direct interaction with customers via mobile means greater engagement. And mobile media activation means brand messages can be instantly and directly beamed into users' pockets via SMS – which in turn will lead to greater profitability.

Retailers such as Sears have already jumped into the mobile game and offer consumers the opportunity to sign up for sales and promotions. Even luxury brands like Dolce & Gabbana have started using mobile to engage with consumers and notify them of VIP sales.

This train is leaving the station…so it is time act now. To fully take advantage of mobile, here are five recommended initiatives for retailers this holiday season:

Subscriptions
Retailers can utilize mobile subscriber lists the same way they do email or direct mail. The bonus of mobile is it goes to the cell phone, which four out of five Americans “never leave home without,” according to a recent study by Synovate.

By incorporating location and demographics data and then targeting customers based on purchase preferences, retailers can use mobile messaging to drive notable spikes in sales.

Engaging Messaging
Create messaging relevant to the consumer and to their individual shopping habits. With mobile you can use area code or ZIP code verification when texting consumers to deliver a targeted message about promotions in stores nearest to the customer.

Retailers should also use messaging to engage with customers about the latest sales over holiday and vacation periods. If you've ever tried to contact a store the week before Black Friday to ask when the store opens, to only to pushed through an automated system – and then after 10 minutes reach an uninformed associate – you know how important painless access to relevant information can be to a customer.

“Premium” Mobile Coupons
Retailers can create a sign that is visible to 4 am Black Friday diehards standing in line – and that sign can be activated with a mobile call-to-action that rewards these hardy shoppers with special discounts, or the ability to sign up for in-store sweepstakes.  

Consumers love special offers, and bargain shopping seems to be the theme of this holiday season (again). Simply put, there is no better way to deliver a coupon than to an object the customer takes with them everywhere.

Interactive Two-way Messaging
Two-way messaging can help retailers extend their brands to engage consumers directly. This encourages shopper loyalty and activity between brands and customers.

For Black Friday and the holidays, retailers could invite customer feedback on their holiday shopping experiences, and determine what the consumer would like to see moving forward with the holiday season and next year.

Mobile Websites

Mobile sites are becoming a mainstream marketing tactic and an easy way to bring the brand to the phones of loyal consumers. Nielsen recently reported that there were 56.9 million mobile web users in July of this year.

Given the depth and breadth of mobile web usage, it seems prudent for most brands to have a mobile website to better and more directly reach customers. Just imagine if every print or TV ad for Best Buy had a mobile call to action that drove subscribers to the brand's optimized mobile site, where they could review products and shop for the best deals.

Here's a bonus tip: in building your mobile plan, don't forget that it's important to make your mobile efforts easy to find for consumers. Make sure to prominently include your keyword and short code on all marketing materials, advertising circulars and Web copy.

Oh, and if you're worried it's too late to start a mobile marketing program for this year: it's not. Mobile campaigns can be activated in less than a day.

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