Direct Line Blog

Black Friday, a dark day for mobile retail marketing

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Retailers missed it on mobile this Black Friday. Forget that mobile traffic jumped 155% to account for 14.3% of total retail traffic for the day. Ignore that mobile sales more than doubled their share of retailers' Black Friday sales to 9.8%. That's great (and the purpose of marketing anyway). But brick-and-mortar retailers shanked it when it comes to mobile marketing moving forward.

I set out for Black Friday with two things in mind. I wanted to see what Black Friday in New York was like, and I wanted to see which of 3 high-profile-among-marketers apps--Shopkick, Foursquare and SCVNGR--retailers used to interact with customers on a long-term basis. I went to the Queens Center Mall, home to 192 retailers and within walking distance of dozens more. A handful actively capitalized on the flood of consumers in their stores with mobile devices, arguably (barely arguably) a consumer's most valuable device, in tow.

Macy's and American Eagle Outfitters used Shopkick to reward consumers just for walking into their stores. Neither walk-in signal worked when I tried them, but my phone's been a little buggy so I'll temper judgment. On top of that, American Eagle Outfitters called for consumers to take a picture of themselves in the fitting room wearing a specific pair of jeans. Kinda weird, but good measurable engagement for the jeans brand.

Three retailers--RadioShack, Skechers and The Lego Store inside JCPenney--aimed initiatives at consumers on Foursquare. RadioShack had consumers check in and use their Shack credit card to purchase an Apple iPad 2 in order to receive $100 in gift cards. Skechers would have rewarded a newly appointed mayor 15% off, which is fine for an anyday in August but not something that's going to drive me to check in to Skechers for the first time let alone any time in the future. The Lego Store in JCPenney aced it by rewarding first-time check-ins with an exclusive Alien Conquest Collector Brick. I have no idea what that is, but if I was someone seeking out a Lego Store holed up inside a JCPenney, I'm sure I'd be way in on it.

GameStop ran a SCVNGR campaign that guaranteed $30 in store credit for any consumer who traded in a copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and earned 8 points on SCVNGR. To accrue the points, consumers had to complete a mix of challenges ranging from taking a photo in a GameStop to watching a preview clip of the game. The campaign likely had been running already but low-five for keeping it going.

These six retailers sought to take advantage of the consumers in their brick-and-mortar stores on the busiest shopping day of the year, whether or not that strategy pays off will remain to be seen for a while longer but if it does, these retailers will be feasting through next Thanksgiving. In-store mobile shoppers--12% of men and 5% of women--spent the more time shopping than any other segment, are expected how have grown the most in household spending from last year and spend four to five times as much of their budget on luxury goods as consumers who never use their phones while shopping in stores, according to a survey by the Kellogg Center for Global Marketing Practice.

"The danger for stores is, of course, that they end up as showrooms for Web competitors like Amazon, but it doesn't have to turn out that way," said Derek Rucker, marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and director of the Kellogg Center for Global Marketing Practice, in a company statement accompanying the survey's release. "As in any arms race, victory goes to those who best adapt to the new game."

The fault's not all with the brick-and-mortar retailers though. Matter of fact, they're not even the most culpable party. They had enough to worry about with the customers they'd receive; the app developers, however, should have only had one thing in mind: the users they could acquire, scratch that, could have acquired by working with the retailers to optimize efforts specifically for the Black Friday shopper that may be a first-time, or barely sometime, customer and need a little incentive to engage further and on a long-term basis.
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