Bring on the holidays! It’s time to make your holiday mobile strategy ring the registers

Can you hear that noise? It’s the melodious sound of sleigh bells, phones and cash registers ringing. The holiday shopping season is almost here and strategies incorporating mobile marketing can expand your database, reaffirm customer loyalty and usher in new multichannel techniques to make the most of this holiday season — but only if you get your plan into action right now.

Holiday marketing strategy and the current environment

As any retail marketer will tell you, fourth-quarter sales are the most important, with 50% of annual revenues coming in during that specific period. The good news is that 2010’s Q4 sales showed increased consumer spending­ — and that was in a challenging economic environment just like the one we are in now. Retail sales climbed 14% above their third-quarter average in 2010, representing the largest quarterly gain since 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

A recent annual study showed that 55% of interviewed retail associates believed that holiday shoppers were better connected to consumer information than to in-store associates in 2010. Of the same panel, 87% believed that shoppers can easily look for a better deal, meaning that customer service and strategy are incredibly important. In addition:

  • 43% of shoppers believed that mobile devices improved their shopping experience;
  • 62% of consumers with Web-enabled mobile phones are already making purchases via their devices; and
  • 39% of smartphone users who left a bricks-and-mortar retail location did so after using their devices to influence their decision.

With these statistics in mind, it’s time to strengthen holiday campaigns for the mobile-equipped shopper who is browsing online, making in-person comparisons or simply reading about friends’ purchases via social media.

Mobile strategy means more than coupons

Holiday sales are the tip of the iceberg for implementing or expanding a mobile marketing campaign, but retail marketers using the mobile channel this season should move beyond a “Dear Shopper” coupon to get their customers enrolled and engaged. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Fully utilizing SMS campaigns: Simply adding mobile communications to a retail marketing mix will not instantly drive sales. In order to claim higher returns on SMS campaigns, communications for the holidays need to be targeted to previously gathered demographics. Customers need to have clear options to interact with the company (and to unsubscribe), and deals must represent brand value.
  2. Branching to all funnel stages: Mobile marketing can be used in every stage of the marketing funnel. Marketers can offer samples to customers, also providing new product launch information and research opportunities, not to mention promotional blasts for sweepstakes and contests. With a fully formed database, it’s much easier to launch mini-sites and debut mobile apps that complement an existing mobile campaign.
  3. Expanding current strategy to mobile apps — Gartner reports that mobile app revenue will exceed $15 billion in 2011 and that over 80% of apps are free. While not a beginner’s move, mobile apps can enrich communication between the customer and retailer. If a store app is not a feasible development for a retail marketer, another possibility to explore is the third-party retailer-oriented shopping app. Consumers are using these in-store to guide their purchases, and your company can find a worthwhile presence by selecting the right one and investing in a relationship that goes beyond the typical media buy. A strong media activation can make your brand synonymous with the platform.

Getting the most from your campaign

As we saw in previously mentioned survey data, consumers are using their mobile devices to influence purchasing decisions in-store. With heavy emphasis on mobile strategy, it’s easy to temporarily bypass the revamping of in-store campaigns with smartphone-equipped consumers in mind. When planning on branching out to mobile-toting shoppers, these tips can increase impact, exposure and campaign effectiveness.

For impact, try flash sales and downloadable content. Flash sales are easier to organize than extended initiatives, and list building occurs more quickly when shoppers witness a flash sale in person. Downloadable content helps in-store shoppers spend their time in line, and if given the opportunity to pass on news of an offer, your brand gets another chance at list building.

For exposure, try video watching options and viral promos. Videos and viral promos can be viewed or redeemed while shoppers are in-store. Have customers sign up for sales lists, afterwards receiving “click-to-watch” videos that add value to the mobile campaign. Tap to interactive video options provide great customer engagement and branding opportunities. Using promos as “stocking stuffers” can aid customer-driven viral sharing.

For an effective campaign, don’t forget to blend purposeful content with promotional content. Quality holiday content can range from store sales schedules with an “add to calendar” option (particularly important during the holiday season) to a location finder below a promotional message.

Consumers are likely to use multiple media to shop for holiday goods, and we should do the same for marketing — aim for varied approaches. Although mobile strategy takes time to develop, we all have to start somewhere. With the holiday season nearly here, one of the quickest ways to boost sales is to commit to a mobile marketing campaign and then an effective mobile campaign should be extended for year-round benefit.

The holiday season shows true promise for retail marketers, but we cannot forget: Cost-effective mobile campaigns can set retail marketers up for a year’s worth of success, not just a holiday windfall.

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