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Wet Seal fires up text messaging with rich media to better engage teens

Wet Seal is elevating its mobile messaging strategy with rich media, including images, video and social links, to meet the increasingly sophisticated mobile needs of its target audience.

With a predominantly young female customer who actively embraces mobile for staying in touch with friends, the latest trends and their favorite brands, retail chain Wet Seal recognized a need to evolve beyond its previous text-based SMS strategy. The new Rich Media Messaging program is being provided in partnership with Iris Mobile, which has seen similar programs for other clients double response rates.

?Their audience is predominantly younger women,? said Shalini Gupta, director of client services at Iris Mobile. ?We know that that particular demographic is very actively texting their friends and actively texting signing up for various programs.

?They did have a straight SMS program before but they chose to work with Iris Mobile because of our Rich Media Messaging capabilities,? she said. ?What this is allowing them to do is send very engaging messages with images and video and social sharing links, where they are sharing that content directly on their social feed to really given that audience a more compelling experience.

?So instead of getting just a 160-character text message, all of a sudden you are getting pictures of the products, you are getting some witty comments around the images. It makes for a much better experience.?

Crazy ex-boyfriend
Rich Media Messaging is a patented messaging technology that delivers rich content such as image, audio and video which has been optimized by device.

Wet Seal switched from its SMS vendor to Iris Mobile for the new program so it needed to send a message to customers who had previously opted-in to receive messages from the brand to make them aware that the next text would come from a new short code.

Wet Seal tackled the transition with a witty message that read: ?Crazy ex-boyfriend. We had to get a new number. Save our new digits 35750.?

The message also informed recipients that an offer of 40 percent off online had been extended and provided a promo code for redemption.

The transitional message is an example of how Wet Seal uses mobile messaging to support a fun, witty brand personality tailored for young, female consumers.

Trendy Tuesday
A campaign that went out earlier this week showed an image of a model wearing a Wet Seal outfit and read: ?Oh Em Gee! It?s Trend Tuesday & We Are Doing It BIG Today! Take 50% Off Your Purchase of $50+ Online.? 

The message included a link to show Wet Seal as well as a way for recipients to share the offer on social media. 

The program has been running for a couple of months, with every message sent including images and social sharing.

The goal is to increase the engagement with Wet Seal?s mobile messaging, something that Iris Mobile has seen Rich Media Messaging accomplish for other brands.

?It depends on the offer, but we usually are able to get 35 percent of people to respond to what the next step is,? Ms. Gupta said.

?If I send a message with a sweepstakes, the typical response rate for those is about 42 percent, for branded content with offers 35 percent and for straight brand content, about 22 percent rate,? she said.

?Sales conversions vary a little depending on the brand we are working with. We have definitely seen sales conversion upwards of 20 percent.?

Beyond SMS
Wet Seal is one of a growing number of merchants who are looking beyond SMS to find ways to bring more excitement and engagement to their messaging programs.

For example, specialty retailer Express used Rich Media Messaging to reward Valentine?s Day shoppers with free movie tickets in exchange for texting in themed keywords after they shop (see story).

Starbucks has been taking mobile messaging to new heights by using a combination of SMS and MMS to engage and surprise customers while also tying into its larger marketing strategy (see story). 

?It is really difficult to ignore an image ? you see the image, you are already know it is an offer,? Ms. Gupta said. ?Whereas if you have to read some text, it takes a bit longer to comprehend exactly what it is that you have been sent.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York