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Pier 1 Imports launches first mobile effort

Pier 1 Imports is partnering with Barnes & Noble for an SMS sweepstakes as part of its efforts to reach a younger demographic.

The retail giant has deployed in-store mobile calls-to-action -- signage next to the prize, a Papasan chair -- in 100 Barnes & Noble bookstores near college campuses. Consumers who text in receive a text message confirming their registration in the sweepstakes and asking them to opt-in to receive promotional emails from Pier 1 Imports.

"This was our first time utilizing SMS as a channel, and we're excited to be out there testing it," said Jeff Haddox, direct marketing analyst at Pier 1 Imports, Ft. Worth, TX. "SMS made perfect sense for our partnership with Barnes & Noble.

"The response rate would've been much lower without the direct call-to-action that SMS provides," he said. "The Papasan chair is a tried-and-true Pier 1 product -- it's the ultimate reading chair -- so it was the perfect incentive for the text-to-win campaign, and it fit well because it was sitting in a college bookstore.

"We're reaching a younger demographic than we at Pier 1 haven't have, and Barnes & Noble is a great partner that is well-versed in reaching that younger demographic."

The Pier 1 Imports SMS sweepstakes campaign started July 15 and is running through Sept. 30.

The campaign is keyword-specific -- with a unique keyword for each store -- so Pier 1 can identify from which store each consumer texts in.

The call-to-action asks consumers to text a keyword with their email address to Pier 1's short code to enter to win the Papasan chair.

SMS is basically a data-capture vehicle, in that Pier 1 is not opting them into to an SMS program, but rather asking them for their email address.

"The goal for the SMS initiative is integration with the email campaign, basically creating a trickle campaign on the back-end," Mr. Haddox said. "Rather than lumping these college students in with our main marketing campaign, we're segmenting them and treating them differently.

"We have to speak to a younger demographic in a different way," he said. "We're trying to engage them and getting them to come in-store, and there are various ways, including the SMS sweepstakes."

While Pier 1 hasn't yet explored mobile coupons, it has experimented with sending out offers to younger consumers.

"We're sending out discount offers via email, and while typically Pier 1 stays away from offers, for acquisition we'll use it," Mr. Haddox said. "We need offers to convert them in-store, as offers one of the number-one things that incent the younger demographic to shop.

"For several years we've been trying to focus on a younger demographic, because Pier 1 customers get older and older every year and they aren't making as many home purchases as college students and recent college grads," he said. "Barnes & Noble reaches 6 million students, and we're taken a fully integrated, layered approach."

Pier 1 has also advertised on each college bookstore's Web site and has sent emails to students who were opted into the email databases of those Barnes & Noble stores.

The company has run ads in student newspapers and has even received some student editorial coverage.

The Pier 1 brand has a presence in confirmation emails that Barnes & Noble sends out when they order textbooks.

"We're running the SMS sweepstakes in 100 Barnes & Noble stores, so there will be 100 winners, and they have to go in store to pick up their Papasan, which is driving some traffic into local Pier 1 stores," Mr. Haddox said.

"College-age students are a tough group to communicate with, because they're always on the go, and they're not necessarily seeing our typical marketing vehicles such as direct mail and newspaper inserts," he said.

"We do run online banners and search ads, but we felt that a mobile component great way to reach them -- better than traditional marketing vehicles."

Hitting the ExactTarget
Pier 1 Imports is using ExactTarget's text messaging platform this summer in test markets to attract sweepstakes registrations and capture email subscriber information.

The choice by Pier 1 Imports, North America`s largest specialty retailer of imported decorative home furnishings and gifts, continues a nearly three-year relationship between the two companies and brings with it new tools to better communicate with its customers.

ExactTarget Inc. is a provider of on-demand email marketing software products. Clients include,, Florida Power & Light, Gannett Co. Inc.'s USA Today and the Indianapolis Colts.

In addition to powering email marketing messages for the company, ExactTarget will use its landing page technology to power Pier 1 Imports' new Web-based subscription center launching this summer.

The integrated online site will allow consumers to subscribe to receive messages via email, direct mail or both.

The technology will also automatically update Pier 1 Imports' data management system, which holds its subscriber list for ExactTarget-powered messages, with any changes to a consumer's preferences or personal information.

Pier 1 Imports customers can subscribe to the company's email and catalog mailings online at

Pier 1 Imports continues to see an increased interest among consumers in receiving marketing messages via email, and it is exploring other use cases for SMS.

The company's new online subscription center will let customers tell Pier 1 exactly what types of messages they would like to receive, as well as the message frequency.

"The SMS space is hard to get into, and it was a bit of a rough road getting our short code in place, which was not ExactTarget's fault," Mr. Haddox said. "We asked them to do it in a pretty tight time frame, and it was a challenge with so many parties involved, from the various carriers and the aggregator.

"That said, we were able to launch the SMS sweepstakes with Barnes & Noble right on time, and we appreciate ExactTarget's help with that," he said.