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Mobile-only promotions lose relevance as omnichannel experiences gain

The need for mobile-only promotions ? an important strategy for marketers just a year ago ? is waning as smartphone use during the shopping journey grows and the focus shifts to bringing the best of online shopping into bricks-and-mortar retail. 

Mobile-only promotions were an important strategy during last year?s holiday season as a way to encourage consumers to engage with marketers? mobile offerings. Now that mobile shopping is a more entrenched consumer behavior, there are far fewer mobile-only promotions but the strategy is not likely to disappear completely.  

?Three years into the mobile era, the context around mobile marketing development is very different,? said Derrick Lin, senior brand strategist at Resource/Ammirati. ?Mobile has become a very prevalent, natural, and straightforward part of consumer?s shopping journey and in turn retailers have fully embraced mobile as a table stakes channel. 

?The need to use mobile-only campaigns to raise awareness and promote the use of a retailer?s mobile touch points has greatly reduced as mobile shopping tools have gained a greater foothold in the shopping journey,? he said. ?We are also seeing less mobile-exclusive campaigns in general. 

?The other reason for the change is the rise and evolution of the retail omnichannel strategy. Mobile is being seen less as an independent alternative to the desktop Web and more as an integrated effort to contribute to the overall goal of conversion/transaction across digital and stores.?

Mobile as a conduit
This year there is a growing trend toward creating omnichannel experiences that leverage how consumers use smartphones as part of the shopping journey. 

For example, Anheuser-Busch is testing two Facebook promotions through which friends can buy each other a beer using the social network, with the redemption taking place exclusively on mobile (see story). 

?This shift makes mobile marketing development less about driving engagement and behaviors and more about using mobile as a conduit to overall shopping behaviors regardless of channel,? Mr. Lin said. 

Retailers are moving away from channel-specific offers because they recognize that shoppers do not think in these terms and view a marketers many touch points as a single brand. 

Effective omnichannel promotions
To develop effective omnichannel promotions, marketers need to think in terms of how shoppers are using different touch points in the path to purchase. 
?To accommodate multi-touch shoppers, retailers may want to think about the process of offering the promotion separately from the process of redeeming it,? said Jason Goldberg, vice president of commerce strategy at Razorfish.  ?There are circumstances where you may want to offer a promotion exclusively on a mobile device, but allow it to be redeemed at any touch point; or you may want to offer a promotion across many touch points that can only be redeemed via mobile.  

?Target's Cartwheel is a great example of a promotion that is offered via mobile but redeemed at a point-of-sale terminal.?

Mobile-only offers
There are still circumstances under which mobile-only offers make sense, such as to drive repeat use of apps and to showcase new capabilities. 
?There are still good reasons to offer mobile specific promotions, such as enticing shoppers to new behaviors,? Mr. Goldberg said.  ?For example, if a retailer knows that users of its mobile app have stronger brand engagement, then it can make sense to offer mobile promotions that encourage mobile app usage.  

?Another good reason to offer mobile promotions is to take advantage of unique features of mobile device,? he said. ?If a retailer has invested in geo-fencing, indoor geolocation, visual search, augmented reality, Apple Pay, or other experiences that are best delivered on a mobile device, then it can make sense to tie promotions to those experiences.?

Mobile-only promotions still clearly have a place, with brands such as 7-Eleven, Groupon and Burger King among those who are actively using mobile-only promotions. 

One reason mobile-only promotions still play a role is because there is a small but growing group of mobile-only shoppers whose habits can provide important insight into how multichannel shoppers? needs are evolving (see story).

Store redemptions improve
?Also, as the ability to save and redeem mobile coupons begins to catch up with consumers? desire for an easy way manage offers, mobile is becoming a standard strategy for building loyalty and driving store visits. 
Advances in how mobile offers are being delivered and redeemed are being driven by the burgeoning beacon space and the launch of Apple Pay. 

?This year we are seeing improvement in mobile-only deals around store redemptions,? Resource/Ammirati?s Mr. Lin said. ?More retailers accept mobile coupons and it is easier to receive and redeem mobile offers. 

?With the development of beacons and the launch of Apple Pay, we will continue to see improvement in the experience of collecting and redeeming mobile deals in and out of stores,? he said. 

With IBM predicting that more than half of all online shopping on Thanksgiving will come from mobile devices, savvy retailers will be making a place for mobile-only promotions. 

?The most important thing retailers need to keep in mind when offering mobile-only deals is providing a seamless and personalized experience,? said Jay Henderson. ?Consumers? attention spans are at an all-time low, and they don?t have the patience for slow applications, bad coupon codes or usability issues. 

?Retailers need to understand the ?why? behind their customer?s struggles,? he said. ?By investing in customer experience technologies leveraging analytics to gain insights into their customer?s pain points ? retailers can proactively detect and fix common e-commerce problems before their customers head over to a competitor.?

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