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Office Depot eyes adding mobile activity to rewards program

The Delray Beach, FL-based chain of office supply stores has long been at the forefront of mobile innovation, as evidenced by its current augmented reality campaign that ties in with musical group R5. It sees mobile as more than a commerce tool, but a marketing extension of the brand. 

?For us it?s about learning what products customers are searching for, and how they are using the app,? said Emery Skolfield, senior director of digital marketing at Office Depot. ?Mobile is such a powerful tool in that path to purchase jouney and helps build that bridge for us.? 

Mr. Skolfield spoke last week in a session called ?Mobility?s impact on the In-Store Experience: Taking Advantage of Devices to Drive In-Store Sales? at the Mobile Summit at eTail East 2014 in Philadelphia. 

Earning points 
Office Depot?s loyalty program, called Office Depot Rewards, is built into its mobile application for consumers. It allows shoppers to earn points for certain actions, such as completing their member profile and recycling ink cartridges. 

In the future, Office Depot is considering incorporating more mobile-based activities into its rewards points, such as awarding points for scanning a product or performing other activities with the phone in-store, Mr. Skolfield said. 

Having the loyalty program embedded in the mobile app creates opportunities to keep customers engaged with the brand and build frequency of store visits, he said. This is especially true in the case of Office Depot because much of the product it offers needs to be replenished periodically. 

Office Depot also has a business-to-business app just for commercial users, which form a core customer group for the retailer. The Office Depot For Business app allows the company?s registered Business Solutions Division customers to access their accounts, place and track orders, and scan bar codes, among other functions. 

Content is key 
Keeping the apps updated with relevant content is also key for user engagement, Mr. Skolfield said. By analyzing how shoppers are using the app, the company hopes to better tailor the experience for shoppers and keep them engaged with the brand. 

Providing business advice content for commercial customers is one way the company can keep companies engaged and better position itself as a partner to those app users. 

As a supplier of office products, it can sometimes be a challenge to generate consumer excitement around the brand in the way that a fashion retailer or other consumer brands with ties to popular culture can, however. 

?We are not the sexiest brand around,? Mr. Skolfield said. 

That is why the company for the past two years has created a link to popular culture with the augmented reality back-to-school campaigns. Last year the company conducted the campaign with the band One Direction, and this year is allowing customer take virtual pictures of the band R5 on a specially created stage area inside the stores using the app (see story). 

?That type of experience is the kind of thing we want to build into retail,? Mr. Skolfield said. ?How do we create experiences that will keep people coming back and engaging with the brand? 

?I think mobile is the perfect vehicle to drive those experiences.? 

Final Take 

Mark Hamstra is content director at Mobile Marketer, New York