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Gilt Groupe: Integrating mobile across channels could drive incremental sales

An executive with Gilt Groupe said mobile marketers need to focus on delivering an integrated marketing strategy or risk customer service problems this holiday season during a Mobile Marketer webinar yesterday.

During the webinar 5 Last-Minute Tips for Effective Holiday Mobile Marketing, many of the panelists agreed that mobile needs to be integrated with marketers? other activities. By delivering a better an integrated experience across channels, marketers could find that mobile can bring in incremental sales.
?We need to move away from having the mobile channel a specific strategy to mobile being part of your global marketing strategy,? said Jason John, senior director of marketing at Gilt Groupe. 

?We are going to see a lot of this mobile specific issue this holiday season, when people are going to run into customer service problems because of  mobile specific offers,? he said.

The issue for some marketers is that they are wondering if mobile cannibalizes desktop sales. However, just like desktop has been shown to increase the lifetime value of catalog customers, the same could be true for mobile.

?I think the numbers will show that it is the same for desktop and catalogs, that mobile will be additive,? Mr. John said. 

During the webinar, Mr. John discussed Gilt Group?s success with SMS push notifications and the ways it is looking to continue to build its mobile strategy. This includes a full review of its checkout on mobile with an eye toward enhancing the process and taking a look early next year and doing a tablet-optimized site.  

?We do see a very large spike in mobile traffic when we do push notifications,? Mr. John said. ?More than with email, we see the immediacy of mobile, with recipients often launching the app seconds after the notification has been delivered.?

?We are definitely always looking at enhancing the process,? Mr. John said. ?We are under a full review of checkout on mobile - this is a big priority for us.?

Marketing tactics that annoy shoppers
The first tip focused on the one mobile marketing tactic guaranteed to annoy shoppers and what marketers can do about it. 

Generic marketing is one mobile tactic that could annoy consumers, according to Sonali Shah, director of product management at Syniverse Technologies. 

?In marketing, in general, the more personalized the message, the more effective it tends to be,? Ms. Shah said. ?This is even more relevant in mobile, which is so personal.?

One way to create a more personalized mobile experience is to make it easy for shoppers to customize a mobile site via search, local offers and other tools. 

Several speakers pointed to the importance that location-based mobile messaging and services will be this holiday season and how they can help marketers deliver a more personalized experience. 

?McDonald?s and Starbucks are very successful in using locations based ads,? Ms. Shah said. ?There is some research suggesting that location-based mobile ads are 20 times more effective than regular mobile ads.?

Consumers are also likely to be annoyed by QR code strategies that are not well thought out. 

?Maybe 14 percent of mobile users regularly use a bar code scanner,? said Kathryn Koegel, chief of insights at research firm Primary Impact.

?For marketers using them, you have to think about what you are going to be delivering, is your consumer the kind that even knows what to do with a QR code,? she said.

?QR codes offer a great opportunity but are you really delivering a value to customers??

A good example of a QR code campaign execution comes from Macy?s, which is running a national TV campaign that talks about what viewers can do when they scan a QR code, per Ms. Koegel. 

The QR codes open up a menu of options such as going to Macy?s mobile site, shopping a particular area of the store and fashion tips. Macy?s is also promoting them on in-store signage. 

?Macy?s is educating a whole new crop of people who just got the functionality this year and delivering a full experience,? Ms. Koegel said. 

Laura Marriott, chairwoman of the board and CEO of NeoMedia, echoed Ms. Koegel. 

?Delivering a high quality experience the very first time is absolutely critical when launching a mobile marketing experience,? Ms. Marriott said. ?If you are using QR codes, make sure you educate consumers on what it is and how to access it. 

Ms. Marriott suggests fully testing QR codes to make sure they resolve to the correct content, leveraging open standards to reach the largest number of consumers and making sure the QR codes are easy to scan. 

Holiday shoppers could also be annoyed if mobile campaigns do not reflect a brand?s other marketing activities. 

However, because many marketers are still at the initial stages of their mobile marketing efforts, they tend to silo off mobile. 

?The thing that is going to annoy consumers it that they are not looking at mobile as a silo, they are looking at it as a brand,? said Gilt Groupe?s Mr. John. ?When they see marketing from a brand, they would like to see it on mobile as well.?

There was a lot of discussion about how the significant number of shoppers who will be using mobile as a shopping tool for the first time this holiday season and the need for marketers to make sure they are addressing this audience. 

?This may be the time of year when people who haven?t engaged mobile shopping before might try it for the first time because they are time crunched,? said Helene Rosenblum, vice president of media at Leapfrog Online. 

?You need to think about why this shopper is interacting with your mobile campaign, what do they want to do there and are you making it easy for them to accomplish this activity,? she said.

With increased shopping activity around the holidays, a listener asked the panelists about the optimal frequency to send text messages to a mobile opt-in database list during the holidays. 

?The best practice that we?ve found is to really ask the consumer what their optimal frequency is,? Ms. Koegel said. 

?If you are going to put the frequency slightly higher during the holidays, you need to monitor opt-out rates,? she said. 

Handling the traffic surge
Another tip for the holidays focused on whether or not marketers are ready to handle what is expected to be an increase in mobile traffic around the holidays and what they can do to prepare. 

?Make sure you are doing proper load testing and are able to duplicate 3 to 4 times the amount of traffic without any degradation in performance,? Gilt Groupe?s Mr. John said. 

It is also important to be aware that mobile shopping habits are different, so retailers may see a spike in traffic at times they are not used to. 

For example, last year eBay reported that it started seeing a big spike in mobile activity immediately following Thanksgiving dinner, much earlier than the traditional Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping bonanza, per Primary Impact?s Ms. Koegel. 

Also, have a plan in place for when and if a surge in traffic crashes mobile tools. 

?No matter how high we think mobile traffic is going to go, it often goes higher,? Leapfrog?s Ms. Rosenblum said. ?This is why it is important to have readily available data and a team ready to act.?

Cross-channel integration
On the topic of integration, panelists said marketers need to look at traditional media channels and try to figure out how it works in mobile in a way that works for the consumer instead of doing one-off mobile efforts.

Primary Impact?s Ms. Koegel pointed to Target as an example of a retailer that is doing this well.

?FSIs and circulars are still incredibly popular,? Ms. Koegel said. ?Target integrated its circulars into its iPad app and users can tap and drag into their cart. 

While integration is important, it is also necessary to keep in mind mobile?s unique advantages. 

?You always want to think about the full purchase cycle,? Leapfrog?s Ms. Rosenblum said. ?Throughout the year, you are making people aware of the brand and this is the time when you really want to move them to an action.

?We see mobile as almost the point of choice for where I am going to make my decision,? she said. 

Continuing engagement post-holiday
The webinar also touched on how marketers can continue to engage with mobile holiday shoppers once the holidays are over. 

?If you are making promises, and delivering a certain level of quality, you need to follow that through afterwards,? Gilt Groupe?s Mr. John said. 

?The commitment to mobile has to be there, not a commitment to holiday,? he said. 

This means thinking about a contact strategy on the mobile side. 

?The holiday is a great time to build up your mobile marketing database,? Syniverse?s Ms. Sonali said. ?Once you have all this information, it is really important to respect it and respect shoppers preferences on how often they want to be contacted. 

It is also important to keep mobile content fresh once the holidays are over. 

?If consumers get a circular with a bar code in it and it delivers to dead links, that will impact the success of your campaign,? NeoMedia?s Ms. Marriott said. 

The best mobile campaigns are those that affiliated with a coupon or promotion, per Ms. Marriott. 

Which mobile play will be a game-changer this holiday season?
On the topic of which mobile play will be a game-changer this holiday season, Ms. Koegel pointed out that check-ins, which were supposed to be a game changer last year, are not being talked about as much these days because they require a lot of work without much gain. 

QR codes could make a big impact this holiday season. 

?We have seen a significant increase in QR code uptake,? NeoMedia?s Ms. Marriott said. 

?We are going to see increasing implementation of QR codes,? she said. ?We are going to see some more creative uses of QR codes. 

?It will become one of the essential mobile elements moving forward.?

Location-based services are also likely to be widely influential, touching on everything from a consumer on the way to a store who wants to check what?s available to how consumers search, use maps and receive offers.

?I see local and local tools as being a game changer,? Leapfrog?s Ms. Rosenblum said.
Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York