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HSN exec: Right messaging is a challenge with mobile display

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An HSN executive who spoke during a Mobile Marketer webinar yesterday said that although mobile display ads might be effective in driving eyeballs, finding the right message to lead to conversions is tough.

During Mobile Marketer?s ?Holiday Mobile Marketing Recap: What Worked, What Didn?t and Lessons Learned? webinar, executives from HSN, Fiksu, Ignited and BIA/Kelsey addressed what role mobile played for retailers and brands this past holiday season. The executives also spoke about particular brands that got mobile right last year.

The webinar was sponsored by Fiksu.

?Certainly [display ads] have the benefit to drive eyeballs, but the question is around the right messaging to provide on those ads that will ultimately lead to conversions,? said Ed Deutscher, operating vice president of emerging platforms for mobile and connected home, HSN, St. Petersburg, FL.

?Display ads have not resulted in the benefit that we had hoped,? he said.

?Mobile is a different mindset than the desktop experience. Mobile ads become distractions in many cases and people don't need that distraction.?

Multichannel shoppers
Instead of focusing on mobile display ads, mobile search and SMS can be as effective, per Mr. Deutscher.

Although SMS is not the newest channel out there, it is the primary marketing vehicle to drive users back to an experience.

Additionally, marketers need to make sure that their mobile search is on par with their desktop experiences as consumers increasingly use the devices to aid in shopping.

This past holiday season, HSN redesigned its digital platforms in a move that points to consumers shopping from multiple screens.

Although mobile commerce continues to grow, mobile can still be used primarily as part of the shopping experience, whether it is for research or price comparison.

Compared to previous holiday seasons, Mr. Deutscher said that he saw more of a focus on optimizing the tablet experience for shoppers. As tablet ownership continues to grow, consumers expect to be able to shop from them, too.

This year retailers stepped up their efforts with mobile initiatives that centered around speed and creating a seamless shopping experience. 

For example, HSN has examined its check-out process and has made it as straight-forward as possible, including saving credit card information.

It is critical that marketers have a grasp on what their users are looking for.

?The key to understanding the changes in behavior is knowing that conversion rates across the platforms will be different,? Mr. Deutscher said.

?It is more about the engagement and that they can ultimately find what they are looking for,? he said.

More than transactions
According to Dave Martin, senior vice president at agency Ignited, El Segundo, CA, mobile cannot be treated for purely transactional purposes.

Compared to last year where the focus was on landing pages, this year was much more about the purchase funnel, per Mr. Martin.

Additionally, marketers are starting to look at more analytics to help gauge a campaign?s success.

Instead of focusing on clicks and traffic, marketers are looking more at click-to-call, store locator, video views and acquisition, all of which give a better picture of who a mobile user is and what they are looking for.

Additionally, bigger mobile shopping baskets and transactions were surprising this year.

?To see comfort level with transactions in the hundreds was shocking to us,? Mr. Martin said.

?We are seeing a much more rapid adoption of security and the way that consumers shop that we saw with ecommerce,? he said.

App opportunity
Mobile applications play an especially important role during the holidays with loyalty for many retailers.

Additionally, gift cards were a big opportunity this year for app marketers.

As consumers received gift cards they wanted to apply them to their mobile devices and start shopping immediately on Christmas Day, said Jim Thomas, product marketing manager at Fiksu, Boston.

Push notifications can also be a great way for brands to keep an app top of mind, but marketers need to use them sparingly to not overwhelm users.

Passbook is playing a strong role with how brands such as Sephora connect apps to loyalty.

When it comes to mobile payments such as near-field communications, the technology still has issues around user adoption and security.

Additionally, apps are becoming a first touch point for many consumers with a brand. In fact, Mr. Thomas pointed to a study from Adobe that found that one in five mobile users download an app to become familiar with a brand.

?The app is becoming the beginning way to engage with a brand as a gateway,? Mr. Thomas said.

Retail power
Showrooming proved to be a big mobile trend over the holidays. However, it is not necessarily a bad thing for bricks-and-mortar stores.

Target expanded its price-comparison service where the retailer will match any online or mobile price that a consumer finds online in-store.

?It is fighting [showrooming] head-on with a winning strategy ? generally speaking, a lot of retailers should be thinking in those terms,? said Michael Boland, senior analyst program director of the mobile local media practice at BIA/Kelsey, Chantilly, VA.

Additionally, retailers used a mixture of their own branded apps and third-party apps to waive off showrooming and keep users engaged in-store, per Mr. Boland.

Retailers should also be aiming for offline transactions via mobile, meaning that a mobile device is only one part of a bigger shopping journey.

?Users are embracing mobile shopping for both mcommerce and an assistant in the path to purchase,? Mr. Boland said.

?Showrooming is retailer?s game to lose,? he said. ?If Amazon can steal and win mindshare, then retailers deserve to lose.? 

Please click here to access the archived webinar

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York