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Five Mobile Messaging Tips for Retailers


By Scollay Petry, OtherLevels

Top of mind for retailers wanting to better engage with shoppers in their brick-and-mortar locations this season are in-location technologies (e.g. beacons) and the personalization tactics they make possible. According to MediaPost, about 20% of retailers already use iBeacons, while 54% plan to implement the technology by 2015. With the promise of immediacy and “in-store engagement,” others undoubtedly will jump on the beacon bandwagon soon.

These in-location/beacon technologies are most promising because they help marketers identify where customers are and when they are primed to buy. But in-location technologies represent only the first phase of a multi-factored approach to effective mobile marketing.

Once beaconing and location-finding technologies are in place, personalized messaging tactics then enable marketers to communicate directly to consumers’ mobile devices; raising the bar to ensure that the messages are on-target, timely and personal, not one-size-fits-all or generic. The message that arrives on a smartphone or tablet needs to hit the mark – or risk being ignored.

For marketers who want to take advantage of the opportunity to convert more shoppers into buyers, and to gain a more detailed picture of their customers as a result, following are five tips for retailers to enhance their mobile messaging strategies:

1. Be creative, contextual. Don’t forget to add creativity and context. A high-end shopper who receives messages about Toys “R” Us specials instead of Helmut Lang or Tom Ford discounts will realize immediately that the marketer/retailer does not truly “know” the consumer.

2. Use timely, well-informed targeting. Let data from the store’s app inform not only the content, but also the timing of marketing messages for maximum impact and conversion. Knowing when the app is most active is one piece of data, but even more important is knowing when mobile messages – and which ones – resonate most successfully with the audience. A tactic called A/B testing, provides that kind of insight.

The five-step process involves setting an objective (e.g., promote sales), segmenting the audience based on the objective, and then creating two distinctly different messages (A and B) that vary by content, tone, visual elements and calls to action. The app measures which message creates the most interest and engagement – which one, in effect, best convinces the customer to take advantage of an offer, click on a deep link, respond to a survey or complete the original objective. Armed with that knowledge, marketers can then re-target shoppers with the most successful offer or message, increasing the likelihood of higher engagement and increased revenue.

3. Go “geo.” In-location” technologies enable retailers to target their mobile-enabled customers wherever they are in the store. Shoppers can be greeted with a general “We’re glad you’re here!” message, supported by more specific targeting as they move around the store. Avoid blanketing shoppers with too many messages, however, and opt instead for strategic deployment based on shoppers’ interactions and known interests.

4. Make in-app messages inviting and relevant with the rich inbox. Rich inbox messages – email-like messages that appear within an app or on a mobile web page – provide countless opportunities to deliver well-formatted, personalized brand messages – as long as they arrive at the right time and sparingly, fully respectful of shoppers’ time. The rich inbox can deliver special offers, incentives to loyalty program members, links to redeemable coupons, videos, surveys, even order confirmations and shipping details. But to avoid message overload and tune-out, it can’t be said enough: target wisely, and use sparingly.

5. Go for value shoppers. If new customers of your mobile app have not engaged within the last 30 days, it’s difficult to lure them back, but targeting high-value, already-known customers presents a far better chance for success. They’re already engaged and interested, so treat them well with offers they simply can’t refuse. Create messaging to lengthen the amount of time they spend in the store, or offer to upgrade to another loyalty program tier while delivering thanks for consistent patronage throughout the years, for example, “Thanks for your year-long loyalty! Click now to upgrade to VIP status and enjoy the perks.”

Today’s mobile users have evolved far beyond Foursquare. They expect their mobile devices to help them research, compare, shop and buy. They also expect retailers and marketers to understand who they are, where they are and what their preferences are, and to follow up with promotions that are personal and well-timed without being intrusive, and relevant.

Retail marketers can now take advantage of the “feedback loop” created by mobile devices, using mobile-enabled data to craft, test, target and re-target rich inbox messages, in-app messages and other notifications directly to consumers as they shop, using the data to time them smartly and deliver content that’s meaningful and most relevant at the moment it arrives on their mobile device.

What do retailers stand to gain? They can satisfy shoppers personally, raising the potential for more foot traffic, increased revenue, deeper engagement and enhanced loyalty from shoppers whose needs and experiences are recognized, validated and rewarded.

Scollay Petry is VP of strategic services, OtherLevels.

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