Mobile in the Marketing Mix
Direct mailers take note: Despite the dismal economy, the strength of the mobile web is evident. As a result, it may be time to consider integrating mobile marketing—where ads are text-messaged or sent to mobile phones—into a future campaign. Just look at the statistics: Total U.S. mobile web users increased 3 percent between April and May this year, according to a mobile report from the Nielsen Co. In addition, retail mobile marketing promotional campaigns increased 6 percent between the two months, according to Millennial Media's May Scorecard for Mobile Advertising Reach and Targeting.
Clearly, many companies are embracing the integration of marketing channels. In fact, 82 percent of respondents to a recent Direct Marketing Association survey said they use integrated campaigns. Of campaigns measured, email (79.1 percent) and direct mail (75.4 percent) remained dominant among marketers, expectedly. But respondents also said they will increase their deployment of such digital media as search engine marketing, new media, campaign personalized URLs, online video, banner/pop-up ads and mobile in the future.
One major reason direct marketers are becoming more interested in mobile marketing is the explosion and excitement around Twitter, the social networking tool that enables people to communicate with one another via 140-character messages.
"A lot of our clients are asking us about Twitter, which really is a mobile tool," says Neil Feinstein, director of brand and creative strategy at New York City-based digital direct marketing agency True North. "As a result, we're spending a lot of time talking about Twitter with them, and about how it can be used as a mobile marketing tool in conjunction with other marketing programs."
The ECHOs Go Mobile
The DMA is even getting into the mobile marketing act. For example, Feinstein, who's also chairman of the DMA International ECHO Awards competition, says the event this year will have an Audience Choice Award component driven by mobile marketing.
"We're doing an ‘American Idol'-type contest, where attendees to the ECHO Awards can view the top 10 campaigns and vote for their favorite by texting a message," Feinstein says, whose company handled the call-to-entry campaign for this year's ECHO Awards. The entrants also will be online so people can view them off-site and vote for them via text message.
Direct mail is also a big part of the program. After people text in their choices, Feinstein says, they'll receive a text message back that indicates their votes have been received and asks them if they'd like to receive a reminder when it's time to enter the ECHO Awards in 2010.
If they want to receive the reminder via mobile, they'll receive a phone call; if they want to receive it via email, they can register online; or if they want to receive it by mail, they can drop their names in the database online as well.
"We're going to use mobile here as a way to capture [names]," Feinstein says. "We're engaging first and then building out from there." And in January, when the ECHO Awards starts heavily promoting its call-for-entry program, it will include mobile messaging in its direct mail and email marketing programs, Feinstein says.
A Mobile Marketing Case Study
Lane Bryant, the plus-sized women's retailer with more than 790 retail stores nationwide that generate close to $1 billion in sales, also understands the power of integrating direct mail and mobile marketing. In 2008, the retailer decided to enter the mobile fray and used direct mail to get the word out about it.
It approached SmartReply, a mobile marketing solutions provider in Irvine, Calif., with many retail clients, to partner, develop and implement an integrated mobile program. Hence, the LB MSG ME! campaign was born. It consisted of monthly or bimonthly text message offers that could be redeemed at checkout in Lane Bryant stores or online. These text messages also included an opt-out option.
Lane Bryant advertised the short message service (SMS) option in its direct mail and email marketing programs, as well as online, in-store and via ads in newspapers. Users could respond via a short code provided by SmartReply. If they replied affirmatively, they'd receive the text messages.
"Using mobile marking in conjunction with direct marketing and other channels is a best practice," says Mike Romano, executive vice president and co-founder of SmartReply. "The key is being able to maximize all of your channels and use them as efficiently as possible. Customers that respond to multiple channels from a brand become better customers."
The LB MSG ME! pilot program lasted from July through October 2008. During that period, 16,000 people opted in and became subscribers—which was enough to get Lane Bryant to agree to extend the mobile campaign this year.
One traditional direct mail firm that has seen success with an integrated direct mail and mobile marketing approach is Money Mailer, a Garden Grove, Calif.-based shared mail firm. In January, the company created a partnership with iLoop Mobile, a San Jose, Calif.-based mobile technology and marketing services firm, because it wanted to become a more integrated direct marketing company and realized mobile was a channel worth pursuing.
"We saw the real-time nature of mobile and its ability to communicate to any consumer at any time and drive the traffic that many of our customers are hoping to drive," says Steven Gray, chief operating office of Money Mailer.
Using iLoop Mobile's SMS group messaging solutions, Money Mailer's clients can enable their customers or prospects to receive text message coupons by texting a unique offer code that's displayed in a "call to action" on traditional media, websites or in-store displays. The coupons are redeemed when consumers show them to cashiers when paying for merchandise or service.
To date, more than 500 small and medium-sized businesses and franchises, many of which are national brands, participate in the mobile coupon program. Money Mailer projects there will be 2,000 of these customers by year's end.
One Money Mailer customer that's had success with the integration is TCBY's Salisbury, Md., location, which is located next to Salisbury University. Previously, Money Mailer had carried out two mailings per year for TCBY to area households in its shared-mail envelope. Earlier this year, however, it worked with Money Mailer to create an integrated program that combined direct mailings with mobile marketing.
TCBY's top priority for the campaign was to build its database of college students that pass by its store each day on their way to Salisbury University's campus so it could regularly market to them. Money Mailer launched three integrated campaigns for this TCBY location, each with a mail piece in its shared-mail envelope. The ad provided an opt-in code for recipients to text on their cell phones to a designated number and receive special offers from TCBY. Money Mailer's in-store table tent cards and window clings also advertised the opportunity for customers to participate in the mobile program. The TCBY store incorporated the offer into its point-of-sales system to track results from the campaign. Opt-ins were collected for a week, and then folks who opted in received text message offers.
The mobile component exceeded customer expectations, according to Gray. More than 300 college students have opted in for the mobile message through the first two months of the integrated campaign. Moreover, 20 percent of those receiving the mobile coupons have redeemed them.
But this is just one example. In every campaign Money Mailer has prepared for clients in the food and restaurant category, for example, "we've been able to deliver more than a 10 percent redemption rate any time we've run a mobile push campaign," Gray says.
Mobile marketing and direct mail is a marriage made in heaven, Gray believes. "Direct mail can and does drive the mobile interaction," he says. "Mobile is very inexpensive and very efficient in terms of coupon redemption. So the combination has given us a very strong value proposition."
What's more, Gray says, mobile marketing is a key way to drive opt-in rates. "Our focus for our clients is to enable them to attract prospects that are in the marketplace that don't already have a relationship with them, and driving those prospects to opt in to mobile via the direct mail vehicle," he says.
Mobile marketing has all the right stuff, but in many ways it's a very new medium with room to grow. "Right now, mobile marketing is similar to where email was in the late 1990s and early 2000s," says Feinstein. "Everybody's enamored of it, and everybody's trying to capture data so they can really start marketing with it."
In the 1990s, Feinstein adds, people were also very reluctant to give their email addresses, and the same goes for mobile numbers now. "While I think folks are less concerned about giving out their email addresses today, they're still cautious about giving out their mobile numbers," he says. "After all, it's the most personal place a marketer can be—on people's bodies—so people are very guarded about it."
But there's hope on the horizon, he says. When marketers can provide value with their mobile marketing campaigns, people generally will welcome them into their phones.
So how do you provide that value? "By understanding who your customers are and what they care about and then delivering to them something unique," concludes Feinstein.