The age of the geek has arrived! And it includes everyone with a smart phone in their pockets—and everyone trying to connect with them! Today you can't walk a block without passing people checking their email, updating their status, sending and receiving photos and videos, and browsing the web. With so many of us carrying around a personal computer in the palm of our hands, now is the time to maximize mobile marketing for your store.
According to an August 2012 study by the Online Publishers Association (OPA), 44 percent of U.S. consumers owned smart phones—an estimated 107 million people!—and that number is expected to increase to nearly 60 percent in 2013. Of those smart phone users, 93 percent access content and information on their device regularly (once a week to several times a day), with 68 percent reporting they "can't live without" their smart phones.
Need further evidence that now is the time to start mobile marketing? The OPA report indicated nearly 40 percent of smart phone users took action after receiving an ad (i.e., they clicked on the ad, researched on the web, and/or made a purchase) and 12 percent made a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store! That's a phenomenal rate of return on any kind of marketing.
Given these statistics, it's clear mobile marketing is worth the investment, but how do you get started? The whole idea can seem a bit overwhelming in today's busy world, so we've done some research for you. What follows are resources, tips, and tricks to make the leap into mobile marketing as easy as possible.
First things first: GET SOCIAL NOW!
If you're not already on social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, get going! Accounts are free, extremely easy to set up, and will take less time than you might think. Recruit your staff to help if needed, but don't wait any longer. You will only need to post a few times a week to create a social networking presence.
Make sure your social media profiles list your store's address, phone number, web address, and hours of operation. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than being unable to find this information easily and quickly. You also can set up tools on your accounts so that customers can opt in to receive emails and text messages, as well as send you messages with any questions they may have.
Next, if you have an account with more than one social media service, consider signing up for social media management software to streamline your social networking efforts. Our personal favorite is HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com; free to $9.99/mo.), but we also looked at SproutSocial (www.sproutsocial.com; $39/mo.), and TweetDeck (www.tweetdeck.com; free).
From Hootsuite's secure online dashboard, you can manage all your social media accounts, post to them at the same time, schedule posts for future dates, and more. We have found it to be a time management lifesaver.
Use social media marketing to spread the word about your store, offer special promotions to customers that have "liked" your page, post photos of new inventory, and announce sales and events. You can spread the word even faster by offering group discounts. For example: "Help us reach 100 Likes and we'll post a 10% off coupon for your next purchase." Or, get really creative: In 2010, the flower delivery service Interflora used Twitter to send offers of free flowers to people who tweeted about having a bad day. Wow!
Email on the go
These days, more consumers read emails on their mobile phone or tablet than on a desktop computer. Mobile users also pay more attention to messages received on their phone. What does this mean for you as a store owner? No longer can stores afford to adopt an attitude of "send-it and forget-it." Take time to make your emails relevant and successful.
First, shorten those subject lines! Otherwise, they will take up too much room on a mobile device screen. Make your emails relevant, to-the-point, and feature a call to action. Make sure your emails are left-justified for readability and include both text and images for visual interest. Include your store's phone number, so customers can call you quickly and easily. If you're emailing a promotion, offer a mobile coupon or coupon code customers can save or send to their phone, rather than print out.
Reboot your website
You might have been dreading the prospect of making your website mobile friendly, but you can't wait any longer. Fortunately, there are several services out there to help you get up and running very quickly. We found two we really liked: MobilizeToday (www.mobilizetoday.com; free to $99/yr.) and DudaMobile (dudamobile.com; free to $9/mo.). To see if your website is already "mobile-ized," visit GoMo (www.howtogomo.com) and test your mobile functionality for free.
To create more word of mouth, consider registering your store with free services such as Yelp (www.yelp.com), Foursquare (www.foursquare.com), and Save Local Now (www.savelocalnow.com). Doing so allows new customers to read reviews, post their own reviews, and receive special offers for your store.
Connect with other independent store owners in your community to create special events and promotions to generate new customers for all of you. Make sure all involved are prepared to promote through all the mobile marketing technologies you use. You may have to lead the charge to get the ball rolling, but once everyone sees the results, you will have more help for future campaigns.
Information is king
Making online content more readily available to your in-store shoppers should be part of the selling process and will help decrease show-rooming. Customers want information and an interactive experience, so provide in-store services that allow them to do their own research on the products you carry.
Rather than discouraging the use of mobile phones within your store, encourage it in positive ways with reviews of your store, testimonial videos, and QR codes on or near your products that will take customers to online reviews and descriptions of the product. You can create free QR Codes with Delivr (www.delivr.com) and QuikQR (www.quikqr.com). You can also keep a tablet next to your register with shortcuts to your website, Facebook page, reviews, and more.
Encourage your customers to post their own reviews of your store on their social media, Yelp, FourSquare, and YouTube to generate more word of mouth and new business for your store.
Direct to mobile
The information we've provided so far is to get you to this point: sending messages directly to your customers' cell phones and having systems in place to maximize your response rate.
Mobile marketing to cell phones has stricter privacy policies than email, so your customers will need to opt in to receive your messages. At sign-up, be very clear about what they will receive from you (e.g., special promotions, new product arrivals, notifications of events, etc.). Adopting a mobile-marketing strategy presents a great opportunity to update your whole customer database. Invite customers on your mailing list to opt in and cross-channel your campaign to capture your customers' email addresses, cell phone numbers, and mailing addresses.
Inviting your customers to opt in for text messages is best done with text-to-join short codes (e.g., "Text SUBSCRIBE to 12345") and online sign-up forms.
Look at online services to manage your sign-up list, such as EzTexting (www.eztexting.com; 2.5 cents per message or $29 to $149/mo.), TXT180 (www.txt180.com; $9.95 to $44.95/mo.), Trumpia (www.trumpia.com; $25 to $450/mo.), ProTexting (www.protexting.com; $19 to $449/mo.).
Some messaging services allow you to do both SMS (Short Message Service), which as the name implies are short text messages, and MMS (Multimedia Message Service), which includes not only text, but also slide shows, voice recordings, and video, all of which will help conversion rates on your messages.
If you need sign-up forms for your website, we recommend services such as Wufoo (www.wufoo.com; free to $199.95/mo.) or JotForm (www.jotform.com; free to $49.95/mo.) which help you easily create a professional, customized form you can embed on your website, send in emails, and post on your Facebook page.
As the starting point of your direct-to-mobile marketing campaign, you will need to promote the text-to-join codes and sign-up forms both in-store and via your current marketing channels: social media, email, newsletters, snail mail, etc. To increase your response rate, offer a sign-up special that can be sent to the customer immediately upon joining your list. This can be a discount code to use on their next purchase, a drawing for a prize, or exclusive access to a promotion or event in your store.
Whatever you do, don't bombard your customers with messages! Limit your text messages to one to three per month and—I'll say it again—be clear with the customer at sign-up what they'll receive from you. Make sure your messages are well-received and relevant by keeping them very short and to-the-point and including a call to action.
What does the future hold?
Geo-fencing is what everyone is talking about in mobile marketing right now. Geo-fencing uses the GPS device in a mobile phone to create a virtual fence around your store. As your customers pass into your geo-fence zone, they can receive SMS alerts with special offers and promotions if they stop by your store. Many retailers hope this will help combat the problem of show-rooming. Geo-fencing software is still pretty new—so new that we found a couple of resources (Loc-Aid,www.loc-aid.com, and Placecast, www.placecast.net) but no pricing.
Most large companies using geo-fencing right now limit their "fence" to half a mile in large cities and up to two miles in rural areas. When you're ready to create your geo-fence, the key is to keep the area as small as possible so the message is relevant to where shoppers are in relation to your store.
Over the next few years, you'll likely see more location-based applications similar to geo-fencing that will be even more sophisticated. As the software improves, you'll be able to set it up so customers who walk through your door will receive an automatic message and even receive messages based on where they are in the store.
With location-based applications, you can expect more analytics of your customers' behavior: reports on how often specific customers visit your store, where in the store they tend to linger, and what they purchased. This will enable you to better define in-store hot spots and locate "dead" areas of the store, target types of products for re-orders, and even customize offers based on customers' shopping behavior.
While all the talk about geo-fencing technology is very exciting, what is more immediately relevant to you as a store owner are the advances in mobile couponing. We're seeing reports that mobile coupons will become more sophisticated, allowing them to be read by standard POS (Point of Sale) scanners, thereby saving cost and frustration for many store owners.
Tap into your geek power
With all the changes and advances coming this year and in the near future in mobile marketing, it is important to keep up with current technology. When you start a mobile marketing program, make sure you keep it on your radar. Ask for help from your staff, friends, and family. As a store owner, you are responsible for many day-to-day functions, so it's important to delegate whenever possible. An employee who is passionate about technology will be able to keep your store's mobile marketing efforts consistent when you are too busy.
Mobile truly is the new revolution in marketing. It's vital to stay with the times and remain relevant. Stay geeky, my friends, and you will do great!
It’s all geek to me
QR codes: “Quick Response” codes are small 2-D graphics that, when scanned with a smart phone, can immediately take the consumer to a website, saving them from having to type in a URL (i.e., website address)
Text-to-join short code: A 5-digit number to which consumers can text a special word or phrase you supply in order to sign them up for your text message alerts (e.g., “Text SUBSCRIBE to 12345 to get special deals from our store”)
Sign-up form: A form on your website customers can fill out to sign up for store specials or other services
SMS: “Short Message Service”; short, text-only messages sent to cell phones
MMS: “Multimedia Message Service”; multimedia messages such as video and slide shows sent to cell phones
Geo-fence: a virtual fence surrounding a real-life, geographical location that can be set to trigger an SMS message or other action when mobile-device users enter or leave the location
Show-rooming: A consumer practice of visiting a brick-and-mortar store to peruse merchandise and then shopping for it online in an attempt to buy it at a lower price
Mobile coupon: Coupons and discounts sent directly to a mobile phone that are not meant to be printed
First published in Vol. 27 No. 2 of Retailing Insight. © 2012 Continuity Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.