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Brands need to watch mobile consumer, not platform

NEW YORK – In order for a brand or retailer to truly master and become successful at mobile commerce, it must follow the consumer, not the platform.

Gary Schwartz, president/CEO of Impact Mobile, New York, spoke to the crowd at Netbiscuits Partner Day at Soho House in New York. Mr. Schwartz stressed that brands need to embrace mobile and not just run a one-off campaign.

“Brands I talk to often get scared when we talk about mobile, it’s something that is very scary for them,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I say to them ‘Hey forget mobile, it’s not important; however, I’d like to talk about mobile consumers.’

“Mobile is dead, long live the mobile consumer,” he said. “To make money, brands need to forget where mobile is going and they need to follow mobile consumers.”

Mr. Schwartz said that mobile is a horizontal buy that adds value to a vertical push.

When brands engage consumers on the mobile channel, it is creating a permission-based two-way channel for conversation based on the opt-in with a mobile number.

By doing this, mobile is helping brands create a bridge to the point of sale, the Web and other media channels, as well as giving a boost to their CRM initiatives.

“Mobile is a horizontal buy that brands can activate and create a two-way channel with a mobile phone number and create a back-and-forth conversation that helps bridge the consumer-to-commerce gap or other objectives,” Mr. Schwartz said.

Mr. Schwartz also said that mobile is a great way to activate consumers, as well as to reengage and retain them, by using the mobile platform to create offers and content that drives consumers to an actual bricks-and-mortar location.

By providing SMS deals, coupons, alerts and up-to-the-second promotions, retailers like JCPenney are moving consumers from the mobile platform to its nearest retail location.

Using mobile banner advertisements, can create critical reminders that get consumers to the front of the line for commerce.

Mr. Schwartz used the example of Black Friday and Christmas sales that occur at retail stores.

The mobile platform can provide a number of tools that can be used by consumers such as telling them what is on sale, find out what store has that sale item and then be alerted to wake up and get the sale item.

SMS and the mobile Web are device functions that consumers are currently leveraging.

Using SMS can be a good way to mount a two-prong attack, Mr. Schwartz said.

By using mobile phones and SMS to drive consumers from the Web to retail locations makes the mobile device act as a sales assistant.

American Eagle Outfitters has a Web storefront that allows consumers to send details of items they are interested in to a mobile device. Then, the mobile device acts as a shopping assistant because consumers are browsing online and returning to the physical retail location to actually check out the product. With details on their device, it cuts out a lot of the guessing game and can drive a quicker sale.

Because consumers are entering in their mobile number on the American Eagle Outfitters site, they are opting-in to have a further conversation with the brand instead of just shopping on the mobile commerce site.

Mr. Schwartz said that mobile is the best way to move consumers from one experience to another.

The House of Blues features a mobile venture that encourages consumers to send in concert pictures they have taken on their mobile devices. There is a thin veil of moderation to prevent lewd images, but once the images get through that they are featured on screen and on the PC Web.

The concert venue developed a relationship with the consumer who has sent in the image.

Similarly, text-to-screen technology at places such as bars and concerts creates a relationship with the consumer. Once a text is sent in, the consumer is thanked and given further options to opt-in to a database to receive alerts or offers.

The power of SMS
Mr. Schwartz said that SMS can also be used for consumers to engage with products at the point of sale, such as when someone is buying shoes.

For example, a salesperson may not have all the information to provide a consumer to sell the product. The shoe, a New Balance running shoe, comes equipped with a short code.

The consumer texts the short code and then receives detailed information about the shoe and can opt-in for more information either from further text messages or from the mobile Web. By opting-in, the consumer has engaged New Balance in a conversation.

A couple of days after the sale, New Balance can ask the consumer if the shoe was purchased and based on the answer continue the conversation.

“The beauty is, it is not anonymous, it’s a one-to-one conversation and the brand can talk back to you,” Mr. Schwartz said. “It’s a very exciting strategy and didn’t involve anything that wasn’t on the phone and it’s nothing consumers are not doing now–there are no apps.”

Another way to engage the consumer on the mobile platform is to provide a PIN on the purchased item, for example, under soda caps or on food packaging.

Mr. Schwartz said that these proofs of purchase can drive affinity sales incrementally from 15-30 percent.

With PIN programs, mobile devices become loyalty cards as consumers continue to buy the product and redeem the codes.
However, brands need to build the PIN campaign to truly engage consumers, according to Mr. Schwartz.

If a brand does not want to change its product for a limited time to include the PIN, Mr. Schwartz said that providing a PIN on a receipt can create an instant scratch-and-win, truly identifying a proof of purchase.

When it comes to mobile coupons, Mr. Schwartz said that grocery stores cannot truly leverage them because of the rapid pace of consumer checkout. He suggested the implementation of mini-kiosks where consumers can scan the coupon and get a paper print-out prior to checkout.

For brands and retailers to understand consumers on the mobile platform, they must realize the power of impulse mobile shopping.

“It’s all about impulse–if Urban Outfitters sent me a deal for ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ t-shirt only available on mobile, it’s something consumers would be interested in,” Mr. Schwartz said.

To truly engage mobile consumers, Mr. Schwartz said it is about permission to communicate. Once communication has been established, whether it is via SMS coupons, mobile Web sites or PINs on packaging, an on-going conversation can happen between the consumer and the brand.

“Mobile is all about connecting the dots,” he said.