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How retailers can develop an effective mobile channel

By Gary Schwartz

Proliferating smartphones, better data plans and a consumer willing to engage on mobile for searching, shopping, buying or going to retail means one thing: retailers have no time to lose.

Here is an elementary seven-point checklist that mobile campaign managers may want to reference as they build out and manage their mobile channel:

Leverage existing consumer behavior
How many conference panels have I attended where the line following, “This is the year of mobile,” is: “We just need to educate the consumer”? It is pure hubris to say that you will “educate” the user who is far more advanced intuitively then a pack of marauding mobile experts.

Consumers are using their phone for mobile Web and SMS seamlessly throughout their day in our stores, hotels and at events.

Our humble goal is just try to keep up and capture a small piece of their conversation. They are way ahead of any marketing department.

Leverage the largest mobile install base
If education is not the word of the day, then try to forget anything that looks like a shiny object or new-fangled solution. (Even if there are 100,000 of them on a mobile storefront somewhere.)

 If consumers are using SMS and the mobile Web as their main channels, then use them. When you think you should walk before you run, start at a crawl.

• Build your SMS opt-in community.
• Buy some mobile advertising inventory
• Use both to drive conversion solutions

Reach and frequency are the two words that you need to continually use in the same sentence as mobile advertising and marketing.

Leverage existing promotions and CRM strategies.
Your IT folks will tell you this but I will remind you: mobile should be an extension of business-as-usual in the store, street or office.

Use mobile application programming interfaces (APIs) and tie them into your existing communication services and databases. Email, IVR, SMS and MMS should all be fluid two-way opt-in channels.

Keep it very, very simple
Seems like an also-ran statement but somewhere between concept and launch many mobile solution providers lose their simplicity gene.

The mobile consumer is on the run: you need one “click2engage,” one “click2commerce” and one “click2bricks&mortar.”

Add one step and you have lost your consumer.

Make it an intimate, personal, one-to-one channel
Cliché, but if you forget and build your service incorrectly, you will dramatically lose your hard-earned opt-in.

While SMS has a nearly 100 percent open-rate – buzz-to-view time will amaze the most-jaded chief marketing officer – SMS also has an equally high opt-out rate if the viewed message is not what the subscriber expected.

The SMS channel is digital gold. Consumers are now including you alongside their personal messages. You need to make a commitment to be as targeted and contextual as possible.

Make it a “Trojan” channel
Allow your consumer to reach you directly for product and service information.  In a world where you know more about your brand than the in-store sales person, allow consumers to surreptitiously search, surf, text that product directly and learn why they need to buy it – now.

Just as the New Balance brand allows the customer to text their new shoes and walks them through a custom in-store experience, every product can be the in-aisle expert guiding the potential consumer reviews, insights and tips.

Additionally, allow the consumer to use this channel to post reviews, insights and tips to you. Use it for pop-surveys to gauge just-in-time feedback.

Make it horizontal
Mobile is a perfect medium to add to your existing media touch points.

In a world where most of the media plan is bought as vertical push media, mobile is often pull. It allows the consumer to text and get information, rewards and incentives off out-of-home, television, radio, print and other non-interactive media.

Do not manage your mobile channel in isolation.

THERE ARE many more things to add to this list, but if you get this far, you will join the members-only A-list of “mobile experts” and have the hubris of authoring your own list.

Gary Schwartz is president/CEO of Impact Mobile Inc., New York. Reach him at   [email protected].