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Expect huge mobile purchases this holiday season: panelist

NEW YORK –  A Google official pointed to the purchase last year of two $3,000 John Deere tractors to predict that consumers will buy larger and more expensive goods via mobile this holiday season.

An increasing number of consumers have been making larger purchases from their mobile devices. This holiday season could mark the moment when some mobile shoppers making major purchases from their handheld devices, according to Brian Murphy, New York-based mobile advertising sales at Google.

“We’re going to read an article from a major bricks-and-mortar retailer about how they sold a line of products through mobile that you never thought anyone would buy through mobile,” Mr. Murphy said. “Sears sold not one but two $3,000 from the Sears2go mobile app last year.

“If somebody’s going to buy a $3,000 tractor from a mobile phone, something unexpected is going to happen,” he said.

Marci Troutman, founder/CEO of Siteminis, Atlanta, moderated the “Best-practice tips: What works and what doesn’t work for holiday mobile marketing and commerce” panel discussion at the Mobile Marketing Summit: Holiday Focus 2010.

Other panelists included Stephanie Bauer Marshall, associate director of mobile advertising and marketing at Verizon Wireless, Basking Ridge, NJ; Eric Harber, president of Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA; Pete Langlois, director of mobile product innovation and strategy at Neustar, Sterling, VA; Jennifer Okula, vice president of data innovation at WPP’s Safecount, New York; and Ran Farmer, managing director for North America at Netbiscuits, Reston, VA.

Mobile best practices for holidays
Mr. Murphy said brands should focus on providing utility for consumers this holiday season, rather than inundating them with a barrage of push advertising.

One example of an effective holiday campaign that raised brand awareness and added value for the mobile consumer was a flat screen television buying guide created by Panasonic.

Potential TV buyers could load the Panasonic-branded guide onto their mobile devices and consult it while at retail locations researching the purchases.

“Panasonic walked in the opposite direction of beating consumers over the head with a sales message,” Mr. Murphy said. “It recognized that mobile is a tool that provides useful information at a critical time – particularly when the consumer is making a buying decision.”

Retailers such as Sears, Kmart, Walmart and JC Penney have also been active in mobile during the holidays.

“It’s refreshing to see retail brands testing things out to see what will work in the long term,” Mr. Murphy said.

Payment systems
Panelists agreed that anxiety over mobile payments have been overstated, and that mobile payment infrastructure is generally secure.

“My personal opinion is that it’s not as difficult as people seem to fear,” Netbiscuits’ Mr. Farmer said. “We don’t have the problem of getting over security problems that we used to have in the early days of fixed Web.

Retailers should not be sheepish about integrated payment systems into their mobile properties.

In fact, developing a mobile site without a mechanism for making purchases is a waste for some merchants.

For example, HSN’s recently launched mobile site necessitated an integrated commerce component, because the business’s model is squarely built upon driving sales via its properties.

Netbiscuits built the mobile site to include a mobile payment system, as well as streaming video of HSN broadcasts on certain devices.

“[HSN] needed to deiver the same customer experience, where you can watch streaming video live on a mobile device,” Mr. Farmer said. “And consumers needed to be able to buy the good’s HSN was selling.”

Deploying effective SMS campaigns
The panelists agreed that SMS campaigns cannot be executed in isolation, but must be integrated into multichannel strategies.

Strategies can integrate traditional marketing channels such as online, TV and billboards, as well as mobile tactics such as QR codees, star-star dialing and other interactive media.

But marketers should devices strategies based on the wants and needs of their target audience, rather than deploying mobile tactics at random.

Hipcricket’s Mr. Harber pointed to an SMS campaign executed by Arby’s last year as an effective use of cross-channel marketing.

The fast food chain placed an SMS call to action on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” late night talk show to promote its RoastBurger sandwich.

Consumers could send a keyword to an Arby’s short code to receive a free sandwich with the purchase of a drink.

Hundreds of thousands of consumers texted in to receive the deal, and with 89 percent of them opting in to be reengaged by Arby’s on a running basis.

“It’s important to have a robust mobile platform you know you can trust,” Mr Harber said. “There’s no substitute for experience.

“Trust is a place to start,” he said. “Then its how you can use that platform to weave SMS into multichannel, or multinodal, campaigns that fit into the context of your marketing mix.

“You have to make sure you design, execute, measure and optimize – those are the basics.”

Here are some photos from the panel:

Final Take
Pete Langlois, director of mobile product innovation and strategy at Neustar, Sterling, VA