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Stage Stores amplifies engagement by 133pc with mobile chat

Department store company Stage Stores saw a 133 percent increase above their standard response rate from its use of mobile chat to ask  shoppers what holiday items they were still looking for in their last-minute purchases.

The effort attempted to engage in casual conversation with smartphone users and guide them to products they were searching for. Retailers are increasingly driving personal connections with their customers via mobile, deepening relationships and brand loyalty.

“Mobile campaigns that take advantage of the natural behavior on the device will see more immediate adoption than a campaign that introduces a foreign behavior,” said Kate Atty, marketing manager at Iris Mobile. “When additional effort is required from the consumer to learn a new process, become familiar with a new app or interact in a way on mobile, marketers may see a drop off in engagement or response rates.

“Stage Stores’ mobile conversations campaign engaged customers in a simple ‘back and forth’ over messaging, similar to a chat with a friend,” she said. “Since 90 percent of all mobile users text at least once a day, this behavior is natural not only for Stage’s target market, but mobile users across the board.

“The results speak for themselves as the response rate for the campaign exceeded Stage’s standard rate by 133 percent. Brands that can integrate themselves in the natural behavior on the mobile device are able to connect with customers in a relatable way, resulting in a better experience for the customer and higher engagement levels with the brand.”

Stage Stores is a parent company to five subsidiaries that operates 873 stores in 40 states. It owns Bealls, Palais Royal, Peebles, and Stage department stores.

The chat effort was called the Conversation campaign, and it took place just before the December holiday and engaged customers in a two-way conversation with the brand using Iris Mobile’s chat solution. Subscribers received a message soliciting an answer to the question, “Only three days until Christmas! Finished with your holiday shopping?”

Natural language processing was used to interpret the response and send a reply with one of two customized offers, based on the last-minute shopping needs of the individual. The conversation continued with a reminder to use the unique offers as well as an additional offer message. The response rate dwarfed their standard response rate.

A second campaign, a Scratch Off promotion, let customers physically scratch off the promotional value of a surprise discount directly from their mobile devices. Gamification proved to be a winning strategy the brand’s audience, resulting in record-breaking engagement for the brand. The results also revealed a large increase, specifically 186 percent, from the standard response rates for its mobile content.

Each campaign aimed to take a unique approach to engage shoppers during a hectic time of year and develop a deeper understanding of individual customer shopping habits and preferences to support a long-term mobile strategy, keeping in mind data capture and personalization.

Future plans for the brand include additional conversation style campaigns planned in accordance with the 2015 holiday calendar, as well as gamified content to include sweepstakes and more scratch offs.

Iris Mobile creates personalized, two-way mobile conversations between brands and customers. The mobile technology company’s Saas platform aims to enable retailers to identify their best solutions across mobile platforms, learn about them and build a set of data to hopefully achieve maximum lifetime value.

“Mobile continues to be one of our best-performing channels to reach our customers,” said Bill Gentner, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Stage Stores. “Iris Mobile’s timely and engaging communications helped us generate some of our best and most innovative promotional campaigns to date.”

Chatting on mobile
Mobile chat enables personal relationships.

For example, Seattle’s Hyatt Regency Bellevue hotel is attempting to raise communication efforts between staff and guests by leveraging a two-way SMS cloud-based solution that is also set to save the hotel thousands of dollars each year.

The hotel claims to be the first using mobile-based two-way communication that also powers other technologies at the same time, such as digital signage, push notifications and guest requests. The Connect SMS platform, developed by Hyatt Regency Bellevue’s technology partner Monscierge, functions as a single hub with multiple functionalities that will eventually save thousands of dollars for the Washington state-based property (see story).

Similarly, Virginia Lottery is leveraging mobile messaging to enhance security and communication for players while building game engagement.

Using Hipcricket’s Ad Life platform, the lottery is giving players a way to securely store and manage all of their opt-in mobile phone numbers and learn if they are a winner after a draw is held. The move underscores how mobile can ease worries about the security of an activity while driving involvement in it (see story).

Brands are likely chasing mobile because they know their customers are always present on the channel.

“Retailers must adapt to meet the needs of their customers, and with mobile usage outweighing desktop usage as of last year, a mobile-focused retail strategy is essential,” Ms. Atty said. “Sixty-six percent of online retail shopping is done on mobile and brick and mortar shoppers have their mobile device in hand before, during and after their visit, presenting many opportunities for retailers to connect with shoppers in real-time and close to the point of sale.

“Mobile shoppers expect their favorite brands to be present on mobile, whether in the form of a responsive website, convenient app, mobile loyalty or messaging program,” she said. “Those that are not keeping up to speed, risk being forgotten by their mobile-reliant shoppers.

“Stage’s scratch off campaign was a great campaign with an innovative and engaging gamification strategy. Most people have used a scratch off prize on paper, so the experience was easily translated onto the mobile device. Again, Stage Stores’ response results trumped their standard rates at an unprecedented 186 percent.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York