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Why SMS should be part of all holiday marketing

Since SMS is compatible with all handsets, it is an important component of holiday marketing campaigns – if used correctly.

Retailers such as Walmart, Sears, PacSun, Claire’s and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, as well as brands such as Butterball Turkey, are using SMS as an integral part of their holiday marketing strategy. Brands can offer mobile coupons and ask consumers to double-opt-in for future marketing via SMS.

“Retailers viewing holiday mobile campaigns as ‘one-offs’ are missing an important opportunity to piggyback sales pushes with engagement initiatives,” said Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer at HipCricket, Kirkland, WA. “Continued dialogue on the consumer’s terms will ring next year’s cash registers and build loyalty.

“On Black Friday, mobile online payments through PayPal surged nearly 650 percent,” he said. “It behooves all those using the mobile channel to make the experience positive for the consumer, from the ordering process to the time the product is in the hands of the buyer.”

HipCricket recently discussed the importance for brands of integrating SMS into their overall marketing strategy during a Mobile Marketer-hosted webinar (see story).

SMS is playing a prominent role in this year’s holiday marketing.

For example, Butterball relaunched its Turkey Talk-Line just in time for Thanksgiving with mobile components such as an SMS alert system (see story).

Additionally, Sears and Walmart are both using SMS to reach consumers during this holiday season (see story).

The tri-messaging approach
Any company using email or social media as a campaign element is a mobile marketer whether it realizes it or not.

Additionally, SMS is a nice double-opt-in complement to a tri-messaging approach, according to digital marketing company Lyris.

“Every year for the last five years has been the year of mobile, but this holiday season we’re seeing movement in the real world from retailers using mobile in innovative ways,” said Blaine Mathieu, chief marketing officer of Lyris, Emeryville, CA.

Retailer Claire’s is running a Mobile Secret Santa program to engage its teen demographic.

By participating in the program, a group of friends can add items to wish list, Claire’s coordinates cross-shopping via mobile alerts. Claire’s sends text messages to all friends in the Secret Santa circle specifying which gifts each friend wants.

“’Jonie decided she wants this shirt, so check it out,’” Mr. Mathieu said. “Teenagers are mobile-aware consumers, and Claire’s is leveraging social media and mobile marketing together, and they do have an email program as well, so it’s a great example of tri-messaging.”

PacSun is another teen-oriented retailer using mobile to send daily alerts and updates on its latest holiday offers. The retailer is also running a text-to-win initiative offering various prizes.

“PacSun is combining SMS initiatives with a sweepstakes to get people involved and encourage them to opt-in,” Mr. Mathieu said.

Sister properties Eldorado Hotel Casino and Silver Legacy Resort and Casino have been using mobile for a few months with Lyris.

For the holiday season, the Reno, NV-based resorts have been sending out SMS alerts to subscribers with special deals and weather reports to let ski and snowboard enthusiasts know when a big snow storm comes in the area.

“They’re using weather to time-trigger the sending of mobile alerts and are asking subscribers to come visit them at the resort,” Mr. Mathieu said. “Mobile is all about urgency and time-sensitivity— time or location-sensitive alerts are definitely among the reasons someone would want to use mobile.

“An offer based on time, location or weather is a pretty cool use of mobile,” he said. “They are using email, social and mobile, another example of a tri-messaging approach.

“They’re forecasting well in advance to queue up these promotions through all of these channels, taking advantage of the timeliness of SMS, and they’re getting really great response rates.”

For retailers that have yet to take the plunge into mobile, the time is now.

“A lot of retailers have in the last year embraced social media, and most used email prior to that, so for many mobile is the last element they need to add to get that trifecta,” Mr. Mathieu said. “We’ll continue to see more brands adopt that trifecta in the year ahead.”

Sign up for marketing
Soft pretzel franchise Auntie Anne’s is using SMS to encourage consumers to sign up for its email marketing list.

The company’s email program, Pretzel Perks, sends consumers exclusive coupons and other discounts. Messaging on Auntie Anne’s cups and pretzel sleeves asks consumers to text the keyword PRETZEL to short code 80565 (see story).

“A lot of companies, especially in the retail space, use SMS initiatives for list growth, which is a great way to capitalize on the extra foot traffic they get during the holiday season,” said Amanda Berkey, product marketing manager of SMS at ExactTarget, Indianapolis, IN. “SMS is also a great way to get people in the door in a nonthreatening way with voting or a sweepstakes.

“It’s a good way to get people involved in the brand experience, and the person can give an email address to participate in the sweepstakes, and later ask them to opt-in to a loyalty program or other opportunities,” she said.

“If you’re in a retail store, eight out of 10 times you don’t make a purchase, so SMS is great for lead-nurturing in the retail space as well.”

Ms. Berkey cited Auntie Anne’s list-growth campaign as an excellent recent example.

Whether the SMS campaign runs during the holidays or another time of year, marketers must abide by best practices such as double-opt-in standards and offering consumers an incentive to participate in the campaign.

“It’s important to enter into a conversation with consumers in a nonthreatening way and provide an incentive such as voting, a sweepstakes or a discount offer,” Ms. Berkey said. “You should also ask them to opt-in for future email marketing.

“One of our customers wants to be able to do mobile couponing, which is a great way to retain customers’ interest in coming back to a retail store,” she said.

Loyalty campaigns, SMS alerts for new products on sale and sneak-peak offers make customers feel engaged and want to come back to retail outlets.

Since the country is just starting to emerge from the recession, consumers are looking for bargains this holiday season. SMS is an excellent way to deliver those discounts and drive consumers in-store.

“The number-one thing is that buyers are looking for deals, and they may not shop at store to make a transactional purchase, but they might be browsing, which is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of that foot traffic and influence their purchase decisions,” Ms. Berkey said.

“Even if they do not buy that day, encourage them to come back using SMS,” she said.

In-store or out-of-home signage with an SMS keyword and short code is a great way to get consumers to opt-in to receive messaging.

Using a unique keyword for each call-to-action can help with tracking so that retailers can look at the best markets and judge results based on region or location of the call-to-action.

Mobile in general and SMS in particular are on brands’ radar, and use of the channel will only increase in the year ahead.

“In general, we are seeing more interest in SMS in the retail space in general, not just during the holiday season,” Ms. Berkey said. “Some retailers are issuing transactional order confirmations via SMS in addition to just couponing.

“Mobile coupons ensure that they’ll have the coupon when they need it,” she said. “Print coupons are so ineffective—they’re not a targeted way to communicate with somebody.

“Mobile coupons have a 10-to-20 percent higher conversion rate than print coupons, and there is less clutter in the SMS channel from brands at this point.”