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Armani Exchange outlines mobile strategy

In an exclusive interview, an Armani Exchange executive discussed the retailer’s strategy of using mobile as a channel for marketing and merchandising activities intended to drive cross-channel sales.

Armani Exchange’s target demographic centers on the 18-28 range and is focused on city-dwellers.

“Our mobile strategy is based on being customer-focused, offering our customers a seamless brand experience whether they are shopping shop in store, online or on the go while they’re out on the street,” said Tom Jarrold, senior vice president of global marketing and communications at Armani Exchange, New York.

“We have a young, forward-thinking, wired demographic,” he said. “Last year we found that 40 percent of our customers had an iPhone or BlackBerry, and I’m sure that’s even higher now.

“It’s ultimately about responding to our customers wherever they are so they can touch the brand in a lot of different ways.”

A|X Armani Exchange was launched in 1991 aimed at a new generation of young, fast-fashion consumers—a collection from Georgio Armani offering urban, individual style.

Tech-savvy demo
“The core group we’re targeting is pretty urban-centric young people in college or right out of college, working their first job, living a social life in the city, gregarious,” Mr. Jarrold said. “They like to go out, listen to music and be social, and their digital lifestyle helps foster that.

After the success the brand has had with online advertising, Armani Exchange decided to try mobile advertising as a key tactic to driving traffic to its mobile site.
In June of last year, A|X promoted the launch of its mobile shopping site with a campaign across AdMob’s mobile ad network.

“It was a big mobile advertising campaign, and it was really, really successful,” Mr. Jarrold said. “We got a ton of click-throughs and some pretty good engagement.

“The No. 1 focus of the campaign was getting consumers to click to view videos,” he said. “That kicked it off, and now a lot of the traffic comes from people searching for us on their smartphones and being redirected to the mobile site.

“Now they get a site that’s a lot more navigable.”

Multichannel marketing
Armani Exchange’s goal is seamless integration of its various consumer touch points. The retailer has continued to promote its mobile site at the store level via handouts and other materials to remind customers that they can buy online and via their phone.

“We want to encourage the cross-pollination of different channels,” Mr. Jarrold said.

In 2008, Armani Exchange tapped Distributive Networks for the launch of an SMS program to build a mobile database of its tech-savvy demographic. The text-messaging club currently has more than 60,000 subscribers.

“We’ve got a great text program—it’s been something we’ve marketed online and in-store, and it’s been enormously successful,” Mr. Jarrold said. “We use it to promote new collection announcements, specials products like a new A|X music CD and special offers.

“Conversion rates are fantastic, because it is a super-engaged, brand-loyal demographic,” he said. “We can localize events and blast out promotions at, say, our New York City store, and run contests, for example, the first 20 people to text back get a free A|X totebag.

“We get thousands of texts back immediately, which is astonishing.”

To sign up, consumers can text the keyword AX to the short code ARMANI (276264), although the retailer uses different keywords as well.

Consumers can show the mobile coupon at the cash register to redeem it, and that lets A|X track how many people responded to the offer.

A|X executives are also considering a mobile application for one or more smartphone platforms, but no plans have been finalized as of yet.

The center piece of its mobile initiatives continues to be the mobile commerce Web site.

“The ecommerce aspect really launched during the holidays, and we’re very happy with it—we’ve seen a lot of traffic on the mobile site, and sales have been quite strong,” Mr. Jarrold said. “Also, we get the non-quantifiable aspect of customers interacting with the brand on the go, which may lead to a sale in store or on the go.

“It’s been successful from a number different perspectives,” he said.

The luxury apparel retailer tapped the MarketLive Mobile to power its mobile commerce Web site that is optimized for viewing on all smartphones with a focus on Apple’s iPhone (see story). Armani Exchange recently upgraded its mobile commerce Web site to bring more immediate service and style to on-the-go customers (see story).

This past holiday season, A|X launched an in-store pickup feature letting consumers enter their ZIP code and hold an item and click a button to pay with a credit card or cash.

“We’re responding to customers’ needs and how they want to shop, and mobile is integral to our overall marketing strategy, as it’s the future,” Mr. Jarrold said. “It’s the way A|X customers want to interact with the brand—the days of the traditional stand-along bricks-and-mortar retailer are over.

“We’re making the brand accessible via mobile whenever and wherever they want it,” he said. “They can use the mobile site to save time, try to find what’s available, shop efficiently or maybe they’re waiting in line and want to waste some time.

“Whatever the reason, they can interact with the brand in a way that’s engaging and that otherwise they wouldn’t have the opportunity to partake in.”