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Mobile is retailers’ hotline to consumers during winter storm Juno

As the East Coast deals with winter storm Juno, transportation, fashion and banking companies such as Uber, H&M and Refinery 29 are taking to mobile to reach customers with relevant offers for merchandise they might need during the inclement weather.

Through promotions, mobile apps and native social content, these brands are aiming to not skip a beat in sales, while keeping in mind the potential of the storm. Increasingly, the mobile channel is allowing brands and marketers to continue their efforts even when local governments shut down cities, while some can even come to the rescue thanks to mobile.

“The best advice or tool that we have is to rely on mobile apps, as they are your ‘hotline’ to finding available properties wherever you are when the situation changes,” said Blake Clark, director of product management and mobile at Travelocity. “It’s also a great idea to follow any relevant Twitter feeds that have to do with travel, such as airports, airlines, local highway departments, to make sure that you have information to potentially beat the rush when a more general ‘shutdown’ announcement hits.”

Hurricane Sandy was the last detrimental storm to pass through the northeast in 2012, and since then, mobile has dramatically improved in terms of brand communication.

Publishers and weather companies used mobile during the storm to keep their mobile users informed minute by minute. However, brands of all retail sectors can use the channel in effective ways to reach their customers. Furthermore, brands are more equipped to focus in on location and make sure its efforts delivered via mobile are timely and relative.

For example, Uber is teaming with the American Red Cross to give rides to New York residents and is promising that prices will not exceed 2.8 times the normal fare.

The effort reflects Uber’s national policy developed with New York Attorney General Schneiderman that balances the goal of reliable transportation options with affordability during disasters. Any time a disaster occurs, prices are capped and all Uber proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts.

Still, Uber is preparing riders for longer commutes and limited destinations and is advising riders to take caution.

As of 2:00 pm on Jan. 26, alcohol delivery mobile application Drizly had a huge spike in orders in Boston and New York. Deliveries were up 477 percent compared to a typical Monday, and Drizly is attributing the rise in numbers to winter storm Juno.

“Marketers can leverage the mobile channel in times of winter storm emergencies by inserting themselves into the social media conversations surrounding the emergency,” said Esha Shah, manager of mobile strategy at Fetch, San Francisco. “During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Twitter users sent ‘more than 20 million tweets about the storm between Saturday and Thursday,’ according to the Huffington Post.

“These 20 million tweets exceeded the 13.7 million tweets sent during the Super Bowl that year,” she said. “For this coming winter storm, Twitter users are already using hashtags such as #BLIZZARDof2015, #NY1Snow and #SafeNYC to urge people in the northeast to prepare for the storm and stay safe during the storm.

“The Red Cross on Twitter (@redcrossny) has been a leader in information for storm preparation and safety.”

Fashion, lifestyle
As east coast consumers prep for winter storm Juno, brands are able to leverage the mobile channel to merchandise their wintery products. These efforts are also delivered at a time when consumers are likely to be suffering from cabin fever and are opting for their mobile devices for entertainment.

Trend-following Web site Refinery 29 posted an image of fashion stylist Rachael Wang wearing a light pink pea coat and used the hashtag #Snowmageddon2015. The social account also referenced the location “Snowmageddon.”

Urban Outfitters posted a bedroom layout on its Instagram account, featuring the brand’s home products, and accompanied the photo with the caption, “The best place to be on a snowy day.”

Similarly, Urban Outfitters’ affiliate brand Free People posted an image on Instagram of a girl standing in the snow-covered road and dressed warmly. The caption reads, “The calm before the storm. We’re ready to take on the blizzard. #Snowmageddon2015 #WinterStormJuno.”

Merdeces-Benz of North Haven, New York, posted on its Instagram account an image of its showroom currently hosting all of its new models, and the caption reads, “The #Blizzard is here and the #Mercedes are being moved indoors.”

H&M USA is staying center of the conversation, too.

Its Twitter account posted, “Who’s bundling up for #Juno? We’ve got our blankets and candles ready,” and accompanied the post with an image of a handful of its products.

Financial institutions
For major banking companies, they are likely prepared for power outages and unsafe roads, and mobile is allowing these institutions to still be a reference for their customers.

“The regulatory agencies overseeing financial institutions push those institutions to have business resumption plans and business continuity plans, pandemic plans, and so forth,” said David Albertazzi, senior analyst at Aite Group, Washington, D.C. “Every financial institution in the country has a plan on paper to cover those types of scenarios.

“With Hurricane Sandy, financial institutions deployed mobile ATMs where people were most affected,” he said. “Adoption of mobile banking services over time is helping because now they have a direct point of contact with those customers.”

Banking continues to be a leader in mobile adoption, causing little friction in times of inclement weather. These companies combine the use of mobile and social to stay in touch with their customers.

“As part of a mobile banking platform, there is usually a way of sending messages to end users,” Mr. Albertazzi said. “Mobile banking is part of the equation to communicate with customers.

“Social media is another big part, and both mobile banking and social media at large are helping financial institutions to extend their customer service and broadcast what’s going on,” he said. “The affected banks in the areas will probably have their business continuity plan working in effect.

“In the U.S., we now account for 70 million mobile banking users and all of those can be targeted. The messages can be targeted based on the region those folks live in.” 

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