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Q&A: Why RetailMeNot is bullish on multichannel offers

As more retailers cotton on to the strategy of offering mobile coupons for in-store use, RetailMeNot claims that retailers tapping multichannel approaches with digital promotions are seeing the highest levels of success.

Retailers are increasingly moving toward the trend of implementing multichannel marketing approaches that rely heavily on mobile to send location-aware offers and coupons to shoppers. More promotions than ever are being accessed via mobile channels, as evidenced by the nearly 70 percent of traffic activity that RetailMeNot saw stemming from smartphones from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday this year.

While providing consumers with mobile-only coupons is certainly a smart strategy in some cases, the best results tend to come from digital-first offers that can be used via applications, mobile Web or in-store. Smartphones have cemented their status as an optimal shopping companion, meaning that brands must remember to leverage personal devices even for customers who prefer making purchases in-store.

In an interview with Mobile Commerce Daily, Brian Hoyt, vice president of communications at RetailMeNot, Inc., discusses the still-emerging adoption of beacon technology as well as trends in mobile commerce that retailers should keep at the forefront of their minds.

Has 2015 really been the year of the beacons?
Beacons are a really interesting area for us. We made a couple of big announcements this year when we signed partnerships with Swirl and Gimbal, two of the biggest beacon companies.

This will help us work with retailers on a micro-targeting level. It also opens up the door for us to work with brands and product manufacturers.

It’s the first or second inning of beacon technology. It’s probably not as active as a marketing tactic for us yet as mobile push-notifications. Instead of pulling [data], you’re pushing it out to customers. That’s done mostly through technology that is GPS and WiFi-based.

We’re still very bullish on beacons; it’s just something that will probably play itself out more in 2016 and 2017 as you get more brands and retailers more focused on sophisticated and personalized mobile marketing methods.

If you think about a retailer that has spent tens of millions on media, the first step was getting them to realize how important mobile is. Adding anything like personalization through mobile push or advertising through mobile channels is a layer of sophistication that more marketers are becoming familiar with, regarding how to do this appropriately in order to increase ROI.

Mobile marketing is in the third inning, beacons are probably in the first or second. Retailers are still overspending in traditional offline broadcast channels versus the amount of time consumers are spending in those channels.

What is the biggest holiday trend you are seeing as it pertains to mobile commerce?
We have seen an increase in the volume of offers consumers are accessing overall. They’re largely doing that through a mobile channel. The volume of unique offers consumers experienced on RetailMeNot on Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday increased by 15 percent.

The vast majority of consumers are accessing offers through mobile channels, through mobile Web or RetailMeNot.

As a marketing tactic, I think retailers are finding the value of digital coupons accessed through a digital channel really impactful in terms of driving revenue for them.

One interesting trend that we see is that there was a 37 percent increase in the volume of coupons and promotional codes that retailers were offering in the marketplace. The coupons and promotional codes tend to be things like storewide offers.

Have the proliferation of mobile payment platforms, including Apple Pay, helped couponing platforms such as RetailMeNot, since users have even more of a reason to shop on mobile?
We’ve been mobile wallet agnostic at RetailMeNot. Digital payment is still in the first few innings as consumers’ options are becoming more widely adopted.

There’s also a problem on the retail side of how many are able to accept that. Sometimes the point-of-sale systems from an IP standpoint are a little behind consumer trends, but you’re seeing more retailers and consumers adopt these technologies.

Should more retailers offer additional smartphone-specific deals, even to entice in-store shoppers?
The trend is more retailers thinking more multichannel. We know a mobile offer is more widely used in-store. A mobile offer is also great for driving sales online and through the mobile channel experience.

The power of a mobile offer really drives sales in three different channels. You’re seeing more retailers make an omnichannel deal. They don’t care where the deal happens, as long as it does, but they cater deals to mobile users.

For example, a recently successful offer from American Eagle Outfitters [allowed consumers to] take 40 percent off in-store or online, and get free shipping. That was an omnichannel offer.

How have retailers experienced significant growth for their omnichannel and in-store programs recently?
RetailMeNot is kind of the granddaddy of the location-aware app technology. We launched in our app back in 2012 and we did it right around Black Friday. We had a couple retail partners that were forward-thinking. They were putting some leftover budgets to see if this would work. It was incredible how much mobile offers drove sales, way back in 2012.

Then you got into 2013, and we became a bigger part of those retailers’ test strategies. By 2014, we became a part of retailers’ marketing budgets. One of the exciting things that happened in the past 24 months is third-party groups full of data scientists that are helping marketers understand how to make each of the channels they are investing in better from an ROI standpoint.

In particular, the mobile channel has a really high ROI. Mobile marketing is one of those hot new areas of growth that a lot of our partners are investing in more. And if they’re not, they should be.

What recent developments have you been most excited to share with consumers?
The one big thing we’ve recently launched is RetailMeNot rebates. A rebate effectively takes the cashier out of the equation when you are purchasing something in-store. It opens up a lot of new opportunities for us with retailers, restaurants and brands.

You take your receipt and scan it with your mobile phone, and within three to five days after it goes through fraud check, you get money back in your PayPal account or get a gift card. Retailers love it because they can develop a [better] relationship with the consumer.

If you’re a retailer that is not really into couponing, it’s a great way of offering an enticing deal to a consumer.

Largely, the rebate is funded by the retailer. It helps us from a profitability standpoint, and the retailer is funding it just like they would a coupon. For the consumer, it’s even better. Usually, you would have to wait 30 to 90 days to get a check back. In this case, you are getting money (or a gift card) back in three to five business days.

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York