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In The News
The Third Pillar of Direct Digital Marketing

July 10, 2009

Published by Online Marketing Strategies
Written by Brian Deagan

The waiting game is over. Mobile marketing is not just a viable marketing channel–it’s well on its way to becoming an essential one. The time to embrace mobile is now and these six tactics are both proven and easy to implement.

As one of the three pillars of direct digital marketing, mobile marketing is no longer an emerging channel worth only a casual glance from marketers. In fact, today–according to Nielsen–the average mobile subscriber sends and receives more text messages than phone calls. Fortunately, many effective mobile marketing tactics are readily available to capitalize on these existing consumer behaviors, further engaging customers while driving revenue.


Before you can realize the full benefit and value of successful mobile programs, it is important to grasp some helpful guidelines for mobile marketing. First, the success of a mobile program is determined in part by participation. Choosing a widely adopted consumer use for the mobile device, like SMS text messages, is fundamental for the short- and long-term success of a mobile program. A text-centric strategy is particularly relevant for opening up all of the opportunities within the mobile channel, from reminder messages to more complex mobile dialogues. Second, it is important to avoid generic messages that hold little value for the recipient, because they can be mistaken for mobile spam, a label that can derail a good mobile marketing concept before it gains momentum. Third, mobile marketing is like e-mail marketing in that good data is required. The better the data is, the more effective the mobile tactics are. Of the three aspects to direct digital marketing–e-mail, web and mobile–mobile is the most personal. Therefore, an impersonal batch-and-blast strategy is both obvious and intrusive to the recipient–a sure-fire way to turn off potentially loyal consumers. Mobile programs need an extra touch of personalization and message relevance to engage the consumer.

Pure-play e-commerce companies have a variety of effective mobile marketing programs to choose from. Here are three widely applicable tactics that have been proven to enhance the consumer experience, reinforce brand and drive revenue for companies with an exclusively online presence.

In-Stock Alerts

One effective way to leverage the mobile communications channel is to give consumers information they would not customarily receive through other channels. The best example of this type of mobile program is an in-stock alert. The ideal mobile marketing partner has software capable of integrating with existing inventory management systems. When a website visitor tries to order a product that is currently out of stock, allowing that visitor to sign up to receive a mobile alert when that product is back in stock is a valuable service. Additionally, prompting that visitor to specify size, color or other preferences for the in-stock mobile alert provides key information to entice the purchase. Having mobile marketing software that captures key preference data and then uses that data for personalized, triggered messages is crucial for executing effective tactics like mobile alerts.

Sales Alerts

In today’s economic climate, alerting cost-conscious shoppers to special, limited-time-only sales events is a good way to boost sales in a short time-frame. While the sales alert is traditionally an e-mail tactic, extending the e-mail experience to mobile affords the marketer more options, such as time-oriented (”Sale ends in 10-minutes”) and inventory-sensitive (”Only 10 items remain”) incentives. Because consumers carry their mobile devices everywhere, they are better equipped to take advantage of limited-time offers. A good mobile marketing partner is able to store mobile data in the same database with the website activity history. Drawing on both data sources to build powerful segments enables mobile communications to be more personalized and relevant to an individual consumer.

Mobile Notifications

Mobile notification programs are used for a variety of reasons–they can provide consumers with vital information about recent purchases, or provide the necessary push to make a previously delayed purchase. A mobile marketing partner with software capable of storing both website activity history and mobile data is crucial for this tactic. Specific programs include sending a free-shipping notification to a consumer who has recently abandoned their shopping cart, or sending a notification about a new product offering from a preferred brand. Providing ample opportunities on the website for consumers to opt-in to these types of useful mobile communications creates the right conditions for quickly building up a mobile database and offering a brand experience web-only consumers will jump at the chance to explore.

While e-commerce companies stand to gain a great deal by successfully incorporating the mobile channel into their overall direct digital marketing strategy, hybrid retailers with both brick-and-mortar stores and an online presence have myriad mobile tactics available that are more tailored to their business model. Some effective mobile programs for these hybrid retailers are targeted at a segment of the mobile consumer market that prefers to shop online and buy in store. Rather than executing digital marketing programs and tactics designed to circumvent customer shopping preferences, effective mobile marketing takes advantage of current shopping habits. Here are some examples.

Sending The Shopping Cart To A Mobile Device

M-commerce (making an actual purchase from a mobile device) has not reached mass consumer adoption yet. In fact, a significant segment of consumers still shy away from making purchases online, even though they spend a great deal of time researching their purchase before going to a store to “kick the tires” and buy. Marketers have long been seeking a way to measure this elusive segment of consumers, and allowing online browsers to build a shopping cart and send it to their mobile device is one way to connect the dots. Clothing retailers are in an especially advantageous position here. A shopper can go online and choose color, style and size for the clothes they want, place them in their shopping cart, then send that cart to their mobile device. Once in-store, a clerk can easily help the shopper find the clothes they picked out because the shopping cart includes important information like SKUs.

Sending Coupons To A Mobile Device

Many consumers research big-ticket items, like appliances, online before purchasing in store. Rather than providing these consumers with aggressive offers to entice them to purchase exclusively online, it’s easy to use the mobile channel to give them a coupon offer they can use in the store. Present the coupon online during the research process and allow the shopper to forward the coupon to their mobile device. The coupon can include a quick response code for easy scan and redemption, or it can include a personalized coupon number to track redemption. Both redemption methods are effective and help you create more enticing future offers for a specific segment of buyer.

Store-Focused Mobile Alerts

The previous hybrid retailer mobile tactics are examples of companies giving control over the timing of a purchase to the consumer. While effective, there are times when store traffic is unexpectedly light or when monthly forecasts are bleak. A mobile alert sent by a store manager to a segment of local customers is a useful method for creating foot traffic that moves inventory within a tight time-frame. The corporate entity can tightly control content and frequency by giving store managers the option of choosing from several pre-approved campaigns, or store managers can devise their own campaign and tailor it to their specific markets with light corporate governance. The right mobile marketing partner is able to execute either program type and provide measurable results that continually improve sales.

It is easier to get these tactical mobile programs started now than it was 12 or 18 months ago. However, there is a time investment required to get mobile marketing programs up and running. In addition to the time needed to provision a short code, every mobile program must be approved by the mobile carriers before it can be executed on their respective networks. E-commerce or hybrid retailers seeking to expand their direct digital marketing strategy to include mobile marketing must find a good partner who has solid relationships with the U.S. Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) and a carrier aggregator to ensure a program is approved as rapidly as the system allows.

Mobile marketing is sensible because the investment in creative, overhead and technology infrastructure is relatively low while the benefit of increased measurable sales and enhanced consumer loyalty are substantial. Though getting a program in market does initially take time, the benefit and value of opening an additional communications channel with willing consumers is important, and the business value is being realized more quickly than ever before.

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