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In The News
Let's Go Shopping

Tuesday, Aug 29, 2006 3:01 PM ET

Provided by MobileInsider
Written by Steve Smith


AN INTERACTIVE MARKETER FOR ONE of the major mobile carriers told me recently that the Store Locater function on his main Web site produces one of the big blank spots in his knowledge about the effectiveness of his online spend. Almost all of his other online investments produce reams of detailed metrics he can use to optimize, calculate ROI, and spec out future projects. The Store Locater gets a ton of traffic, but he has no idea where it goes and how effectively it drives people to the retail stores themselves. There remains an enormous gap between the Web and retail and our understanding of how the two work together. We just know that they do work together--somehow.

It is ironic that a marketer for a wireless provider would wonder about this issue, since mobile phones almost certainly will serve as the bridge between Internet marketing and in-store experiences. Getting a brand's message into the store aisles is, of course, the dream of marketers everywhere, and retailers know how to charge a pretty penny for it. Imagine if the consumer could elect to bring her own choice messages, specials, and product information into the store? Screw those end-cap fees!

Finding the best way to connect the highly evolved Web shopping experience to the protozoan mobile platform is going to occupy a number of companies for years to come, I am sure. Epicurious.com lets recipe hunters send their grocery list to their phones, along with a sponsor's message (don't forget the wine!). Sprint has a similar, very successful program with The Food Network.

I am sure that mobile couponing will be one of the first widespread attempts to connect the Web with brick and mortar shopping, and we've already seen it emerge in the Cellfire downloadable coupon application.

In Europe, where Bluetooth use is more advanced, some brands and retailers let customers download messages and specials right at the front door. And, of course, the visual mobile search folks are continuing to work on ways to aim your cell phone camera at a package and get back product information, coupons, or sweepstakes entries.

Compared to some of these more sophisticated Web-to-store connections, simply putting short codes on in-store packaging seems like a temporary rope bridge of a solution. I can't even read the caloric content on these labels. Okay, yes, I am over 40--want to make something of it?. But I sure as hell am not going to lose another cell of retina to get 25 cents off my bran flakes. OK, OK, so I am closer to 50.

Ultimately, I think online shoppers will come to expect a "phone this" option at most Web sites that is just as seamless to use as "e-mail this." It could, and certainly should, become a simple way for users to push the information they find online to their phones where they can consult it in-store.

Knotice, a digital marketing firm that specializes in personalized, dynamically served Web and e-mail messaging, is shopping around just such a system. The company already provides e-tailers with a common platform that targets relevant content at the Web site and in e-mails. We already know too well that consumers shop and choose items online and then go to buy them in-store. Going into a retail store with a printout from the company Web site is pretty much an American ritual now. The next layer is to let online shoppers push the fruits of their interactive shopping experience to the phone. As CEO Brian Deagan describes it, one option on a retail site will be to send a link to an item or to a shopping cart as an SMS message. The text message will contain a unique WAP link to the customer's online cart, which they call up in the phone browser at the store. "I think mobile will tie these things together and simplify the problem of communicating to consumers in different channels," says Deagan.

It is anyone's guess who will provide Web retailers and content providers with this connective tissue between Web experiences and mobile. A marketing company like Knotice may work best with retailers. On the content side, a provider of "Print This" and "E-mail This" services like Clickability would be a natural place to add a "Phone This" button to articles and to advertising on a publisher's site.

As many multi-platform brands evolve their mobile Web strategy, I am surprised that more of them aren't exploring the Web-to-phone route first. Rather than trying to get users to engage with the still painful process of browsing on a phone, simply extend the reach of the more refined Web experience. Rather than struggling to miniaturize a robust experience, just add a mobile touchpoint to the more flexible kind of interaction we already enjoy.

Contributing writer Steve Smith is a longtime new-media consultant and columnist, and current editor of Wireless Business Forecast for Access Intelligence at TelecomWeb.com. Contact him at popeyesmith@comcast.net.


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