Magazine Article | December 18, 2007

Mobile Marketing: Pitfalls, Opportunities

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Don’t abuse your connection to consumer mobile devices.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, January 2008

Here's an admission: I rarely use my cell phone, and when I do, I use it to call people or to take their calls. I've never sent, nor have I received, a text message. I've never 'Googled' anything from my cell phone, never used it to research or purchase anything, surf the Net for a weather forecast, or even listened to an MP3 on it. This stands in stark contrast to Meghan, the teenage babysitter of my children, who's rarely found without her cell phone in reach, and who can 'text' her friends without removing it from her pocket. That impresses me, but it drives her mom crazy. Meghan is firmly planted in a generation that counts personal mobile technology as not just a tool, but as an extension of self. And she is typical of the target and future demographic that will make or break mobile marketers.

According to market research firm ABI, the world market for mobile marketing will total about $3 billion this year. That's a significant total for a marketing trend that's struggled to find its legs in the United States, despite the ubiquity of cell phones. But some U.S. retailers are beginning to share mobile marketing success stories. During the 2007 holiday season, Nordstrom and Wal-Mart sent text messages promoting discounts and sales to opt-in customers, while J.C. Penney made wake-up calls to opt-in customers on Black Friday. QSR brand Subway launched its pilot "My Subway Mobile" promotion with 16 stores, with text offers to opt-in customers. The pilot resulted in 8% to 10% redemption rates, besting the 1% or 2% redemption rates the company typically gets from newspaper-based coupon offers. Results like this support the findings of a Harris Interactive report that 78% of mobile Internet users would be happy to receive mobile advertising that's tailored to their interests.

Specificity Is Key To Mobile Marketing
While the Harris Interactive figure is impressive, it's important to draw out the key qualifier in the study — participants were among the growing ranks of mobile Internet users. There's an important distinction between the bulk of the 76% of Americans who own cell phones and those who classify themselves as mobile Internet users. Another important point is that in the campaigns and success stories referenced above, messaging recipients opted in. They asked for the promotions, meaning the offers came as no surprise to them. So specificity of target audience, starting with their accepted use of technology and ensuring that they want to receive your offers, is central to your mobile marketing success. You see, to Meghan, unsolicited messages on her personal electronic devices are considered an invasion of her privacy. Improperly executed, mobile marketing will quickly become to her generation what dinnertime telemarketing calls were to mine.