March 03, 2007

Interactive mobile marketing, which prompts consumers to respond to advertising messages using their mobile devices, is a vast new frontier that has elevated direct marketing to supreme new heights. As a bi-directional channel that links advertisers directly to their audiences, mobile marketing has piqued the attention of just about every major corporation on earth. For retailers in particular the benefits are enormous, as companies like McDonald's, Levi's and Heineken are beginning to discover.

Savvy retailers are finding that by integrating mobile marketing with traditional advertising channels such as print, tv or internet, an interactive link is established between the retailer and the consumer which can result in increased sales, brand loyalty and repeat business.

Joe Gorelick, executive vice president of POP Solutions, a mobile marketing company with offices in Los Angeles and New York, sees interactive mobile messaging and retailing as the perfect mobile marriage.

"It's a matter of getting the right offers to the right consumers at the right time," Gorelick explains. "Consumers have gotten used to the idea of texting responses to advertising messages, such as voting for their favorites on American Idol or texting a code to enter a contest. In the retail world, mobile messaging takes on a whole new personality by targeting consumers when they are only a few steps away from the store."

The responses are immediate and bi-directional. For example, a woman at a shopping mall sees an ad on a kiosk announcing a sale at a shoe store. The ad invites her to use her cell phone to text a code in order to receive an additional discount at that store. Using POP Solutions' technology, a digital coupon is immediately sent to her phone which may be in the form of a bar code that can be scanned at the store during check out.

In another example, via advertising displayed on digital signage throughout the mall, shoppers are invited to play games, enter contests and even download music via their mobile devices. Someone who plays a game might receive a digital coupon for one of the mall's game stores, or someone who votes for a favorite rock group would receive a coupon for a music store.

"The benefits are huge and the possibilities are limitless," Gorelick says. "This kind of exchange between advertisers and consumers can drive more customers into the stores, build loyalty programs, compile customer profiles, enhance the shopping experience and encourage repeat business. It's a win-win situation because once customers opt-in to these promotions, they receive offers that match their preferences."

While mobile marketing of this type is still relatively new in the U.S., it's been used successfully in Europe for nearly a decade. Among some case studies are these promotions with McDonald's, Levi's and Heineken:

. In Luleå, Sweden, as mentioned above, 2500 consumers received a mobile discount coupon for a McDonald's hamburger and 25% of the targeted users redeemed the offer. The participating McDonalds broke its sales turnover records during this test period and jumped to the top of the McDonalds league table in Sweden.

. The Levi's Gold Rush Campaign aired a TV sport during the Super Bowl offering viewers a chance to win a pair of diamond-encrusted jeans valued at $150,000. Participants responded with text messages to enter the promotion, and were then led to the Levi's web site to follow clues to help them "find" the jeans. On the day the ad ran, 230,000 text messages were received. 20% of that number visited the website, 9% visited a Levi's store and 8% purchased a Levis' product as a result

. The Heineken Champions League campaign. As one of the official sponsors of the International Champions League, Heineken distributed scratch cards to bar patrons with a code to be sent via text message to participate in a raffle to win a variety of prizes. By texting a response, the consumer could browse off-line the Champions league's agenda, upcoming games and events. The last 2 months the redemption rate of the agenda was 68% of the participants, which met the company's branding goal.

"Mobile marketing can be implemented in a number of creative ways," Gorelick explains. "For example, in a retail store a consumer can receive personalized coupons and VIP status for the use of preferred check-out lines. These can be sent while the consumer is actually shopping in the store or at scheduled times determined by the consumer's preferences. In a mall, interactive games, raffles and coupon pulling can be integrated with in-store and out-of-store digital signage as well as web and print ads."

In addition to driving consumers to retail stores and websites, mobile marketing also provides advertisers with valuable consumer data such as contact information, shopping preferences and demographic profiles. These data mining capabilities make it possible for the advertisers to have continued future interactions with the consumer.

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