Hotels.com exec: Mobile in-store experiences will be game-changer during holidays
By Chantal Tode
September 27, 2013
Walmart's app has an in-store mode
A Hotels.com executive said during a Mobile Marketer webinar yesterday that the way big box retailers are using mobile to enhance the in-store shopping experience will be a game-changer during the upcoming holiday season if retailers execute well.
Retailers such as Walmart are pushing a variety of in-app services they have been building that are designed to help in-store shoppers, such as in-app offers, store maps and the ability to scan on-shelf products. The executive also pointed to the growing use of day-parting as playing a key role in mobile marketing this holiday season, especially around key days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the couple of days following Christmas.
“Walmart has their functionality with driving the mobile user in store to really interact and engage with their mobile product,” said Matt Goynes, mobile marketing manager at Hotels.com, Dallas. “Anything that is going to help increase their shopping experience and shopping satisfaction.
“I see that as being a game-changer this holiday season if retailers can do it correctly,” he said. “It is hard enough already to get in and out of Walmart in an hour, so anything that’s going to make that trip longer may not be helping me, may not make me happy.
“But if they can make it easier and more efficient, that will make me a happy and satisfied customer.”
Mr. Goynes was one of the speakers during yesterday’s "5 Last-Minute Tips for Effective 2013 Holiday Mobile Marketing Webinar," which was sponsored by Kontagent.
Another tactic mentioned as a potential game-changer this holiday season is location-based coupons.
Additionally, more retailers could challenge showrooming head-on this year with promises to match any legitimate price for the same item in their stores. Some retailers could even come out with their own showrooming apps.
"New technologies are allowing consumers to receive discounts only when their maps indicate that they are inside the retail destination," said Dave Martin, senior vice president of media services at Ignited, El Segundo, CA. "Up until this year, this kind of tech has not scaled well, but I think we are now going to see the biggest retail chains using tactics like this one to get more consumers into their stores."
While Passbook was already around last holiday season, it is likely to play an even bigger role this year thanks to the recent release of iOS 7.
Additionally, now that Google Wallet is offering similar capabilities, more retailers are likely to integrate with both offerings.
"Include links in your emails, run SMS campaigns and put links in your app to let your customers easily add you to their mobile wallet," said Jenny Wise, an analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA.
"The benefit for your brand: organizing your customer’s physical and/or mobile gift cards can increase redemptions, you can send them a notification when they are near your store to boost traffic and, thinking longer-tem, you gain a permanent place in their wallet,” she said.
Passbook opportunities are growing
What to avoid
In terms of what marketers should avoid this holiday season, not being aggressive enough could be a big problem.
Marketers need to adjust their mobile advertising inventory bids, partner mix and budgets during the holiday season in response to the influx of advertisers, especially big box retailers.
It is also important to not wait too long to start a mobile holiday strategy, as sales spike from the first week in November and remain high throughout the rest of the year.
One of the biggest mistakes marketers could make this holiday season is not having an optimized tablet experience.
"Not having an optimized tablet experience could be a huge fail this holiday season," Hotel.com’s Mr. Goynes said. "Tablet sales are outgrowing smartphone sales and are poised to be a dominant shopping tool this holiday season, accelerating the online to mobile shift in holiday shopping."
Table experiences should not be overlooked
It is also important to not over-do video messaging or push messaging as this can annoy customers.
Also, marketers should not trial new mobile strategies such as NFC or augmented reality during the holiday season unless they have a sophisticated mobile audience and already have the basics in place.
In terms of mobile performance, savvy marketers learned the lesson last year about the surge in mobile traffic and demand and have taken the necessary steps to be ready.
However, others may not be prepared for the surge in mobile traffic or consumers increased expectations around mobile user experiences this year.
This is especially true for some marketers who made an initial push into mobile, but have not kept up with how the space is evolving.
"Most marketers are lacking functionality and design elements within their mobile product offering," Mr. Goynes said. "Yes, they are present in mobile but not active or up-to-speed with consumer expectations for speed of shopping, ease of use and curtailed-design elements.”
Consumer expectations for mobile experience are getting higher all the time. To meet these expectations, marketers should have critical content such as click-to-call, location and easy product browsing available on their site as well as include features such as express checkout to help users convert on the phone.
"It is crucial that marketers anticipate the traffic they will get to their mobile sites and meet customer expectations," said Jennifer Okula, senior vice president of digital at Millward Brown, New York. "When consumers are asked what makes a good mobile Web site, the top responses are around speed and display. 59 percent expect sites to load quickly and 50 percent expect them to display clearly on their device."
App vs. mobile Web
When it comes to native app compared to mobile Web experiences, marketers need to keep in mind that apps should focus on creating a relationship with the customer by collecting their preferences, boosting loyalty and building a lifetime value.
The mobile site should focus on allowing users to easily find what they are looking for and to complete transactions easily.
"There should be a consistent brand image for both, along with holiday messaging of sales, etc.," Forrester’s Ms. Wise said.
"Also, think about the impact of your creative on download times,” she said. “If you are crafting a rich media experience, running it from your native app may be best as it won’t slow down the customer experience."
Smartphone vs. app marketing
For smartphone marketing, think about the role that mobile plays in the customer journey in terms of how shoppers research and purchase with an eye toward optimizing the spend across the mobile Web site, mobile email and paid ads to reach customers at these moments.
For app marketing, marketers can use the holidays to launch and promote an app.
Marketers can also market within an app via push notifications or messaging to promote marketing efforts to app users based on that customer's preference.
"Targeted smartphone marketing, for example, display ads on sites, can have higher reach," Millward Brown’s Ms. Okula said. "Creating a specific branded app can be limiting to brand loyalists but offer higher engagement."
Marketers need to understand the path to purchase of their customers before putting together a successful multi-channel or cross-channel experience. Having a multi-attribution or multi-touch lens to view consumer touch points can help accomplish this.
Start by understanding all the channels available to a brand and how they are used then build communications that match the capabilities and benefits of each.
For example, in mobile, some users play a lot of games while others use it as a social tool.
It can also help to think in terms of the customer experience and to choose the best technology that supports that experience.
Mobile can also be a supplement to other channels. For example, deals and coupons can easily be offered from print, TV or other offline advertising.
"For us, mobile is as much of a part of every channel as it can be," Hotel.com’s Mr. Goynes said.
"Mobile SEM, mobile exclusive deals in our emails, mobile specific emails, desktop site mobile messaging, mobile Web site to app messaging, to call center even,” he said.
“We like to promote mobile at every consumer entry point possible because we know and see consumers doing research across multiple channels and then purchasing on others."
Marketers have the opportunity to gain some powerful insights into their customers via a holiday marketing push. Key data to be collecting includes shopping cart values, shopping behaviors and interests, locations, times of day and any other demographic information.
Geo-location information can provide marketers with contextual clues that can help them target messaging to a specific customer in the moment.
"For us, we know once we get our consumer to download and purchase within our app they are more likely to do it over and over again," Mr. Goynes said.
“Mobile app is a very sticky channel for us,” he said. “Our app is on the user’s handset until they delete it, and it is with them everywhere they go.
“Without looking at LTV, we would not be able to support a lot of our mobile initiatives. Looking only at the first in app purchase is like buying a milk cow and selling it after getting your first gallon of milk."
Once the holidays are over, marketers need to make sure they understand customers’ needs so they can tailor their marketing to these new customers.
Marketers should also be prepared to take advantage of deal shoppers who spend more after the holidays than they do before.
The key is not approaching a mobile marketing holiday campaign as a one-off campaign.
Mobile strategies are about creating relationships and long-term customer value. This means making sure that the back-end is set up to collect purchase history data, browsing behaviors, app preferences and other important data in order to continue the relationship with the customer.
"Retargeting and using push notifications is a great way to continue that dialogue with the customer once you have gotten the download or initial purchase," Mr. Goynes said.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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