Costco exec: Mobile cannot be left untouched

Please click here to access the archived webinar, "Mobile Marketing in 2011: How High is High?"

A Costco executive said that a multichannel mobile strategy bridges online and warehouse shopping.

During an hour-long Hipcricket-sponsored Mobile Marketer webinar, Costco, along with other expert panelists discussed best practices for effective mobile marketing campaign planning in 2011. The webinar panel was moderated by Mobile Marketer?s Dan Butcher.

?We see mobile as a way our customer base wants to connect with us,? said Rob Walters, director of site design, Costco Wholesale. ?We can?t leave that channel untouched.

?You should start with mobile Web ? once you?ve enabled your site for mobility then an application is the next step,? he said. ?If you have not reviewed your mobile traffic analytics, do so to better understand where your application focus should be applied.

?But if possible, avoid just replicating your mobile Web site in an app, which would provide no value to your customer.?

According to Mr. Walters, while SMS affords a great opportunity to reach your customers, the challenge lies in ensuring that the messages remain relevant to the target audience.

?Relevance is certainly going to be a challenge,? Mr. Walters said. ?I think 2D bar codes offer a lot of opportunity and create that relevance that I?m talking about.

?It?s a powerful tool and you want to be able to forward that technology to your customer,? Mr. Walters said.

Mobile site
Last month Costco launched a commerce-enabled mobile Web site accessible at http://m.costco.com from any Web-enabled mobile device.

An additional revenue stream was part of the strategy behind the site.

Additionally, the company wanted to ensure that it provides the best possible services to its members.

Mr. Walters said that customers are looking for a means of efficiently accessing their retailer of choice.

The company expects to launch applications for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android devices.

?Mobile is a means to bridging a relationship that we have with our customer,? Mr. Walters said.

The rise of tablets
According to panelist Craig Etheridge, vice president of mobile advertising sales, Gannett Digital/USA Today, Atlanta, although devices such as the iPhone and Android phones are increasing in popularity and penetration, the real area of opportunity lies in mobile tablets like the iPad, Samsung Galaxy and Research In Motion?s PlayBook.

?Because mobile is such a young platform, it?s all about innovation and new ideas,? Mr. Etheridge said. ?There?s a lot of diff things that you can take away for individual consumers and agencies to place these targets on.

?There?s also tremendous growth in tablet advertising,? he said. ?I think the mobile Web continues to be one of the largest opportunities and it affords people a much richer experience.

?The tablet is another opportunity to engage consumers - The explosion of new tablets and their unique offerings will allow for greater targeting.?

Mr. Etheridge said that implementation of campaigns and reporting metrics are a continuous challenge.

Campaign reporting with rich media and third-party ad counting is an issue and with the recent movement of open rich-media mobile ads, it will hopefully provide a more effective rich-media implementation experience.

?Use [mobile] where it makes sense ? do not force it,? Mr. Etheridge said. ?Understand what can be done with integration and possible limitations between the platforms.?

"There are many key opportunities for mobile in the coming year," he said.

Create a brand experience
Timothy A. Blett, senior partner and president at Doner, Newport Beach, CA, believes that SMS, the mobile Web and applications and location-based social networking are going to grow in 2011.

?What we are we really trying to do is to create a brand experience,? Mr. Blett said. ?And if it?s a brand experience you?re trying to create, there?s no question that iAd or apps will let agencies do exciting things that are not just fun, but will be incredibly relevant and useful.

?It?s about understanding your customer based on key insights and once you understand you want to keep it simple,? he said. ?The other thing is that you really need to be entertaining ? through entertainment you can create this engagement.?

Location, location, location
Noah Elkin, principal analyst at eMarketer, New York, agrees that location-based services are an area to keep an eye on.

?We?re still at the beginning stages of this,? Mr. Elkin said. ?If anything, this is a green field area that has a lot of promise and having companies like Facebook in the mix can push activies like check-in into mass adoption and use location as a marketing tool and help spread that to other media and technology platforms.

?I think increasingly we?ll see marketers use location to target consumers,? he said. ?There has been some interesting research on devices and I think really what it boils down to is that you have to provide value.

?Consumers are willing to engage, but they do expect something in return.?

Mr. Elkin said that the continued development of devices, browsers and mobile networks, combined with the availability and marketer awareness of richer ad units, will significantly enhance how marketers will be able to use mobile to interact and engage with consumers.

?You have to focus on your customer?s existing needs,? Mr. Elkin said. ?We talked about the importance of tying messages together and with all of the noise that consumers are exposed to, having a consistent message is important to achieving your goals.?

Mobile messaging
Messaging will still dominate because of its reach and proven effectiveness, per Eric Harber, president and chief operating officer of Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA. 

?I believe in the importance of proximity,? Mr. Harber said. ?2011 will be the year that social and mobile will converge.

?Although measurement is the challenge, it?s also proof that mobile is more effective than other channel,? he said. ?We?ve learned a lot and through that process you need to tie everything to business goals.

?Do not let mobile sit on an island ? it works best when part of an integrated program.?

Please click here to access the archived webinar, "Mobile Marketing in 2011: How High is High?"

Final Take
Rimma Kats is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York