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Whole Foods accelerates mobile initiatives via time-sensitive advertising

Whole Foods is building up its email database while also driving in-store traffic with a new mobile advertising campaign.

The banner ads are running in Pandora?s iPhone application. Using mobile to encourage users to sign up for an email program is a great way for marketers to add some longevity to their advertising campaigns.

"Mobile phones are the most effective channel to collect information that might gage consumers interest in a brand because consumers have their mobile phones with them 24/7 and can reply instantly on the go," said Cezar Kolodziej, CEO/president of Iris Mobile, Chicago.

"Email addresses of consumers are one of many pieces of information a brand can be interested in, but I wonder why they didn't have consumers opting in with their mobile phones instead of email since it is more effective," he said.

"A lot of consumers have different email addresses, including some emails that they never check. However, most consumers have a single mobile phone that they have with them all the time. If they share their mobile number with a brand, there is no doubt they are really interested to stay connected and receive future offers directly to their phone."

Mr. Kolodziej is not affiliated with Whole Foods. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Whole Foods declined to press inquiries.

Opt-in to offers
Creative for the ads read, ?Click for our madness sales? and include an image of the Whole Foods logo.

When users tap on the banner ads, a landing page is brought up that shows several products that are on sale at Whole Foods. For example, a salmon fillet is advertised for $10.99 per pound versus its usual $15.99 price.

Other foods such as oranges and cheddar cheese are also advertised at discounted prices.

Below, users can select their store from a list of Whole Foods locations.

Consumers then type in their email address to sign up for local offers.

Although the ad is simple, it is straight-forward and accomplishes the company?s goal of driving foot traffic.

Moreover, the ad helps Whole Foods build up its email database of users to target in the future.

This helps solidify the company?s efforts to create a long-term relationship with consumers after they have exited the ad.

Driving traffic
Whole Foods has been in the mobile space for a while.

In 2009, the brand launched an iPhone app to let users quickly access more than 2,000 Whole Foods recipes (see story).

Then in 2010, Whole Foods rolled out another app to play up healthy lifestyles (see story).

Most recently, Whole Foods used an app to tie in with mobile coupons as part of a bigger campaign to increase awareness around poverty (see story). 

It makes perfect sense to combine location-based advertising with mobile search," Mr. Kolodziej said.

"If I am around place X, searching for places to eat,  I would be more than happy to be presented with an offer from Whole Foods if I am just around the corner," he said.

"However, a well-known example, if I'm walking by Starbucks and receive an offer to get 50 percent off for a cup of coffee, it will never work due to many reasons, such as privacy and scalability to name a few. It can only be very powerful if it is combined with an explicit opt-in strategy and is only sending these offers to customers who previously agreed to receive them. A well structured location-based campaign for targeted consumers can be extremely effective."

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York