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Mobile marketing best practices for Labor Day weekend

Alas, the salad days of summer are almost over, which means that marketers need to have a solid game plan for using mobile to promote sales and drive foot traffic during Labor Day weekend.

While the back-to-school rush is already in full swing, schools in some regions of the country such as the East Coast do not start back up until after Labor Day, meaning that many families that wait until the last minute will be scrambling to get everything they need over the holiday weekend. Mobile is a great way to engage the hordes of Labor Day shoppers and influence their purchase decisions with well-timed offers.

"The best advice I could give any retailer would be to use every sale event as an opportunity to get something in return,? said Tim Miller, CEO of Sumotext, Little Rock, AR. ?By labeling sales racks ?VIP only,? retailers can identify their customers and build an opt-in database.?

Retailers can use in-store signage or house inventory on their PC and mobile Web sites to issue calls-to-action such as ?If you're not yet a VIP, simply Text-2-Join,? followed by a specific keyword and short code.

?It's fun for the customer and the business can feel better about the loss leader,? Mr. Miller said. ?It's a win-win."

Text context
It is also important for marketers to remember that SMS is a personal communications channel, so the messages need to be equally personal.

Mr. Miller said that if marketers already have an SMS database and are thinking about their Labor Day sales invitations, they should integrate pop culture, preferably local.

For example, since early September happens to also be the opening weekend of college football, that would a perfect time to build loyalty through fan association.

Here is an example:

?Evolve: Don't wait until Monday! Watch the Razorbacks whip Tennessee Tech on ESPN3 in style with our huge selection of...?

That blank can be filled in with any number of products.

During Labor Day, automotive dealers and mattress companies often have sales, and anything related to back-to-school such as apparel, furniture, and stationery supplies are in demand.

Marketers should use a range of mobile channels, from SMS or MMS to the mobile Web and applications, to get the word out about sales and distribute incentives such as mobile coupons on products that consumers tend to seek out during this time.

?Many items are purchased in higher quantities or sometimes exclusively during holidays?car rentals, beach chairs, hot dog buns, beverages, coolers, sunblock and wiffle ball bats,? said Dave Gwozdz, CEO of Mojiva, New York.

Labor of love
The mobile medium has more immediacy than any other. Consumers use their mobile devices to find answers to the questions, ?What do I need now? What do I need in the next two hours??

Brands and retailers are offering more holiday-driven mobile services around Black Friday, Christmas and Valentine?s Day specific to sending greetings and giving gifts. Labor Day is no exception, especially since it dovetails with the tail end of the back-to-school push.

Since Labor Day coincides with the end of back-to-school season, that usually means sales of some sort.

?We know that big sale days like Cyber Monday or Black Friday usually are accompanied by heavy mobile usage?people either looking for deals or supplementing their store experience, or checking to see if the trip to the store is worthwhile,? said Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst of ebusiness and retail at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA.

?In that regard, I?d just say, be prepared as a retailer, have your key information online and expect a spike in mobile traffic during Labor Day weekend,? she said.

Soccer moms with smartphones
Targeting particular demographics around this time?for example, moms shopping for their kids?is a good way to make sure the message is relevant and resonates with its intended audience.

?During Labor Day weekend, people are in stores for end-of-summer sales and back-to-school sales,? said Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. ?Stores can be hectic?displays can be strewn about and items may be out of stock.

?Moms are on a mission to get a list of items they need for kids,? she said.

Most mobile devices that people use to locate the nearest store, find product inventory and create and access shopping lists are on smartphones?mostly iPhone or Android, according to Forrester.

?I wouldn?t expect to see a specific app launched dedicated to Labor Day or back-to-school, but we might see a new tab that enables some of this functionality,? Ms. Ask said.

?Given how many people will be shopping, we may see more mobile marketing promoting in-store sales,? she said. ?Marketers could use high-volume foot traffic to promote mobile services.?

Using mobile to influence buying decisions
While mobile coupons and payment systems are still evolving, the process of influencing brand preference and engagement can start long before the Labor Day weekend.

In terms of moving product during the holiday weekend, brands can take advantage of the fact that tens of million consumers will not be in their office and most likely not at a home PC. But these consumers will be connected via their mobile devices?even at parks, lakes, beaches, airports and highways.

?Brands that want to drive sales can target consumers near retail locations as they surf the mobile Web or in apps via geolocation targeting,? Mojiva?s Mr. Gwozdz said.

?Other strategies like time of day targeting?not pushing sunblock at night?or keyword targeting have proven to be extremely effective at driving response and conversions,? he said.

?Additionally, brands that have a relationship with their customers can utilize CRM strategies to push specific offers before and during the weekend and tailor the offers based upon all of the above targeting as well."

Final Take
Madelynn Hughes, events and sales assistant, Luxury Daily