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Alon Brands exec: SMS database grows 150pc year-over-year

NEW YORK ? An Alon Brands executive at Mobile Commerce Daily?s Mcommerce Summit said that by actively promoting its SMS program, the company?s mobile database is growing at an average of 150 percent year-over-year.

The executive presented a case study during the ?Alon Brands: How the Nation?s Largest Licensee of 7-Eleven Stores Boosted Customer Engagement and Redemption Rates with Mobile? session. Additionally, the exec offered best practice tips for companies looking to get into mobile.

?The underlying message is that it is not about the technologies, it is about making a connection,? said Scott Shakespeare, general manager of branding, advertising and promotions at Alon Brands, Dallas, TX.

?We want to connect with our consumers and provide turn-key solutions,? he said.

Alon Brands is the largest 7-Eleven licensee in the United States, operating more than 300 convenience stores.

SMS convenience
Alon Brands supplies fuel for the convenience stores.

The primary focus of Alon Brands? mobile strategy has been on SMS because smartphone penetration can be low in certain areas of the company's demographic, and text messages reach all mobile phone users.

Additionally, the company is in the middle of a rebranding that is planned to be rolled out in July.

It can be difficult to convince companies to swap out part of their budget for new technologies such as mobile compared to traditional outlets such as print and TV.

Therefore, in order to build a mobile database, it is crucial to tag every piece of marketing with an SMS call-to-action.

In particular, giveaways can be a great way for marketers to encourage users to opt-in to a text message program.

Alon Brands has also used SMS for loyalty-building. To opt-in to the program, consumers can text the keyword ALON to the short code 444222.

To promote the program, Alon Brands includes SMS calls-to-action on its print advertising. The ads are also often tied to a coupon or deal.

For example, for a recent campaign, one of Alon Brands? franchises used a month-long promotion. The first three weeks of the campaign saw a very low response rate, but by rolling out a SMS call-to-action during the last week, the company was able to grow its database by 1200 percent.

Alon Brands is working with Pocketstop for its mobile initiatives.

Mr. Shakespeare at Mobile Commerce Daily's Mcommerce Summit

Multichannel strategy
Mobile has the potential to tie together all channels. For example, when Alon Brands sends out a SMS message, the company might ask for a user?s ZIP code. Then the company can tie its email and mobile databases together to send tailored marketing messages.

For example, by sending out a text message to users asking for their email address, Alon Brands was able to collect 4,400 email addresses in one particular campaign.

Even though building a database is important, it is more important to build a loyal following that gives consumers an added value.

?I would rather have five people who interact with us regularly than 20 people who only visit occasionally, because it is really about creating an interaction with the customer,? Mr. Shakespeare said.

Everything the company does tries to feed back into its CRM strategy.

Alon Brands is also looking at working on a mobile payment solution because the company recognizes that it is an area to be in.

Mobile POS also has the potential to be big for Alon Brands. However, cracking the code on getting it rolled out universally is a challenge.

By using mobile coupons, Alon Brands has seen an increase from a five to 50 percent coupon redemption rate.

In addition to mobile, Alon Brands has also focused a lot of its digital efforts with social media.

Although many brands are experimenting with the two, the key is thinking about it as a two-way dialogue, per the exec.

Alon Brands recently rolled out a new site - - that lets consumers connect and talk about the brand.

Facebook plays a strong role for the company. Alon Brands' Facebook page currently has more than 3,000 "likes."

?The next thing will be that everything feeds into social,? Mr. Shakespeare said.

Final Take
Scott Shakespeare is general manager of branding, advertising and promotions at Alon Brands, Dallas, TX