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SMS is dominant mobile marketing vehicle: Epsilon exec

SMS will remain the dominant marketing channel in mobile even as more advanced technologies crowd the space, according to an Epsilon executive.

While text messaging might seem straightforward, marketers can leverage the medium to fit into a wide variety of strategies, especially email-based ones. For that reason, brands should not lose focus of SMS, according to Douglas Yokoyama, vice president of mobile and social media at Epsilon, Irving, TX.

Epsilon ? the nation?s largest email marketing and interactive services firm ? announced its arrival in the mobile space last month with the hiring of Mr. Yokoyama (see story).

In the third installment of a series focused on the integration of mobile and email marketing, Mobile Marketer?s Peter Finocchiaro interviewed Mr. Yokoyama about Epsilon?s philosophy on mobile marketing. Here is what he said:

What is Epsilon doing in the mobile space?
Epsilon is committed to building a full suite of mobile products and services compatible and integrated with our global email and database marketing platforms.

How is the company tying in mobile to email?
Epsilon looks at mobile marketing in the same light as all of our marketing campaign tools and services.

Our strength lies in our ability to seamlessly incorporate all of our services under one platform umbrella.

Mobile can be easily integrated into email, print and Web site campaigns by using a mobile messaging campaign to connect all of these mediums to single or multiple promotions.

Is the emphasis on SMS, or beyond?
SMS is still the dominant mobile marketing platform for the foreseeable future.

But within the messaging segment there are numerous ways to use the SMS platform to engage and excite customers.

Some examples include alerts and reminder programs, loyalty programs for special giveaways and coupons, direct text to screen used at large events to drive audience participation, and location-based messaging.

Secondarily the popularity of the iPhone has increased ?app? awareness and many mainstream corporations have focused on building enterprise mobile applications for iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry devices.

Both mobile and email are targeted, highly personal, permission-based channels of communication and marketing. Are these two channels a natural fit?
Absolutely, email and mobile are perfect marketing ?siblings? and should be used in concert.

Mobile marketing is another opportunity for Epsilon?s clients to engage their consumers with targeted and personalized permission-based campaigns.

Mobile email is quickly becoming an accepted medium since the widespread use of smartphones allows marketers to reach consumers on these devices when they?re already highly engaged with their inbox.

Which client categories are ideal for the email/mobile integration?
Virtually all email client categories are opportunities for mobile integration, but the financial services, transportation and retail segments have been some of the early adopters.

How will Epsilon sell its mobile services to clients?
We provide strategic marketing recommendations to our clients with a focus on data-driven multichannel solutions.

With the growing popularity and effectiveness of the mobile channel, we will be incorporating it more and more into our broader strategies and programs on behalf of clients.

What advantage does it have over purely mobile service providers?
Epsilon has been tackling tough marketing challenges for clients for over forty years.

Our expertise and experience across a number of marketing channels, from complex custom databases and best-of-breed email and digital solutions to analytic services and loyalty platforms, allows us the opportunity to engage and consult our clients as a marketing partner not just a service provider.

How are you working to resolve image rendition issues plaguing emails on phones such as the BlackBerry and Nokia models?
I believe there are a couple of major factors that can contribute to improving the image rendition issues with emails on mobile phones.

[One factor is] handset improvements.

The good news is that the need for some kind of mobile email strategy only arises because several mobile devices now have decent HTML email tools and features.

Gartner expect 500 million smartphones to sell in 2012, by which time Morgan Stanley expects smartphone sales to have outstripped PC sales.

Unfortunately, Epsilon is not a mobile handset manufacturer so we are limited by the adoption rate of the newer handsets just like everyone else.

[A second factor is ] mobile email designs: [Marketers can] isolate mobile users and send them emails designed specifically for the device they use ? a highly targeted campaign.

The second approach is to design emails that display well everywhere ? universal support and design features to support all mobile devices.

Epsilon has the ability to execute either email design/option for our clients depending on their target audience and available customer information.

Our approach is to work with our clients to put together a mobile campaign to maximize their marketing initiatives while keeping in the mind the best practices already in place for emails.

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York