Mobile Marketer has re-launched! Click here to learn more!

Retailers turn to push messaging to reach holiday shoppers

By Brent Hieggelke

Mobile?s astounding growth has been impossible to miss in the retail space.

Worldwide mobile commerce doubled to $65.6 billion in 2011 alone. Mobile applications are the star this year with more than 1 billion consumers shopping on smartphones worldwide, and 47 percent of them using shopping apps an average of 17 times per month. 

Capitalist tool
This holiday season, all eyes have been on apps as bricks-and-mortar stores, online retailers, flash-sale sites and pop-up shops have deployed exciting, innovative strategies to engage customers.

Mobile shoppers have been planning more, researching more and spending more time deciding on their purchases using the apps on their phone.

Four out of five mobile device and tablet owners planned on using their device to aid in their holiday shopping this year.

Holiday shoppers expect the best deals, and will get them on their own time by looking up deals, comparing prices and searching online for alternatives using mobile.

Shoppers are telling retailers that mobile is their tool.

Acknowledging this, smart retailers are finding that it is becoming less about replacing the in-store shopping with mobile commerce, and more about bringing together all channels to create one great customer experience.

Below find a few recent examples of how a new approach to mobile messaging is driving customer loyalty with brands such as Walgreens, Rue La La, Catch of the Day and Shopkick.

The real mobile opportunity
While many brands might see mobile apps as a hurdle, the smartest marketers see the possibility of a cross-platform retail experience to give customers what they want, whether they want to shop in the aisle or from the comfort of their couch.

Current mobile marketing efforts are not aligning with consumer needs. QR codes require a shopper to go out of his or her way to scan a code but results are one-size-fits-all and cannot be personalized.

Most SMS campaigns do not take into account a consumer?s preferences, and require many steps to get to a conversion.

Triggered geo-fencing campaigns, which retailers have been fast to adopt, use a single data point ? the consumer?s current location ? to trigger a message. This limits the opportunity to personalize an experience to provide anything of value to shoppers. 

Using a customer?s location alone comes with the heavy risk of sending an unwanted message.
Consistency across platforms
Consumers are using multiple devices to do their shopping, with 85 percent shopping for a gift this holiday season starting on one device and finishing on another.

Additionally, nearly half will be using a mobile device to influence their purchasing decision while shopping in store. Having these many tools at a customer?s fingertips will pose a number of challenges for retailers, both in-store and online.
Some retailers are creating a constant connection with customers using apps armed with a sophisticated push messaging backbone that is integrated in with their other systems. 

These retailers are using this constant customer connection to build loyalty and remove friction from the buying process, offering customers a cohesive shopping experience across platforms.

Catch of the Day, a daily deal app that pushes big savings to consumers from leading electronics, fashion and toy retailers, is taking advantage of the increasing mobility of its shoppers with a shopping experience built for mobile.

The company recognizes that in order to more effectively reach mobile consumers, it needs to differentiate messages sent to mobile users and desktop shoppers.

The Catch of the Day app uses push messaging to drive customers to daily deals.  After switching from email messaging, it saw an 80 percent open rate on push messages, ten times higher than email campaigns.

Reaching shoppers in the aisle
Consumers are shopping for the best deals and will look elsewhere to find them.

Almost half of consumers will walk out of a store and complete their purchase online for a discount of just 2.5 percent, while almost two-thirds will leave for savings of 5 percent.

Additionally, shoppers now want the ability to purchase from a retailer on different channels.

Shopkick works closely with national retailers to accomplish this.  Big retail brands use its app to build customer loyalty, tying research and shopping closely in with their existing rewards and loyalty programs.

The app uses push messaging to deliver promotions that users can take part in to get gift cards and other benefits that can be redeemed in-store. These rewards encourage planning and researching, leading to increased foot traffic.

Shopkick is one of the most used shopping apps, with the average customer spending three hours per month with the app ? roughly 50 percent more than its closest rival. Additionally, Shopkick has driven $110 million in revenue for its retail partners in the last year.

Service leads to sales
Consumers appreciate a brand that serves their needs. Mobile service is a huge opportunity.

More than half of mobile consumers want to receive solutions to real problems. They appreciate helpful messages, with local information being a top category. 

More than half of mobile consumers believe a brand can add trust by showing real-world offerings, meaning meeting their shopping needs with something that is close by. Most importantly, consumers want convenience.
Walgreens provides prescription refill reminders to its customers using its app by incorporating push messaging, SMS and email together to deliver convenience.  These reminders have boosted revenue and made every visit to a Walgreens store quicker and easier for shoppers with the app.

Timing is everything
Customers who have downloaded a brand?s app are that brand?s most valuable customers. Brands can service customers easier, creating positive brand experiences.

Whether it is solving a real problem, showing added value, rewarding loyalty, or providing service, the brands who win in mobile will win period.

Rue La La leverages its mobile app to cater to its loyal daily shoppers, ensuring that its mobile consumers receive the daily morning notifications first so they do not miss the limited quantity, limited-time flash sales.

Customers can even choose which sales they want to be notified about, and how far in advance, giving each shopper a personalized experience. As a result, Rue La La has seen its click-through rates increase ten times. 
Future will be notified
With holiday shopping in full swing, brands and retailers are testing a whole new batch of tactics to make mobile work for them.

This holiday season, retailers have seen the competition for consumer attention increase. Top brands are speaking to shoppers not just based on where they are at the moment, but where they have been, how often they are there, and what products they like. 

Personal preferences, location and context take the stage as the best way to engage customers in-store, at home and everywhere in between.

This information will help brands craft messages that lead to great brand interactions, personalized shopping experiences, keeping each customer?s best interests at the forefront.

LOOKING AHEAD to 2013, retailers will need to think about how they will take advantage of apps, location targeting and push messaging to meet the needs of mobile shoppers.

Consider what each consumer is looking for: searching for the best deals, researching the products, and looking for brands to deliver a practical solution with real value in each customer interaction.

Those brands that delight each consumer by taking advantage of the mobile opportunity, creating a great shopping experience across all platforms, reaching customers in the aisle, and then serving and rewarding them, will earn their loyalty.

Brent Hieggelke is chief marketing officer of Urban Airship, Portland, OR. Reach him at .