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Mobile makes its mark in retail

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A number of retailers have begun moving into the mobile sphere, offering mobile websites (mobisites) as part of their service offering to consumers.

This is a significant win for mobile technology in this country and retailers are starting to reap the benefits of being accessible from the mobile phone, says Eddie Groenewald, CEO of Multimedia Solutions.
"Two of our first big clients in the space were Makro and a number of stores in the JD group, which have used mobisites and MMS campaigns to reach out to consumers," he says. "Subsequently, retailers like Ellerines, and Ideas Clothing are signing up for mobisites as a way to reach out to current and potential customers."
The move is not surprising as the retailer sector is the largest part of the economy that services consumers directly.
Retailers realised that with about 30-million mobile phone subscribers in the country, the mobile channel is the biggest channel available to market their services to. Mobisites and MMS campaigns have therefore become a growing part of their marketing strategy, Groenewald says.
Traditional mass media is increasingly becoming a hard-sell for retailers because of the lack of measurability against their bottom line.
In addition, advertising budgets are under pressure in tough economic conditions, Groenewald says.
"Many retailers are decreasing or completely cutting out TV and radio advertising from their strategies because of the cost and the inability to justify that spend against their bottom line. Other channels are also being questioned for the same reason," he says.
However, most retailers have responded differently to mobile because of its measurability. The most important thing about the mobile channel is that people are linked back to an identifying mark – their mobile phone number.
While retailers have often looked to build a personal relationship with their clients by communicating first by direct mail and then by email, Groenewald says neither of these channels have had the power that the mobile channel has when it comes to reach and response from consumers.
"With MMS, the base is verified with the cellular network before it is sent out. That means that there is no wastage upfront. Furthermore, retailers can monitor campaigns as they are sent out, seeing how the campaign penetrates the base, and get a full report-back afterwards including when messages were delivered, who opened them and which recipients unsubscribed," he says.
Retailers have also been able to measure the viral spread. For example, many retailers' MMS campaigns have call-to-actions and competitions within the MMS. What the retailers have found is that they get responses from consumers who were not on their base, because the MMS's were forwarded on to other people who then respond.
"Mobisites provide even more measurability because when the person visits the site from their mobile phone, the mobisite picks up the mobile phone number. Retailers can therefore see exactly who is visiting their site and what they are looking at," he says.
Once retailers have consumers on the mobisite, they can display promotions to them; offer a payment option; provide contact details to stores; or enable them to apply for a loyalty card, Groenewald says.
"The concept can be extended using mobile business intelligence. This is done using customers' mobile phone number as a reference and profiling their usage of the site. Content and even special offers can be offered to consumers based on who they are and where their interests are," he says.