At, a lot is said about the importance of having mobile included in the marketing mix – especially SMS, thanks to its reach, pervasiveness and acceptance by consumers across all demographics.

Marketers are reminded to include mobile marketing at the planning stage to maximise the benefits of the channel, and not simply tack it on at the end, writes Dr Pieter Streicher, MD at
That’s all very well, but what are the next steps? How do marketers effectively use SMS to bridge the gap between offline marketing activities and online, permission-based engagement with the customer base? How do they harness the reach of mobile marketing to feed a CRM database and springboard into ongoing engagement across multiple channels?
This article takes a look at how marketers can deploy mobile marketing in a retail context, specifically using SMS shortcodes, to elevate marketing efforts from passive interaction to true customer engagement. Shortcode shortcuts the acquisition path
SMS shortcode campaigns are one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to transform a static channel, such as a point-of-sale promotion, in-store posters or on-pack special offers, into the start of an immediate conversation with the customer.
Grab the customer on the spot when they literally have the product in their hand, and allow them to enter a competition, access a discount on the product, give their feedback or sign up for future value – all via an SMS shortcode and keyword.
The marketer will have gained quite a lot from that simple SMS: the customer’s cell phone number, product information (such as the barcode of the product they are buying) and other information, including their names. This is a very valuable kickstart to profiling customers and beginning to market to them using appropriate channels and messages.
Don’t forget to send a response to the SMS immediately with a thank you. Customers expect it and appreciate it, and if users design their campaign cleverly, they can use this as an opportunity (if they haven’t already) to get permission to continue communicating with the individual.
Remember though, marketers need to get explicit approval for each communication channel. The Consumer Protection Act is going to enforce that they need to be able to show evidence of the client opting in for marketing communications. The good news is that by using a shortcode, they’ll have this data archived automatically.
Please also follow the WASPA (Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association) guidelines on how to present the cost of the SMS and the terms and conditions of the promotion.
It’s important to abide by the regulations to avoid sanction, and marketers will also create a safe environment where the customer can confidently interact with them, with full knowledge of the costs of engagement and how their information will be used.
Finally, SMS shortcode campaigns are highly scalable and easily ramped up or down according to budget and requirements. Make sure the SMS shortcode provider offers a free reply SMS per incoming message – this allows marketers to reply to the customer as a matter of course, and not worry about chalking up a large bill.
SMS shortcode campaigns can be effectively used by anyone – from a mom and pop store right up to a nationwide brand.
Activating retail campaigns
In the retail context, SMS activated campaigns have been successfully deployed for well-known household name brands by Habari, a below-the-line marketing agency. By incorporating best practice mobile marketing strategies, Habari enabled on-pack promotions that used SMS competitions, complementary brand incentives, or channel tie-in to stimulate customer engagement and retail sales.
In store-promotions were used to point customers to specially-marked products which incentivised them to send an SMS to a shortcode and enter into a competition to win a prize that matched or complemented the product on offer to build the brand.
An alternative strategy was to run SMS campaigns that were specific to the retail chain where a customer shopped. This not only created channel tie-in, but allow a brand to understand consumer purchasing behaviour. In each case, the aim was to convert a purchase into an on-going customer interaction using the mobile channel.
Noting these examples, with some planning and a clear idea of the information the marketer would like to capture and how they plan to continue engaging with customers, SMS shortcode promotions and competitions are an immensely effective customer acquisition tools and ways of kick-starting campaign engagements.