Mobile advertising’s role in reviving the high street

Chris Childs, managing director UK at TabMo, explains how mobile can be used to save rather than hinder the high street

Even at this traditionally shopping-focused time of the year, most headlines about retail don’t make for cheerful reading, continuing a pattern that has become all too familiar over the past few years.

High street woes

The British Retail Consortium reported in August that one in 10 shops were lying empty in town centres across the UK, with high street footfall declining by 2.7 per cent in July.

And in September, KPMG reported that 44 retail businesses had entered administration in the previous six months, with high street stalwarts such as Oddbins, LK Bennett and Mothercare closing, while others shut shops and announce redundancies in restructuring deals aimed at enabling them to survive ever-tougher conditions.

While there is no one cause for the declining numbers, e-commerce is often cited as one of the roots of retail’s problems; if people can shop for anything they could possibly want from the comfort of their sofa, why would they go to the significant effort that is required to visit a bricks and mortar shop?

The lure of the store

But here’s the thing.  According to research undertaken earlier this year by digital marketing agency, Marketing Signals, 85 per cent of UK customers prefer shopping in store than online.  85 per cent! That’s no small swing to offline.

Reasons given include getting purchases there and then (82 per cent), while 78 per cent like to see and feel a product in store – admittedly before looking for the best price online, although this is balanced out by 94 per cent of UK shoppers saying they always research a product online before going into a store to buy it.

So, an obvious conclusion to draw is that retailers need to find ways to offer shoppers something that is only available from visiting a physical store.  And that’s where digital technology and mobile advertising has a growing role.

Call to action mobile ads

Mobile’s killer advantage is its location-based targeting capability, which savvy retailers are already using to boost their drive-to-store campaigns (any advertising that aims to increase the number of people visiting physical retail stores).  Very simply, mobile technology allows retailers to send a ‘call to action’ ad to someone’s phone when they are near the store and can take definitive action.

This opens the (shop) door for all kinds of promotions.

For example, Pernod Ricard wanted to raise awareness of its new Malibu products and increase sales by driving footfall to stores where they were stocked.  And that’s exactly what TabMo was able to do with a combination of good creatives, carefully built audience segments and geo-targeting – relevant users were only targeted with a promotional ad when they were near a retailer stocking the products.

Targeting someone when they are in the vicinity of a retail outlet however is only part of the mobile advertising story. People can be sent branding messages and reminders at any time, with follow up ads once they are nearby.

This is a highly effective tactic for non-impulse purchases.  A person who knows they need to book an eye test for example could be targeted with ads including a promotion on new frames when they are at home in the evening, and then again when they are near the opticians, with screen tap options including booking at appointment there and then, or downloading a map and directions to the store.

And the benefits don’t stop there; other channels are increasingly being incorporated into mobile campaigns.  Brands can now engage audiences with audio ads when they are listening to music streaming apps like Spotify or Deezer, or tuned in to a podcast or radio ad, for example. Those same listeners can be retargeted with more specific messaging via display ads on their smartphone when they are near the shop in question; activity that TabMo has undertaken with Costcutter.  Digital out-of-home (DOOH) adds yet another dimension to the campaign mix, with billboards able to show further reminders at a time with the user will see it, thanks to mobile location data.

With the multi-channel focus reducing the risk that ads are seen as intrusive, sophisticated sequential messaging of this nature will become increasingly instrumental in guiding people down the sales funnel to make a purchase.

Ad views to store visits – the evidence

All well and good – but TabMo is a mobile-first advertising company; it’s clear why we’d want to extol the virtues of increasingly versatile and innovative mobile advertising and parade it as the saviour of the high street.

And that’s when we roll out the proof point that closes the advertising loop and makes mobile’s role in the final part of the sales funnel irrefutable.  Our Point to Purchase technology lets us bridge online and offline channels, allowing retailers to track the meaningful actions that take place as a result of their mobile advertising activity.

The optician for example knows not just who saw the reminder ad and the follow up, but whether the consumer actually acted on the latter by visiting an outlet in person.  Going back to Pernod Ricard’s Malibu campaign, 39,000 store visits were tracked, which led to an increase of 14.6 per cent in incremental sales (verified with a third-party measurement study by IRI).

The high street’s ally

While it’s tempting to think that mobile advertising encourages people to shop to their heart’s content without going near a high street, evidence suggests that, used intelligently, it can facilitate the opposite.

Retailers that capture consumers’ attention with creatives that spark the imagination, and retarget them with more relevant messages when they are in a position to visit a bricks and mortar outlet, can drive up footfall.  Not only that, but they can prove that these increases are the result of a specific campaign.

Mobile advertising may not be able to singlehandedly save the high street – but it can tap into peoples’ expressed desire to shop in store and give them incentives to act on it.  And that makes it a powerful ally for every retailer with a physical presence.