Building a database is certainly not the sexiest message for a marketing team to take back to head office but, as ZinMobi CEO Brian Stephenson explained during a workshop at the Mobile Retail Summit earlier this month, he believes this is “the secret” to quick wins in mobile. It’s exactly what the likes of Facebook and Google have been doing for the past few years, after all.
And while SMS marketing is likewise not a head-turner, it comes with a 100 per cent guarantee of reach – everyone can get a text – and comes in at just 2.5p a go, compared to upwards of £2 per delivery of targeted mail.
SMS can often be dismissed as unglamorous or associated with dodgy premium rate services, but Stephenson points to brands like Gap, Timberland and Calvin Klein, who are all using it to capture customer consent in stores.
“The image of the SMS campaign needs to change,” Stephenson told the audience. “It’s about the way you use it. Spamming people with irrelevant messages is much different to offering ‘exclusive’ access to secret sales, flash sales or other events in store.”
The key to getting SMS right, according to Stephenson, is ensuring good audience segmentation, to make sure you know how regularly your customers shop and how much they spend: “If a consumer is going to sign their mobile number up with a brand – to engage with them at a very personal level on phone - then the brand has to work hard to maintain that relationship. The brand has to reward the consumer to win their loyalty, it’s not the other way around anymore.”
The personalised messaging you then choose can encourage different people to shop or spend more regularly – effectively enabling retailers to create a dynamic pricing model.
“Segmenting an audience can happen within a matter of minutes, compared to couple of weeks for other channels,” he said. “If you’ve invested in building a database and your competitor goes live with a new marketing campaign, you can quickly react to that by sending an SMS, knowing that everyone is going to read it immediately – whereas you can’t be convinced that the same thing will happen using other channels.”
Getting people’s mobile numbers, Stephenson explained, is as simple as asking them for their details at the checkout: “What matters is that you own the customer data, you have permission to contact them and they’re waiting for you to get in touch.”
The average value of acquiring a mobile subscriber, Stephenson said, is £60 over their lifetime. “A concerted effort to build a database of tens or hundreds of thousands of shoppers is an investment, rather than a cost. And it’s actually very likely to be bigger than any single retailer’s app audience today.”
The Zinmobi team explained that, like a recipe, that are lots of ingredients that marketers could use to come up with their perfect strategy. The key is to use the right ones.
“The strategy becomes more advanced when the retailer has a lot of consumers using an app on a smartphone – in that instance, they can pinpoint the consumer in the store and using some intelligence in the cloud to understand previous transactions, how long since you’ve last seen them, what time of day it is. But people aren’t really using apps in large enough numbers.”
Talk of proximity marketing, too, is “premature”, believes Stephenson. “Again, you have to have a lot of people using an app and no retailer has shown they have this yet. Phones also aren't optimised for proximity - having Bluetooth on all the time actually kills your battery.
Today, Stephenson reckons, building an opted-in mobile database is the “easiest way to show ROI in mobile. And it really is the best way to quickly get people to buy more.”