We may have just reached the end of summer, but savvy omni-channel retailers are already gearing up their mobile marketing campaigns for the holiday season.

In the UK, this now not only includes the run up to Christmas and Boxing Day, but the new phenomena of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While the cynics among us will point out that we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, it certainly hasn’t stopped us from taking advantage of the online deals. The statistics speak for themselves: on Black Friday in the UK last year, there were 180 million online visits to UK retail sites with an estimated spend of £810 million. The online sales broke new records, with mobile traffic outpacing PC traffic for the first time. In 2015, mobile shopping looks set for further explosion.

For all retailers, the opportunity to capitalise on this mobile-first consumer attitude during the holiday season is huge. But for retailers with zero mobile marketing experience, this opportunity can seem overwhelming. Mobile engagement efforts can appear worlds apart from the in-store promotions that they are used to. Yet the potential to drive revenue through mobile engagement is too strong for these retailers to ignore.

With just a few months to go, even for retailers without an existing mobile presence, there is still time to capitalise on the mobile channel this holiday season using text messaging. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, SMS has proven itself as having the greatest response rate. According to mobileSQUARED, 90 percent of all text messages are read within three minutes of delivery. This makes text messaging the perfect starting point for any retailer just embarking on mobile marketing.

Here is a simple step-by-step checklist to get your SMS campaigns up and running in good time for the holidays:

Step one: Securing customer opt-ins

Before you can engage with your customers using text messaging, you have to obtain their explicit permission to be contacted. Variations in laws and regulations require single or double opt-in from customers, so it’s important that you establish your opt-in database from the start. Letting your customers know how you intend to leverage their information – in this case for future marketing efforts, is key to both gaining and keeping customers.

Obtaining customer permission doesn’t have to be complex, and retailers can start to build their holiday opt-in databases as early as October using offers. The key to driving quick adoption is providing customers with opt-in offers they can’t refuse. For example, a retailer may ask customers to opt-in in order to receive 20% off their next purchase. This will eventually lead to a database of customers who have explicitly asked to be contacted through mobile, so you can better target your text message communication efforts.

Step two: Using short code keyword campaigns to segment customers

A keyword campaign is when a customer is prompted to text a specific keyword to a short code. For example, a women’s retailer may ask customers to text “SHOES” to 453921. For retailers just starting out, this is a simple but effective way to segment a customer database. 

Retailers can assign different keywords to different offers and/or promotional platforms to identify where each engagement is coming from, helping to build context around each individual customer and customer groups. Using these segmented groups, retailers can quickly launch personalised offers and drive future engagement on key shopping days. Retailers are also able to segment customers based on opt-in criteria offered, such as location and type of mobile device.

This type of campaign can easily be leveraged through more traditional promotional platforms – in-store, website, email – helping to build customer loyalty and engagement.

Step three: Verifying the accuracy of your numbers

Verifying the mobile phone numbers of consumers has now become a critical part of mobile marketing efforts. This can be done both initially to ensure all numbers collected during opt-in are correct, and once a database has been built.

Using tools that verify number identity, retailers are able to “clean” their existing databases, to understand whether the numbers they have collected have become invalid (and let’s face it: people do change their phones and numbers). Doing this can help retailers to reduce costly failure rates for messages, and enhance effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.

Launching SMS campaigns ahead of the holiday season doesn’t need large investments in time or money. With the right technology partner, retailers can drive successful mobile marketing campaigns and scale when ready to introduce more advanced features like beacons, passbook enablement, in-app push and more.


By Fatema Hamdani, Vice President, Enterprise and Intelligence Solutions, Sales at Syniverse. 

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