June 6, 2013, 3:17 PM

Follett Higher Education goes to school on mobile marketing

An IRCE speaker tells how text messaging brings customers into stores.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Lead Photo

College bookstore operator Follett Higher Education Group is testing and proving the value of mobile marketing to bring more shoppers into its stores, Leeann Fecho, manager of emerging media and loyalty marketing, said at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2013 in Chicago this week.

Follett has a customer base that grew up in a digital world and serves a high percentage of smartphone users. It operates book stores and e-commerce sites for more than 900 colleges and universities including Stanford University, the University of Illinois and Boston College. Follett’s customers are mostly within the 18-24 age range, and 67% have smartphones, a figure the company expects to increase to 90% next year, Fecho said.

“Mobile presents unique opportunities to connect and consolidate the customer experience,” Fecho said in an IRCE session titled “M-offers: Driving online shoppers to the store.”

She added, “The value of mobile isn’t just about building offers or mobile commerce—it’s all of that, but while doing that and blending the in-store and online experience.”

To test how it could use mobile to lure more customers into its stores, Follett earlier this year sent text messages during a slow sales period to 20% of customers for whom it had mobile phone numbers. About 60% of recipients clicked to view the offer details of price discounts, and up to 9% redeemed the coupon in a store. Less than 1% opted out of receiving the text messages.

That finding led Follett to seek more information. “We got to see with our own eyes whether we could drive people into the store,” Fecho said. “We did that, but didn’t know which customers went into the stores and redeemed offers.”

Follett, No. 71 in the 2013 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, further developed the program to generate a unique personal identification number that a store cashier receives with the redeemed coupon and enters into the point of sale terminal during a purchase to link the transaction with the customer. The retailer is also developing an in-store  kiosk program that lets store shoppers wave their mobile phone at the kiosk to receive a coupon offer they can redeem at the register.

Fecho said Follett is working with vendor Copia Mobile for its mobile technology applications, but declined to comment on how the retailer developed the ability to wave the phone at the kiosk for retrieving offers.

Fecho noted that Follett generally sees incremental sales from cross-channel shoppers, but declined to comment on specific increases in revenue from its ability to drive more customers into its stores.

 

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