December 14, 2010, 2:17 PM

Why have mobile commerce if you don’t promote it?

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

The retailer promotes its text message service and m-commerce site on signs in its stores.

Nothing like Toys “R” Us on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas. Even better when you’re just starting to come down with a nasty cold. Joy to the world. But I have nieces and nephews and great nieces and great nephews to shop for, so an uncle has to do what an uncle has to do.

While waiting in the hefty line, I was looking at the DVD of the movie “Twilight: Eclipse.” Scores of copies were on a shelving unit placed perfectly to encourage impulse buying by people waiting in line. I didn’t need the DVD. But something hanging prominently on the shelf did catch my eye. A sign (see picture) that read: “For Special Deals & Alerts, Text TOYS to 30364.” The sign also advertised the Toys “R” Us m-commerce site.

This is a very smart move by the retailer. Smartphone owners very often use their devices while waiting for things. So hit them with mobile promotions while they’re waiting in line. It’s also smart because if you want your m-commerce channel to be successful, you have to promote it.

People today presume you have an e-commerce channel; they just type in, for example, they don’t need to be told about it. But who is going to make the same presumption about a text messaging program? And how will they know to access it?

Using your other channels is key. As the Toys “R” Us example shows, stores are ripe for promoting m-commerce. After all, that’s where many smartphone owners are going to be using their devices to compare prices or get more product information. You want shoppers to know you have a mobile presence so they’re not just relying, for instance, on mobile comparison app ShopSavvy, which can guide them to a competitor.

And whether you have stores or not, use your e-commerce site. The home page. Place a box with a nice little mobile phone graphic promoting your site or texts or app. And you should include mobile mentions in your e-mail marketing pieces. I’ve talked with retailers that include mobile commerce promotion in every e-mail that’s sent.

Mobile commerce is a channel unto itself, and if you build it, they will not necessarily come. Consumers have to know mobile is out there as the most convenient shopping tool they’re going to find. So let them know, and the more promotion you do, the more mobile traffic you’ll see.

31% of mobile phones in use today are smartphones, The Nielsen Co. says. By the end of this coming year, it will be half. It couldn’t be more pressing to let these millions of consumers know you’re there for them.

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