October 28, 2009, 12:00 AM

Mobile commerce has arrived

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And the Moosejaw community has spoken. Through a significant amount of customer feedback via e-mail and Twitter, says Gary Wohlfeill, executive vice president of marketing, Moosejaw has learned that customers are quite happy the merchant is available anytime and anywhere. And it has learned that mobile is fostering even stronger connections with customers.

“They’ve made it clear they love interacting with the brand on their phones,” Wohlfeill says. “We see a lot of entries for our monthly contest coming in from mobile, and customers have been very positive about being able to see the pictures in our Flickr pool on our mobile site.” A Flickr pool is a collection of photographs.

Customers have also reacted very positively to Moosejaw’s text message programs. The retailer has been pleasantly surprised at how the programs, one for marketing and one for order tracking, have grown.

The opt-in text message list for its Moosejaw Madness marketing program has topped 3,000. The retailer routinely asks customers for silly responses oriented around the brand, and it has achieved response rates as high as 54%. As for order tracking, 25% of Moosejaw’s entire customer base use the text message program.

“The Madness texts generate great word of mouth because they’re so different from anything customers have seen before in retailing. The word of mouth and the intimate and immediate brand interaction have increased brand loyalty, as we’ve seen in responses by text and through feedback,” Wohlfeill explains. “And the order tracking shows that Moosejaw will provide customer service wherever and whenever the customer wants. This is yet another mobile interaction that generates brand loyalty.”

And simply having a rich and well-designed mobile presence is effective marketing in and of itself, merchants in m-commerce say. Retailers just have to make sure they get the word out.

“We have four million users in our e-mail database and our web site has anywhere from 12 to 20 million unique monthly visitors. This is a lot of people we can get to become familiar with mobile,” says Ted Hong, chief marketing officer at online ticketseller Fandango, which operates an m-commerce site, mobile app and text messaging program.

Fandango promotes the m-commerce site and app on the home page and other locations on the e-commerce site to those millions of monthly visitors, and it has sent out e-mail marketing pieces that focus exclusively on encouraging customers to adopt Fandango mobile.

“Ultimately it’s great word of mouth,” he adds. “The fact that app users like it and use it, that is the best thing a company can do. If it’s a well done app, you can generate a lot of buzz and awareness. What we’ve done is make it very easy and convenient for consumers to do something they need to do. That’s the key."

A multichannel tool

Using the mobile channel as part of a multichannel strategy is another area where mobile pioneers have learned valuable lessons.

77% of retail chains see high value in mobile commerce as a way to connect the online world with physical stores, according to a new study from Retail Systems Research. “Store-based retailers view mobile as an opportunity to connect their various channels,” Baird says.

Such is the case with beauty products retailer Sephora USA Inc. It launched a mobile site specifically tailored to serve as a multichannel tool. The mobile site, built using the MobileVoice system from customer ratings and reviews technology vendor Bazaarvoice Inc., puts thousands of reviews on bath and body, hair, makeup, and fragrance products from Sephora’s e-commerce site into the palm of a store shopper’s hand.

“We want to deliver the best client experience to our shoppers, wherever they shop,” says Julie Bornstein, senior vice president of Sephora Direct. “MobileVoice allows us to amplify the voice of our clients by making reviews easily accessible through mobile devices. In-store shoppers can simply read the reviews written on any product, or use top-rated products as a guide, to select the right lipstick or blush.”

“We’ve found that the mobile site is driving sales in stores,” Bornstein says. “It’s keeping some customers in stores longer by giving them all this information at their fingertips.”

While sales driven by the mobile site are still small, they are growing, she adds. In fact, Sephora has concluded that mobile commerce will become more valuable; so much so that the retailer next year will be introducing new mobile technology, which it is keeping under wraps for now.

Consumers are buying

Ultimately m-commerce comes down to selling goods, whether directly through an m-commerce site, app or text message (Amazon.com and QVC enable purchases through text messaging), or through lending a hand to in-store sales. When it comes to sales within the mobile channel, some of the pioneers report mobile to be healthy all on its own.

EBay was the first merchant to break out mobile sales figures, with its announcement of $380 million for the first nine months of the year. “The frequency with which customers are using mobile is very high,” Yankovich says. “The multiple interactions in a month is very high.”

And eBay customers are buying the full range of merchandise through their mobile phones. “It’s all over the map, and generally maps to popular things on the site,” he adds. “And our deals of the day are working very well on mobile: phenomenal deals on new, in-the-box, fixed-price products that are really generating sales.”

Fandango executives say they’re very happy with how m-commerce is performing. Sales through the mobile site and app combined this year have surpassed those through its 800-number channel; and since the introduction of its app in March, mobile sales have more than doubled.

The mobile channel also is serving 1-800-Flowers.com well. For example, the retailer included banners and copy for its mobile site and apps in e-mail marketing before Mother’s Day this year. It sent out special text messages with 20%-off coupon codes to its opt-in text list members. It included mentions of mobile in newspaper and television ads and in its catalog.

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