September 30, 2011, 1:58 PM

Sponsored Supplement: Mobile warming

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Texting can be especially useful for time-sensitive messages, such as when one hour is left in a four-hour sale or when a consumer is close to one of a retailer's stores. In the latter case, a text message can be sent containing a promotional code or special offer intended to bring her into the store. Once the consumer is in the store, the sales representative can close the sale.

"Texting can be an effective marketing tool, but retailers really haven't made the best use of it yet," Feinberg says. "Retailers need to understand that mobile strategies don't always end in a sale through the mobile site, but can prompt a sale through another channel. That's an important dynamic that retailers are having a hard time swallowingÑthat a mobile experience might not end in a sale in that channel, but instead end in an educated consumer that wants to buy in their stores or on their web sites. How do you attribute marketing spend when that happens? That's difficult but solvable. Successful mobile retailers are solving these problems."

Experience matters

Because retailers are still trying to get their arms around the nuances of mobile commerce, selecting the right technology partner can mean the difference between building a breakthrough web site or app that propels a merchant ahead of the competition or creating a site or app indistinguishable from the growing pack.

The first step in the selection process is to evaluate the vendor's mobile portfolio for the depth of experience the company has in designing mobile sites and apps. That includes whether the company has worked with other retailers, and the results their work generated.

"It's important that a technology partner be able to show a process of developing a quality site or app. There are a lot of things that can't be done in the mobile channel that are common in the e-commerce world, like mousing over images to see content," Ai's Piastro says. "A lot of vendors will say they have mobile experience when they really don't or have simply scaled down an e-commerce site for the mobile channel. Experience does matter."

Given the rapid evolution of mobile technology and consumers' growing reliance on it in their daily lives, the time has come for retailers to step up their mobile presence and create a rich user experience that keeps their brand top of mind.

"It comes down to servicing the customer in a way that meets their needs and the retailer's goals for the mobile channel," Opdyke says. "That means giving shoppers quick and easy access to key information, marketing messages and tools that will increase mobile sales regardless of the mobile device or operating system they use."

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