October 10, 2011, 1:51 PM

Mobile Commerce Forum Report: Strike while the customer is nearby

Mobile marketing can encourage customers to drop into a store, instead of walking by.

Lead Photo

Jeff Cloud, director of customer relationships and mobile marketing at General Growth Properties, speaks at Internet Retailer’s Mobile Commerce Forum 2011.

General Growth Properties Inc. operates 166 shopping malls in 43 states. Encouraging consumers to shop at those malls is crucial to the company’s success, and mobile marketing provides new ways to accomplish that, Jeff Cloud, director of customer relationships and mobile marketing at General Growth, said today at Internet Retailer’s Mobile Commerce Forum 2011 in Houston.

He cited the example of a program that sends text promotions, with a shopper’s permission, to customers when they’re at a General Growth mall; the shopper texts back a code to receive a discount at a mall store or restaurant. Conversion rates on such offers range from 30-60%, Cloud says.

It’s an example that proves the effectiveness of marketing to consumers based on location through the mobile phones they’re always carrying, said Eric Holmen, senior vice president of marketing at e-mail software and service provider Silverpop, which provides e-mail technology to General Growth.

“Proximity is what differentiates mobile,” said Holmen who spoke with Cloud at a session entitled “Moving e-mail into the mobile era.”

Holmen noted that Silverpop last week acquired a company called PlacePunch that specializes in marketing to consumers based on their location.

Cloud says General Growth is researching a variety of ways to leverage knowledge of where a consumer is to send her the offers that will most appeal to her. For example, he said, late in the morning a mall might send an offer via e-mail or txt for a free appetizer at one of the restaurants in that mall to a shopper in the mall—or at a store across the street.

General Growth is paying a lot of attention to such possibilities because the consumers who shop its malls are more likely to use mobile devices than the average consumer.

A survey in the first quarter showed 50% of General Growth mall shoppers owned smartphones, versus 41% of U.S. consumers at that time. The survey also revealed that six in 10 moms that shop General Growth malls check e-mail on a mobile device, 53% search for coupons and offers via mobile and one in four purchases on mobile phones or tablet computers.

Cloud also reported that 17% of the e-mail General Growth sends its customers is opened on mobile devices, with about two-thirds being opened on Apple Inc.’s iPhones. He says General Growth uses a tool called Litmus to track customer response to marketing programs and finds that 46% of consumers who open an e-mail on an iPhone read it, 17% skim it and 37% just glance at it or delete it; comparable figures for Android phones are 57% reading, 13% skimming and 30% glancing or deleting.

He says General Growth has narrowed the size of its e-mail messages to 600 pixels from 750 or more pixels so that they will fit on the small screen of mobile phones. The company also has concluded mobile e-mails are most effective when they are 60% text and only 40% images.

Looking ahead, Cloud said General Growth is studying how it can use mobile throughout the purchase path, including texting nearby consumers to get them into the mall, showing them which parking lots have free spots when they arrive, offering them discounts based on their behavior (while at the mall, and, as they leave sending them e-mails thanking them for coming and making an offer they can redeem on their next visit.

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