American Marketer


Five mistakes to avoid in mobile commerce this holiday season

October 11, 2010

Jay Highley is founder/president of Pangea Partners


By Jay Highley

As I sat through a number of fantastic presentations recently at the Dialogkonferansen 2010 CRM and 1:1 marketing conference in Stromstad, Sweden, it became very evident to me that marketers and advertisers around the globe are all working hard to solve many of the same issues surrounding mobile commerce.

It is very common for those of us in the United States to assume that the Europeans have figured out mobile loyalty, couponing and payment since they already lead the world in many other areas of mobile services.

My time spent at the conference has deepened my appreciation for the challenges in mobile commerce adoption − and made me realize that the issues surrounding privacy, security, fraud, user experience, point-of-sale integration, measurement and tracking are the same, no matter where you are in the world.

Despite these issues, the attendees of this year’s event were still excited and optimistic about the potential power of mobile and the overall role in will play in marketing and CRM strategies for retailers and consumer brands.

The companies who get in the game early and figure out how to harness this power will be the big winners at the cash registers.

With the 2010 holiday season’s golden quarter quickly approaching, now is the time to think about how mobile can play a key role during this year’s shopping season.

Needless to say, retailers and brands are a bit skittish headed into this holiday season and for good reason.

As the economy continues to teeter on the brink of a double dip, it will most certainly be difficult to predict how shoppers will behave this year.

One thing is certain, though.

Those of us who have been in high-profile marketing seats know that once the middle of November rolls around, even the best-made plans will get tossed out the window if sales results are not good – and the discounting gloves will come off.

With mobile marketing’s ability to be nearly instant at communicating a message or offer, it becomes a must-have tool in the retail sales battle. Beware, though – there are some major pitfalls in the mobile commerce game.

Even with all the upside potential, here are five mistakes to avoid when looking at mobile commerce for this holiday season.

Mistake No. 1 – Wait until the last minute

Even though mobile offers a quick way to communicate changes in pricing or offers during the holiday marketing race, waiting until the last minute to plan how mobile will fit in your holiday marketing strategy is a sure formula for failure.

Take the time now to map out your plans for reaching out via mobile during the holiday season.

You can worry about the messaging and content as the race plays out. But by not creating a mobile execution game plan now you may find yourself behind the curve if you need to react quickly.

Mistake No. 2 – Not capturing mobile numbers to build your mobile database

Whether or not it is the holiday season, if you are not continuously building your mobile number database, you are missing a great way to engage consumers in a relevant and effective way.

Realistically, it may already be too late to build a big mobile database for this holiday season, but you should use the frenzy of the holiday shopping season to build your base for the future.

Just as an email database provides a media channel to change pricing or offers in near real time, a mobile number database can allow you to test, learn and test again in a matter of hours.

Mistake No. 3 – Not including a mobile opt-in option on all your media

If you are not already doing so, you should be making it easy for your consumers to opt into your mobile program via every media touch point you place this holiday season.

Make all of your media spend work double time for you by creating an easy pathway for your best consumers to engage with your brand on an ongoing basis.

Consumers are ready to receive offers and coupons via their mobile phones. But, for some strange reason, most retailers are still approaching mobile as a standalone marketing program and missing the leverage they could get by including mobile across all media platforms.

Research now supports that consumers are spending over twice the amount of time each week engaged with their mobile device as they are with radio, newspaper and magazines − combined. Why not use all of your media energy to drive more engagement to mobile, which is where the action is.

Mistake No. 4 – Wasting money on a smartphone app

Recognize the difference between what is hype and what is able to deliver great results.

I both appreciate and enjoy the use of some applications on my iPhone, but the statistics speak for themselves – more than 80 percent of the iPhone applications launched are never downloaded more than 10,000 times and less than 5 percent of all iPhone applications are used after the first six months of being downloaded.

Not to mention the fact that only 25 percent of mobile users can even download an application.

I am not trying to disparage all smartphone applications because some of them have achieved great reach and adoption.

However, for the average brand or retailer, spending the money on a smartphone application will not get them the biggest bang for their buck.

Mistake No. 5 –Not doing anything with mobile

The time for procrastination in the development of a well-conceived mobile marketing strategy is over.

If you do not have a plan, you need to huddle with a mobile expert quickly that can help you craft a game plan.

Most important, do not get overwhelmed and paralyzed by the fancy lingo and over-hyped news about mobile these days.

Have someone help you build an achievable and measurable phased plan − then take it one step at a time.

Do not worry about trying to fly at supersonic speeds coming out of the blocks − slow but steady is the right approach. Test, learn-and then test again.

Mobile is going to play a big role in marketing and consumer engagement this holiday season, so seize the moment and jump in the game. As the lottery folks like to say, “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

Jay Highley is founder/president of Pangea Partners LLC, Indianapolis. Reach him at