CENTER STAGE: Mobile Commerce Going Mainstream; M&S Converts Browsers To Shoppers

Topic: Books, Mobile Commerce | Author: Peggy Anne Salz | Date: July 12, 2010

In brief: Moving on with another in the “best of” selection of executive interviews from the Netsize Guide 2010. This week we speak with M&S, a major U.K. retailer to find out how mobile is improving the consumer journey from browsing to basket. Sienne Veit, Social and Mobile Commerce Development Manager, M&S Direct, discusses the technology (2D barcodes, mobile coupon vouchers) and techniques (reaching out to people who have opted in for marketing messages) that deliver success.

The evidence is mounting for a new and profound mobile mega-trend: retail is going mobile. In fact, a weekly roundup of must-read mobile permission marketing news from Optism points us to survey results from Harris Interactive (commissioned by Placecast) that show mobile marketing messages delivered to people who ask for them have indeed influenced their decision to purchase goods.

Specifically, location-based mobile alerts have led a third of women 18 to 34 to visit a store. More importantly, 27 percent of respondents in that demographic said mobile messages have impacted their decision to buy in a physical store. (More in this worthwhile and detailed post from Internet Retail.)


The observation that the physical and digital worlds are morphing also formed the core focus of the Netsize Guide 2010. The mobile analysis and almanac tracked the impact of mobile on a variety of verticals (including retail) and showed (through case studies) how major players are using mobile to achieve real results.

Netsize is also gearing up to release another in its series of industry insight reports. The first two in the series focused on the app store business models and payment mechanisms that will most likely separate the developer leaders from the also-rans. (Download) The next in the series will again draw from a survey of 1,000+ mobile professionals to measure interest in mobile commerce and identify effective approaches.


Sienne VeitExpansion into new markets and new marketing methods is a top item on the agenda for Marks & Spencer (M&S). The company, one of the leading retailers in the U.K., is a mobile maverick. The sharp focus on future growth and ways to improve the customer shopping experience has led M&S to launch a series of innovative mobile marketing campaigns, including a nationwide trial of 2D barcodes. Sienne Veit, Social and Mobile Commerce Development Manager, M&S Direct, talks about the role of mobile and the company’s wider strategy to improve the customer journey from browsing to basket.

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Q: What is the purpose of mobile in what you do?

A: We use mobile in a number of ways. In our innovative Back to School Campaign, where we created a mobile version of our school wear brochure, the objective was acquisition. We used mobile as a channel to cut through the enormous amount of marketing that happens in the run up to the start of the new school year. However, because we were also able to display products, include a voucher code and push people through to our call center through click-to-call, there was also a conversion element.

Q: Where does mobile CRM fit in?

A: CRM is at the core of our mobile engagement. We include a call to action to sign up for mobile alerts, promotions and offers in all our loyalty direct mailings. The ability to message our most loyal customers at short notice and tell them about upcoming offers is very powerful, and mobile is the perfect channel to do this.

We have trialed integrating loyalty points into SMS campaigns and this has also worked well. For retailers, mobile provides the potential for cost savings over printed vouchers. For customers, they are useful in that they are portable and it is easier to remember to redeem them.

Q: Where do you see the growth opportunity?

Mobile voucher campaignA: We have used mobile Web campaign sites to support school wear, our Dine in for £10 promotions and also our freshly squeezed fruit juices. As customers become more accustomed to connecting to the mobile Web, the benefits of having content that is accessible via the mobile phone to support a product or service are very compelling.

For Marks & Spencer the growth opportunity is most definitely in providing transactional capability – whether through mobile commerce functionality via the Web or through contactless payments. However, as a channel, mobile is also good at engaging customers and deepening existing relationships with them, especially when linked into existing CRM activities,

Q: What are the factors that limit your effective deployment of mobile marketing?

A: Currently, some of the technology we require is not yet available to all customers. In the case of mobile payments and voucher redemption, the technology is still in development and an industry standard has yet to be agreed upon.

There is an enormous cost to adopting new technologies, especially where hardware is involved, so we need to be sure that the technology we decide on is the market leader and will be available to the majority of our customers at no additional cost to them.

Q: Which mobile marketing methods have you used or plan to use? And what are your plans in the next year [2010]?

A: We use SMS most often and broadcast relevant offers and promotions to over 100,000 customers every two weeks. We have just completed a campaign using the popular animated characters Wallace & Gromit, which included the ability to profile yourself or a friend on a mobile Website and then send that profile to yourself or your friend as an MMS. We have seen very good results and would like to use MMS more, where this is relevant and where the costs make sense for the campaign. We also plan to broaden our mobile activity and create better integration of mobile into campaigns.

Q: Should mobile marketing be opt-in for consumers? Please explain your views.

A: Absolutely. Customers should always explicitly opt in for mobile marketing. The unregulated early days of mobile and premium services have made consumers very wary of providing their details to brands, particularly their mobile details, either because there may be a charge or the costs of doing so are not communicated clearly to consumers. For this reason, M&S is working with the Direct Marketing Association to establish MobileSafe, a consumer focused mark of trust for mobile marketing campaigns. It will give consumers a clear expectation of what kind of messages they will receive, how to opt-in or out and any costs associated with that campaign.

Q: What marketing campaign have you deployed or observed that really stands out and why?

A: Our nationwide trial of 2D barcodes on our Freshly Squeezed juice bottles within our Food to Go range clearly stands out. We used data matrix codes on our juice packs to push people to a mobile Web campaign site, which included visually-rich information about the product, daily offers, jokes, and more. Instructions on how to scan the barcode were available on pack. And, if customers didn’t have a barcode scanning application, they could easily download one by texting FRESH to 65006. We were able to detect their handset and direct them to download appropriate scanning software for their phone. We had far more people than we predicted access the site in this way.

Not many retailers would trial a store-wide, national on-pack barcode trial, but M&S did. As a result, we have learned an enormous amount, not just about the processes and skills needed to execute a barcode offer, but also about how our customers are prepared to navigate their way through technology in order to access content relevant to the product and the situation in which they use that product.

As we reduce our packaging more and more, we need to find innovative ways for people to access the rich information they seek about the products they buy – and mobile is a great way of doing this. More importantly, mobile is a key way for us to bridge the experience divide between stores and the web. It is the perfect medium to link our two estates together.

Q: Will people use their phones to buy items? If so, what kinds of items? And what will you do to facilitate this?

A: We are already encouraging mobile commerce. For example, we sell nametapes for school clothes using premium SMS. Customers can text TAG followed by a space, their child’s name, their house number and post code to 65006. We validate their names and addresses, bill them £5 using premium SMS and then send them 50 iron-on nametapes within 3 days.

As a company, Marks & Spencer can see an enormous advantage in m-commerce. However, we need the industry to become standardized and for mobile payments technology to advance to a point where we can roll it out to other areas of mobile. We can certainly see a time where customers would want to pay for their lunch or sub £30 items using their mobiles, or to use their mobiles for some or all of their purchase journey.


The Netsize Guide – which features exclusive interviews with 28 industry senior executives at leading companies and organizations including Havas, M&S, MMA, Nokia NAVTEQ, PayPal and Sony Music Entertainment — provides unique perspectives and reveals how players across the mobile ecosystem are preparing to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

The Netsize Guide 2010 also includes the results of Mobile Trends Survey 2010, an online survey asking +1,000 mobile professionals and practitioners across 67 countries their views on these key themes and their insights into trends that top the industry agenda, including the advance of mobile applications stores, progress towards global mobile commerce and the increasing importance of mobile across a range of business verticals.

Finally, the Netsize Guide 2010 presents detailed data on the wireless telecoms sector in 41 countries, including revenues, market shares and value-added service offerings for messaging and billing of 194 mobile network operators worldwide.


Disclaimer: Netsize is an MSG supporter. Peggy Anne Salz is author of the Netsize Guide 2010.

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