The third screen

It’s Friday morning, floor traffic is non-existent and the service schedule has a lot more holes than you would like. Customers are needed now, not next week or next month. But how do you bring them through your doors?
For an increasing number of businesses, the personalized contact and immediacy offered by mobile phones is the answer.

Imagine, in the previous scenario, if your company had a database of mobile phone numbers you could send a text message to, offering each of those people a 15-percent discount on service for the next 48 hours.

What other method allows you to reach out to exactly the people you want — former customers and others who have demonstrated an interest in your products — and know with near certainty that they will receive your message as soon as you send it? Mobile advertising professionals refer to mobile phones as the “third screen” in advertising, behind television and computers.

“It’s quite obvious that people are tied to their cell phones,” says Chris Brull, senior manager, marketing, for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. “[Mobile marketing] gives us a great opportunity to put our messages out there to our consumers as well as those that are considering our products. So you can really hone in and pretty closely target.”

Kawasaki launched a mobile-marketing promotion this April called Greenlight to Win, a sweepstakes that will award 10 grand-prize winners the vehicle of their choice. To play, participants must text the number 75309 — so chosen because of its similarity to the popular 80s song that included the number 867-5309. Kawasaki attaches different codes to each of its advertisements so that, if a customer texts “GREEN,” for example, the company knows the ad was seen on television, or “GREEN1” the ad was seen in a particular magazine, and so on.

“You can really start to see the effectiveness of your call to action: when it’s done right and when it’s not done right,” says John Behr, CEO of Converdia, a Minnesota firm that provides mobile marketing services. “[Mobile marketing] is leading you down the path to that Holy Grail where most communication with the consumer is one-to-one, with relevant, specific content.”

When a participant sends a text message in response to Kawasaki’s promotion, a digital game entry is downloaded to the phone that he or she must take to a Kawasaki dealer to “decode” and find out what prize (everyone wins something) has been won.

“It’s really a great way to generate floor traffic for the dealers,” Brull says. “They said to us, ‘We will sell those guys, just get the consumer in the door.’” So far the promotion, which will run through August, has gone well and Brull says Kawasaki has seen “more traffic than expected through texting.”

Navionics, a company that provides electronic charting and digital navigation data, has also made the move to mobile. Since last December, customers with iPhones have been able to download charts from iTunes and, by the first half of 2010, those with other brands of smartphones will also be to do so.

“The mobile phone market, the potential to have charts on phones and the mobility of that, it’s just a great reference away from the water,” says Christine Gelinas, Navionics Mobile Marketing assistant. “You can take it anywhere, do searches on it on your commute to work, plot and plan, show people where you’ve been. It’s so much more responsive as far as turnaround time to bring new features to a user vs. a dedicated chart plotter. People love it.”

Dealers are able to use mobile technology to drill down more deeply into the products they sell. By placing hangtags with individual text codes on products on the lot or at a show, which allow customers to download photos, specs or video of a given boat, dealers can not only communicate with customers who don’t like talking to salespeople or who come by when nobody is around, they can also gauge interest in a given product.

Minnesota’s Wayzata/Minnetonka Marine did exactly that during January’s Minneapolis Boat Show. The dealership hung tags on each of the boats it displayed offering photos, information and a show special for those who texted. David Briggs, CEO of the dealership, says 85 text requests were sent during the show, although he doesn’t believe any boats were sold as a result. But Briggs says the person in charge of a similar effort at the Twin Cities’ Morries Automotive Group — where Briggs got the idea — told him that “they’re getting an extra hundred leads a month,” with the program.

“You take a fleeting contact and you make it a lasting contact by giving them something exciting to take along with them on their phone,” says Dylan Hatch, an operative with Converdia. “[Dealers] know exactly what the customer has done and seen before they make that follow up call. They can make the most of that contact by having that information at their fingertips before they’re talking to them.”

With the number of mobile Internet users in the U.S. doubling from 2008 to 63.2 million as of January, according to a report by market research firm comScore, nobody can dispute that doing business through mobile phones is here to stay.
“The consumer gets it,” says Behr. “They get it and they want it because they’re time poor, technology rich.”

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