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Can Last Minute Offers Trigger Impulse Buys?

Can Last Minute Offers Trigger Impulse Buys?

Welcome to WBT's inaugural "M-Campaign Watch" column where we'll look at a variety of marketing schemes - some in the U.S., some abroad, some successful, some not - but all bound to give you your own ideas.

Before I start talking about one of the latest innovative mobile marketing campaigns, let me just say I'm on the low end of the wireless technology adoption curve from a consumer perspective. I really can't see myself buying something on a phone, much less anyone else going through the hassle. But then again, when the standard Internet first emerged, I resisted and said the same sort of thing. And now I've made a career writing about it. Granted, wireless technology today doesn't exactly encourage mobile commerce, at least in the U.S., but with a compelling reason and an easy order process, that could change.

That's what Sephora.com, an online cosmetics retailer based in North Carolina, had in mind when they launched a campaign on February 10 to reach last-minute gift buyers for Valentine's Day (the results have just recently become available). The company sent WAP banner ads targeted to business travelers who had forgotten to buy gifts for their loved ones. The ads, which read "Steal Time for Your Valentine," were integrated into mobile content for minimal intrusiveness. By clicking on the ad, consumers were given a choice of 10 gifts ranging in price from $20 to $60 that could be purchased immediately. Gifts were shown in logo or text form depending on the device type. Wireless ad network provider WindWire powered the ads, while the transactions were enabled by eBizPortals, a mobile wallet provider, allowing the user to avoid entering payment and other information for each purchase.

According to WindWire CEO Sean Harrison, the campaign generated an overall average click-through rate of 10.4% from the first ad, leaving traditional banner response rates far behind. He says the exact ROI couldn't be determined, but that the shopping cart abandonment rate was far lower than on the standard Web. "People are more inclined to buy if they go through the process on a wireless device," he says, noting that the campaign was very cost-effective.

This is all sounding pretty good, but what does it mean for mobile commerce? Gartner's e-business research leader, Mike McGuire, stresses the importance of opting in to ads via wireless so as not to create resentment by consumers toward wireless service providers or merchants. This issue appears to have been addressed, since the ads were fairly unintrusive and targeted rather than sent as "spam." He says an ideal situation might be notification of ticket availability a few hours before game time, with no other way of getting the tickets, provided the user had signed up ahead of time for such a service.

Kevin Burden, an analyst with IDC, notes the ability to reach consumers throughout the day, and says that impulse offers can work "if the public has a strong reason to buy now," adding that holidays are excellent for reaching time-starved, last-minute shoppers. He says location-based services could also be prime for impulse buys due to the ability to reach users in close proximity to a physical store, privacy issues notwithstanding.

Certainly, response rates could plummet in the months ahead due to the so-called novelty factor if there's not a very compelling reason to buy. However, done correctly, wireless impulse buys could work in the long run.

Be sure to watch this space next month for a look at another innovative wireless marketing effort. My attitude about mobile shopping might just change after all....

More Stories By David Cotriss

David Cotriss is a freelance writer covering e-commerce and new media topics for many local and national publications. He specializes in wireless and interactive television marketing and advertising.

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