VP of Direct & Loyalty Marketing
Chris Duncan leads OfficeMax’s direct and loyalty marketing strategies, which includes developing an integrated mobile marketing program. Duncan spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about OfficeMax’s foray into mobile couponing and how the retailer is using mobile coupons to support and leverage its MaxPerks loyalty initiative.
eMarketer: How can customers engage with OfficeMax through mobile devices?
Chris Duncan: We currently have a mobile application for iPhone and Android devices as well as a mobile-enabled website. We also leverage SMS to deliver offers to customers and loyalty members. With mobile, we’ve tried to focus on a specific group of customers, our MaxPerks loyalty members.
eMarketer: What are your goals with SMS?
Duncan: We’ve been doing SMS for close to a year for several reasons. Promotion is a part of it, but the bigger goal is to deliver functionality. For example, when a customer’s print job is ready, we will send an SMS text—similar to what pharmacies have done with prescriptions. We don’t want texts to become the next spam email, where it’s offer after offer—customers are turned off by that. Instead, we want it to be a mix of offer, functionality and convenience.
“We don’t want texts to become the next spam email, where it’s offer after offer... Instead, we want it to be a mix of offer, functionality and convenience.”
eMarketer: What types of offers might you push through SMS?
Duncan: Recently, we started doing daily deal offers via texts alerts. They aren’t mobile exclusive—we are trying to get as broad of a reach as possible. Mobile extends and reinforces the daily deals. We also use SMS to support larger promotional efforts, such as our seasonal Brown Bag event, where customers can fill a brown paper bag with office supplies and get 15% or 20% off. SMS text supports big seasonal campaigns and is used to acquire new mobile customers. We’ve enticed customers to sign up for our SMS alerts by giving the first 1,000 people who respond a $5 gift card.
eMarketer: How does OfficeMax offer mobile coupons through the MaxPerks loyalty app?
Duncan: We’ve tried to make the app a special experience for our best customers, the MaxPerks loyalty members. Not only does the app enable them to get rewards on their phones, they can access past purchases and account details through the app. Those added features have helped drive adoption from our best customers. We’ve also made a point to give MaxPerks app holders exclusive offers that differ from our widely circulated direct mail pieces. The offers range from ink and toner discounts to an offer on a new printer. We are also trying to get more specific with how we segment app customers, just as we would with direct mail marketing.
eMarketer: How do SMS and app customers differ?
Duncan: The biggest difference is we know more about those who have downloaded the app. When customers sign up for SMS, they just give us their mobile number. There are some limitations with SMS in terms of graphics and visuals. If they log in and take advantage of the app features, we learn a lot about our MaxPerks customers. And we are able to do more in an app.
eMarketer: What are the inhibitors of mobile couponing?
Duncan: Compiling a large number of mobile customers. We’re working on acquiring new customers all the time, but it’s a growth curve. The technology isn’t the challenging part—it’s getting engagement from a critical mass. Once we’re there, we’ll get better interaction with our merchandising teams and the program will get more attention.
“The technology isn’t the challenging part—it’s getting engagement from a critical mass.”
Balancing all the different channels is also challenging—how do we stay consistent but still create unique, channel-specific tactics? That’s why when we tap into larger, seasonal initiatives like the Brown Bag event, we try to leverage offers through all channels but still do something special for mobile.
eMarketer: What role does mobile play in the broader context of couponing?
Duncan: We certainly use mobile as a complementary tactic. There are certain times we’ll want to do something unique or special and we can use mobile for that. The advantage with mobile is speed. We can send out a text alert with a mobile coupon and be in market very, very quickly. So there are times when we use it strategically for speed to market and to be a leader in certain things, but we certainly don’t want to treat it as its own thing.
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Check out today’s other article, “Age, Gender Affect Whether Consumers Will ‘Like’ an Ad.”