Retailers Adopt Rich Media Messaging for Back-to-School Season - eMarketer

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Retailers Adopt Rich Media Messaging for Back-to-School Season

July 8, 2015

Shalini Gupta
Vice President, Customer Success
Iris Mobile

As retailers look ahead to the back-to-school season, marketers are implementing new strategies to optimize their targeting efforts. One technology that is making headway is rich media messaging (RMM), which allows brands to engage customers with customized content via mobile. Shalini Gupta, vice president of customer success at Iris Mobile, provider of a mobile marketing and decision platform for retailers, spoke with eMarketer’s Lisa Barron about how RMM is being used to reach parents and students.

eMarketer: How does rich media messaging work?

Shalini Gupta: Before we send a message to a customer, we detect the exact type of mobile phone that customer has, and based on that, we customize a message for them. If you have an iPhone, we can push a message on behalf of a retailer, using the device’s existing capabilities. The message can include images, video, link to your calendar apps or link to your social share apps.

eMarketer: How are your clients using RMM during the back-to-school season?

Gupta: During the back-to-school season we are getting a lot more personalized and targeted in terms of what we’re doing. We work with a lot of large retail brands, and for back-to-school the types of offers and campaigns will likely be different and targeted to what that person’s needs are.

If we are targeting moms, we know they’re driven to buy products based on sale prices—we’ve seen that behavior over time. We’ll serve an offer that incentivizes her to come back and redeem it. We know who she is, what she’s done in the past, and we can predictively say this is what she is going to do in the future.

With someone younger, who is more engaged by style, we can send them a message saying, “Hey, this is a lookbook for in-store back-to-school fashions for fall; come and check them out.” We can incentivize the sales and get them to come in.

eMarketer: How important is shareable content during the back-to-school season?

“There are a lot of retailers out there that are struggling in trying to understand how to adopt technology to keep the momentum.”

Gupta: It depends on the campaign and the demographic. If you’re talking about fashion styles, retail is paramount because people like to see what they want to purchase. A lot of that fashion-based imagery is what propels sales forward for a lot of these retail brands. Sharing of coupons is also quite prevalent across the board. But the amount of sharing changes based on target demographics.

eMarketer: What will be some of the biggest changes with back-to-school this year?

Gupta: A lot of retailers feel like they’re sending the same message on Facebook, sending the same message via email or sending the same promotion via messaging. Many retailers feel like they’re spamming their customers. A couple of key things that we’re noticing for back-to-school coming up this season is that with all of the offers that we’re sending, we’re trying to get as personalized as possible so that they’re much more relevant to the customer that we’re sending to.

Additionally, a lot of retailers are trying to understand how to build campaigns that are a lot more engaging, that take advantage of the technology that’s available for them. If you talk about social media, let’s post some fashion styles for what’s going on for back-to-school, show us looks that you’ve created for yourself with the products that we have in-store. Let’s get our customers involved in part of that content and promotion process. It’s a lot more powerful than simply continuously blasting out coupons.

eMarketer: How do you expect the back-to-school season to go this year?

Gupta: If the retailer is relevant and understands their customers, their performance results are going to be strong, whereas a lot of retailers are being outcompeted and are struggling. There are a lot of retailers out there that are struggling in trying to understand how to adopt technology to keep the momentum. A lot of people are shopping online; brick-and-mortar stores are suffering. It’s on a case-by-case basis, but overall, from an industry perspective, the numbers are going to be strong.

From a back-to-school retail standpoint, things are going to start a lot earlier this year. A lot of the campaigns that we’re working on have live dates that are in July.

For a lot of these retailers, to get that type of momentum that early, the campaigns are going to have to be very engaging to keep someone’s interest. They’re going to have to build as we get closer to back-to-school. Shoppers that look out for the best deals come in advance. But the vast majority of people are just-in-time shoppers, where they’re picking up the last offer and getting things the week before school starts. Retailers are trying to cater to both segments.

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