Short form digital messaging not only fuels eCommerce and mCommerce – the main drivers of retail growth – it also facilitates in-store shopping. In fact, nearly 34% of shoppers said that they researched a product online while in a physical store in the latest Salesforce Connected Shopper report. Looking back at the last holiday season’s Push, SMS & Email promotions yields a great checklist for Holiday 2017.  Start now to build your well-oiled holiday mobile marketing machine.

  • Encourage app download, push acceptance, SMS subscription – As you see from the Salesforce Holiday Marketing Calendar, this is the time to focus on acquisition.  Push & SMS subscribers are a small but powerful audience that your organization may need to mobilize when sales lag.  Help your colleagues appreciate this and support the pre-season effort with opt-in cross promotions.  Last year a department store used SMS to promote their app with the promise of “10 sparkly coupons.”

While email and website will be the most powerful drivers, pull out all the stops in order to get to critical mass, like leveraging social media, signage, direct mail, packaging, and friend-get-a-friend tactics to drive acquisition.

  • Connect the dots for personalization – In a review of fourteen retailers over the last holiday season, only one personalized a push or SMS message with a customer’s name and loyalty status.  Your systems may not speak to each other, but you can extract and merge data streams.  For example, compare the phone numbers associated with your loyalty program to SMS phone numbers.  Where there’s a match, you now know name, location, purchase history – the mother lode!

Is there a key element you are missing for current subscribers?  Consider a progressive profiling campaign: “Help us tailor our offers to your local store.  Please reply with your ZIP code.” Keep in mind that nearly 45% of shoppers in the latest Salesforce Connected Shopper report said that it would help their shopping journey if the physical store knew about their online research to have a better experience.

  • Develop abandoned cart/browse push messages – Once again applying what you’ve learned from email, it makes sense to deploy these powerful conversion generators in our apps.  If you don’t have abandon events triggering Push messages, it’s time to set them up.
  • Support BOPUS -   In-store pick-up means free shipping, immediate gratification and convenience.  It’s a competitive advantage over Amazon, and whodoesn’t need that?  Messages that notify customers their orders are ready plus hours, location) are a welcome service.  As Google says, “Be There, Be Useful, Be Quick.”
  • Know what works – Review the past year’s results.  To really see the story in your data, plot response and opt-out rates on a graph, call out the average rate, then attach the message summary to each point on the graph.  What can you learn from those above and below average?  We have seen that specific product offers do not perform as well as broad, site/store-wide offers.  Driving to content may have brand value but can cause spikes in opt-outs.
  • Leverage the Big Name sale – Cyber Monday and Black Friday are somewhat outmoded concepts – we don’t need to wait for work on Monday to use our computers for online shopping and we don’t really need to wait in line on Black Friday when we can shop online.  Nevertheless, big name holiday sales resonate with customers.  Any message with “Cyber” or “Black” means great deals.
  • Avoid the crowds – Just as customers crowd the stores, retailers crowd home screens and mailboxes on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  While you’ll have to be present on these big days, start early and go late when there is less competition. Looking for inspiration? Check out the Salesforce Holiday Marketing Calendar.
  • Test & optimize via email –  Use emails as your test platform.  Select a few small segments of your email list and test different subject line/pre-header approaches.  Then apply those learnings to your high-impact push & SMS messages.
  • Stand out with emoji (push only) – Leanplum reports that emojis lift engagement by 85%.  We know that graphics draw the eye and increase attention to copy.  Plan to test and include emoji that compliment your message and brand.  Since your logo is in the top left of the message, avoid competing with it by using emoji in the middle or end of your message.
  • Amplify email – Customers don’t line up our email, push and SMS messages and compare – they experience them in fleeting moments. Reinforce strong offers across all channels.  The home screen trumps an over-crowded in-box, and people are unlikely to read email while shopping.  So reinforce those strong offers everywhere.
  • Plan for exclusives – While consistency and repetition make sense, channel exclusive offers reinforce the value of subscribing and deliver impressive results.  Create FOMO (fear of missing out) with a SMS or push “subscriber only” extra-juicy offer.  Since your audience is smaller, it should require less pain to get through finance.
  • Deliver Marketing on Demand – A wise man once said, “One of our biggest challenges as marketers is scaling our programs for the unengaged.” Not everyone will download your app or subscribe to your text messages, but you can invite customers to text-to-get today’s deals, product information, credit card or loyalty program applications, store locator and more.  Give customers waiting in line something to do, and keep shoppers in-store by making it easy to access a coupon.  Follow up this low-commitment experience with an invitation to subscribe.  Store signage is required, so start early and break down those silos!
  • Promote your ability to Plus Up – You command a small but mighty audience that can be reached in minutes rather than days.  Promote this capability internally so that upper management thinks of you as a secret weapon in their arsenal.
  • Perfect the post click – You’ve packed a lot of punch in your message, but what happens once the user takes the next step?  The post-click user experience is critical.  Make coupons and offers easy to save and retrieve in mobile wallets, or apply directly to the cart.  Don’t dump the user at your site or app home page – deep link to the relevant content.
  • Appreciate ephemerality – Push notifications disappear post lock screen on iOS.  This is why a Message Center is critical.  Message center messages deliver 8X the response of home screen Push.  The badge that appears on the app logo says, “Great deals in here!”  Without a message center, most of your iOS notifications vanish into the ether.
  • Test timing – The 2016 holiday showed fewer messages on Saturday and Sunday – the days when most customers are shopping.  This was likely driven more by marketer convenience and old habits than research.  Shoppers on their phones out-of-home are the most likely to convert in-store.  Test an offer across days and then day parts to see what works best.
  • Respect down time – While email can be easily ignored and/or saved for later, push and SMS are typically accompanied by a sound and demand immediate review.  We have seen that even non-commercial messages – “Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!” – can cause spikes in opt-outs.  Don’t send on holidays, before 10:00 am or after 8:00 pm, adjusted by time zone.  Don’t know time zone?  Time for a progressive profiling campaign!

There you have it – 17 tips for 2017 holiday mobile messaging.  Best wishes for a successful retail holiday season, aided by the most personal, most powerful in-box in the world.