Teens + Mobile + Retail = $

Most brands and retailers have not figured out how mobile can really deliver on its promise of sending the right message, to the right customer, at the right time and place -- the ultimate dream of digital marketing. It is not their fault, as many come to mobile marketing with a lens limited by the existing paradigms of TV, Internet and direct marketing.

As many of us know, teens spend an inordinate amount of their waking hours connecting via text messaging (most people can't fathom how the average teen can write 100+ text messages/day), but this doesn't mean that teens want to be marketed too via text. Receiving a retailer's jargon-filled, stiff text message while conversing with a friend can be jarring. So how do we get their attention, while still making it personal and relevant?

My wife likes the idea of taking their phone away to get their attention. But for the average marketer, we have some more constructive techniques -- the one with the most reach being text messaging.



STEP 1: Ask the teen for permission to speak with them via their phone. This goes beyond the legal requirements and begins to open their mind to receiving a message from you via this very personal channel. (Read more about techniques to invite them via a text-based call to action here).

STEP 2: Ensure you share with them the best promotion you have to offer, so you maximize your chances of building a positive exchange through the mobile channel. Many brands just start new members into the regular alerts stream without thinking about the quality of those offers. If you can get your teen hooked in the first 30 days, then you have built some level of relationship equity, which can help you ride through the periods of lower-quality offers.

STEP 3: Be conscious of the "voice" you are using in the mobile channel. Ninety-nine percent of a teen's communication through mobile is person-to-person and usually to their best friends. If your brand comes stomping in with a third-person corporate voice, it will stick out like a sore thumb. Think about how you can create a face and voice behind your brand.

STEP 4: Determine the mobile promotion for your business that makes teens say yes. The messages must convey maximum value and relevance. Esprit ran a promotion to its text database wherein it offered 20% off all items in store and included a non-unique "ringcode" to allow it to track total redemptions. When it looked at the results, it was surprised to see not a 10% or 20% response rate, but a 200% response rate, with double the number of offers sent being redeemed at point-of-sale. This was the benefit of the viral effect on mobile, with consumers sharing the text with their friends because they felt it was valuable.

STEP 5: Develop an in-store experience that engages. When we look at teen spending habits, much of it goes to in-store spending because they don't have credit cards and they prefer to socialize with friends while they shop. Now, with consumers having a powerful computer in their pockets (a/k/a their phone), super-scalable, hyper-targeted experiences are available for marketers to use that help consumers find what they like, order items that are out of stock in the store or experience guided tours, among other things.

In the end, the best way for a typical retailer or brand to engage teens on mobile is to start by building a segmented text messaging program which allows you to communicate to teens with a separate voice and set of relevant offers just for them.

By giving them value and deals they can share with friends and alerts to significant in-store and brand events, you will maximize their long-term engagement with the brand and ultimately in-store sales. In-store is a huge opportunity. One which teens are primed to take advantage of because of their comfort with their phone, but that is a discussion for next time ...

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