Integrating Wireless Messaging Into Email Marketing

An incredible amount of hype has been generated about the potential of wireless advertising and marketing. At the same time, relatively little has been written about how to integrate this new medium with existing marketing channels.

Although it could be argued that banner advertisements, email messages, and offline marketing channels will all benefit from integration with the burgeoning wireless medium, the integration of direct wireless and email marketing stands to offer customers the greatest benefit.

At first glance, the two channels seem to be very similar. For example, direct wireless marketing involves the delivery of permission-based marketing offers and content in various formats to wireless devices, such as cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), wireless Internet-enabled phones, and two-way pagers. Similar to house-list-based email marketing, these messages are “pushed” to individual customers by request rather than set up as “pull” advertising, which is displayed to a broad, passive audience in an attempt to elicit a response.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

There are, however, significant differences between email and direct wireless marketing. Trying to recreate your best email campaign on a wireless device will likely fail miserably, since the context in which the messages are read and the customer response mechanisms can be so vastly different. Wireless marketing needs to complement the desktop version of the Web; it must avoid replicating that version, focusing instead on the immediacy of mobile interactivity.

Direct wireless marketing messages must include content that is relevant to the mobile environment. And that content should be based on time-sensitive or location-based information triggered by time, stress inventory, or location event.

When developing a direct wireless marketing campaign, a marketer should consider several other unique characteristics of the mobile environment:

  • Messages should be relevant to people in transit. If individuals are reading a message on their phones, they are away from their desks and are likely in motion.

  • Message content should be optimized for the tiny displays of today’s cellular phones, many of which have a 110-character limit. To use the precious space most effectively, personalization is key.
  • If the audience of your message has wireless Internet access, keep in mind that access speeds are slow, displays are constrained, and navigation is cumbersome.
  • Response mechanisms are very different on wireless devices. Be ready to have a call center that can handle the inbound call volume if your campaign is a hit.

Integrating Email With Wireless

Despite the systemic differences between email and wireless messaging, these two media can be integrated to provide tremendous customer value. Organizations that have frequent time-sensitive promotions, geographic or location-based offers, or news and information services, or if they need to turn over high-stress inventory quickly, will likely see benefits from executing integrated email and direct wireless marketing campaigns.

Several scenarios illustrate how these opportunities could be exploited by the digitally savvy marketer:

  • Sales services. Real estate organizations are already using email messages to communicate with customers because email allows for detailed product descriptions, multiple hyperlinks, rich formatting, and many potential response mechanisms. To sell homes more quickly, they could use email messages to inform users of all home listings in their preferred areas and use mobile alerts to notify customers when new houses within highly specific geographic areas or neighborhoods just come on the market. This would allow the mobile user to view the house immediately if he or she is in the area.

  • Retail stores. A brick-and-mortar store that already uses monthly email newsletters to advertise special promotions to its customer base could use wireless alerts to inform shoppers when new stock — say, a favorite clothing brand — has just arrived. If the recipient of the wireless message can’t make it into the store but wants to see more about the new styles, he or she could press a button to request an email with rich content displaying the new inventory. This would allow the user to express interest but respond later if unable to complete the marketer’s call to action at the time.
  • Entertainment. An entertainment site could integrate email and wireless messaging by sending an email with weekly entertainment schedules, such as general TV listings. It could then deliver wireless messages to remind users on the day of their favorite show.
  • Auctions. At an auction Web site, email messages could inform users about the wide array of auction items available in their interest categories. Also, wireless alerts could be delivered to users if they were outbid and the auction item were closing within hours. Advanced wireless applications could enable individuals to enter new bids when the alert arrives.

It is most effective to view email and direct wireless marketing as complementary tools — as all marketing media are — rather than as completely separate channels. The more they complement each other — and all offline and online media — the more consistent the audience’s experiences will be with the brand and the greater the return on investment over time.

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