This holiday season, retailers are inundating cautious shoppers with discount offers to try to lure them into stores and onto websites. How can small shops stand out from all the clutter? Go mobile with your marketing.
Many bargain hunters are becoming avid users of mobile technologies for everything from Groupon deals to bar code scanners. But the mobile world still isn't nearly as saturated with promotional offers as traditional media, giving small businesses the chance to grab shoppers' attention -- often right at the point of purchase.
Before starting a mobile marketing campaign, you'll want to distinguish between two types of bargain hunters: "bargain shoppers," who won't shop without the best price, and "bargain buyers," who won't buy without the best price.
Bargain shoppers usually want to hear about deals before visiting a store or website because they are motivated more by the value of the deal than the value of the product features. Bargain buyers, on the other hand, usually value the product features but want to compare offers to get the lowest possible price.
Related: The Top Five Mobile Marketing Mistakes
Here are some ways to create mobile marketing campaigns that appeal to both types of bargain hunter:
How to target bargain shoppers: One simple way is to add mobile features to your traditional marketing campaign. Your ads can invite people to join text-messaging programs that deliver mobile coupons, daily deals and clearance promotions. For example, you might run a "12 Deals of Christmas" campaign by asking customers to text "DEALS" to a short code and then send them a dozen promotional text messages over the next few weeks.
You also can include mobile Quick Response codes in ads so people can scan them with their smartphones to retrieve coupons and other offers. Although you can create QR codes for free on such sites as qrstuff.com and qrcode.kaywa.com, I recommend paying for a subscription and using a mobile marketing platform such as Trumpia, which includes built-in QR code features and messaging. That way, your tracking, messaging and database are all in one place.
Related: Three Tips for Getting Started on Foursquare
To promote discount offers through a mobile app, feature the app in your advertising and ask people to search for it in their favorite app store or download it from a web site. You can build content apps on such sites as SwebApps, shoutem and AppMakr. In addition, sites such as MobiCart let you create a mobile commerce app so customers can shop for your products and make payments from anywhere.
If you're a bricks-and-mortar retailer, you also can put coupons on your website or in emails and ask bargain shoppers to show them on their mobile devices when they get to your store.
How to target bargain buyers: You'll want to advertise product features and benefits as usual, but also focus on drawing shoppers into your store or onto your website. Once they arrive, you can then make your mobile marketing pitch.
In-store text messaging can appeal to a number of bargain buyers. For example, the price tag on a product might invite shoppers to text the item number to a short code for an instant 10 percent discount. To spark even more customer interest, offer a mystery discount ranging from 10 percent to 100 percent to anyone who texts in at checkout. Most text-messaging platforms allow you to set up a random reply, whereby most customers receive the 10 percent off message and a smaller percentage get bigger discounts. You also can use apps and QR codes to deliver instant discounts at your store or on your website.
Related: How to 'Mobilize' Your Social Media Marketing
Of course, it's important to make the mobile marketing experience as easy as possible. Consider providing a fast Wi-Fi connection in your store, so more shoppers can quickly check out your mobile offers.
If you're worried that some customers won't know how to text to a short code, scan a QR code or download an app, you can let them claim discounts by simply dialing a phone number and interacting with a voice response system.
Remember, mobile devices and social media go hand-in-hand. Encourage your mobile bargain hunters to share their purchases and discounts with friends and family.
John Arnold is a Boulder, Colo.- based consultant, speaker and trainer specializing in marketing advice for small businesses. He is the author of three marketing books in the 'For Dummies' series including Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference and Mobile Marketing for Dummies. Follow him on Twitter: @ArnoldMarketing