BEND, Ore. — Rudy Dory is retooling his mobile-marketing program.
In the latest example of a food retailer marketing to consumers via their mobile phones, Dory, owner of Newport Avenue Market, a one-store IGA independent here, partnered with a local start-up firm to offer a special weekly promotion to shoppers who sent in a text message requesting it.
The store ran weekly radio ads between March 10 and May 25, inviting shoppers to text the word “food” via their cell phones to a special number to receive the special deal. Within a few seconds after sending the text, those shoppers would receive a text reply from the retailer offering a discount on a single product, such as a purple-and-green reusable shopping bag for 49 cents or a container of fresh strawberries for 99 cents. The message came with a special price look-up code that the shopper would present to a cashier to redeem the offer.
But Dory wasn't entirely satisfied with the results of the program and suspended it after May 25 in order to brainstorm with his ad agency, Every Idea, based here, on better ways to promote it.
“We believe in the program but we're not getting the desired results,” Dory said. “The agency didn't feel we got enough hits.” He is exploring new advertising vehicles and possibly getting store cashiers to talk about it to customers. The cost of the initial program was less than $3,500.
“People are still getting used to texting for coupons,” noted Suzanne Bell, a spokeswoman for Every Idea, who added that Newport Avenue Market operates in a market that has a population of only 85,000.
The next text promotion is tentatively planned for early fall, said Kasey Every, account executive for Every Idea. “This will be supported through Newport's new website launch and the functionalities that will support the texting of coupons,” she said.
The technology behind the text program, transparent to shoppers, was provided by RocketBux, also based here, a 3-year-old mobile-marketing outfit that has previously worked with such retailers as Fred Meyer, Dari Mart, Subway and McDonald's.
Newport Avenue Market promoted a different product each Monday morning for a week in the self-funded text program. Other products featured included milk, bread, cheese, power bars and meat. The largest number of redemptions that the program generated was 400 for a milk promotion, with an average of 150, Dory said, adding that he is also thinking about seeking manufacturer support for the program.
The store experienced a 39% average conversion rate (the percentage of shoppers who received an offer on the phones and redeemed it in the store), Bell said. A three-for-$1 Clif/Luna bar promotion generated a 96% conversion rate. The least successful were the promotions of a mini-seedless watermelon at 99 cents and hamburger/hot dog buns for 99 cents; both produced only a 20% conversion rate. But even these rates compare favorably to those generated by newspaper coupons, she noted.
The conversion results pointed out the importance of selecting the right product to promote, said Bell. “As [Newport Avenue Market] continues to try texting, it will begin to better identify which products are best suited to promote via text.”
Dory acknowledged that he is unaware of the number of shoppers who forward the text deals they receive to other shoppers, though he is not concerned if they do. But he is concerned about the number of shoppers who reuse the promotional code during the week of the promotion, another factor he is not able to track or prevent because he has not assigned a unique code to each redemption. He is now looking at implementing a loyalty program that would give him information on particular shoppers.
He noted that RocketBux is a non-invasive, opt-in program; Newport Avenue Market does not have possession of the cell phone numbers of the shoppers who participate in the program.
Ninety percent of the shoppers texting in requests for the weekly offers were under 30 years old, noted Dory. “This is allowing us to reach people who aren't subscribing to newspapers, the whole younger generation,” he said. “My 27-year-old bookkeeper loves [the mobile program], though my wife is not into it.”
Dory observed that all retailers, “especially independents,” are struggling to attract the attention of consumers who don't use traditional media like newspapers or TV. “How do you get to them? You try the Internet or mobile phones,” he said. “One size fits all, like the newspaper used to be, is not effective anymore.”
But Bell said that Every Idea is also looking at whether older shoppers are a potential target for the text program, especially women over 40 who have begun using social media like Facebook.
Dory regards mobile marketing as “an up-and-coming tool that will ultimately be part of our marketing plan.”