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WEBINAR REVIEW Mobile marketing in the performance channel

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The growth of mobile performance marketing is a growing area of interest for retailers of all sizes, who want to find out how to use this type of marketing in their own businesses. Internet Retailing drew a large audience for a recent webinar, Mobile marketing in the performance channel, in association with Affiliate Window. Our speakers, Kevin Edwards, strategy director at Affiliate Window, and Gill Makepeace, affiliate marketing manager, Debenhams, shared insights into how the department store retailer used performance marketing across the mobile channel, and also used the opportunity to take a wide variety of questions from the audience.

Performance marketing specialist Affiliate Window has predicted that mobile marketing will drive more than £2m transactions in 2012, both over smartphones and tablet computers. How can retailers work with affiliates to make sure that both benefit as a result of this boom in mobile commerce? This was just one of the questions tackled by Gill Makepeace, affiliate marketing manager at Debenhams, and Kevin Edwards, strategy director at Affiliate Window, speakers in a recent Internet Retailing webinar.

Gill Makepeace, our first speaker, started with a round up of statistics showing the real importance of mobile to the UK population. More than half (51.3%) of the UK population have a smartphone, she said, while 11% have a tablet and 17% of households plan to buy one in the coming year. It’s a market, she explained, that’s growing even faster in the UK than in the US.

Makepeace cited statistics that showed 68% of people with smartphones had used them to look up retail-related information, and 31% went on from looking up information to make a purchase, either through the website or in store. Just over a quarter of those questioned (28%) had used their smartphones to make a purchase, and 45% had used their phone in the course of their purchase process. One in five (21%) have bought as a result of information found during mobile research.

Kevin Edwards followed with some insights into the use of mobile in the affiliate landscape. Affiliate Window’s own figures showed a large growth in traffic through mobile devices in 2012, compared to 2011. By August, around 13% of traffic to sites was coming through mobile and just over 9% of sales were taking place through mobile devices. Around one in 20 sales were coming through tablets.

Conversion was lower in categories such as fashion. More likely to take place over a phone were lower value and less-considered purchases, or time-sensitive buys, such as daily deals or group buying. In such situations, he said, “there’s an imperative to make sure you transact as soon as possible and mobile is a fantastic conduit for doing that.”

Affiliate sites were benefiting as high uptake of smartphones and the use of retailer wi-fi led to more price comparisons taking place over mobile phones. But, warned Edwards, when retail sites did not have mobile affiliate tracking in place, affiliates were losing commission potentially worth millions of pounds.

“The performance channel fits mobile acquisition particularly well,” he said. Linking offline to online was important in performance marketing, he said. Ways of doing that could include vouchers, cashback, price comparison, instore and barcode scanning.

Debenhams: how mobile performance marketing works for the department store chain

With a multichannel strategy in place, Debenhams trades over a desktop website, iPad and smartphone sites. Different features are useful to people using the site in different ways, so that tablet users might read the on-site magazine, in-store customers might use the in-store app, and smartphone users look at store location services.

Debenhams says it was the first high street retailer with a complete mobile offering. When its m-site launched in September 2011 it already had affiliate tracking in place. “It’s only right we should be rewarding our affiliates for the sales they are driving from day one,” said Makepeace. “Otherwise you’re penalizing them because you set up an m-site.” Today 30% of its site visitors come from mobile. Conversion is not as high, but it’s important to remember, says Makepeace, that many will visit a store as a result of a marketing email or voucher that they access on their they read on their mobile devices.

Indeed, affiliate campaigns over mobile tended, said Makepeace, to drive visits to stores rather than to drive mobile sales, an area where they could be very useful. But in the future Debenhams would look at ways to drive sales over the device as well. As yet, however, many affiliates do not have mobile-optimised emails – and that doesn’t make it easy for the end customer to use. “There’s room for improvement here and I’d definitely like to see affiliates making sure they have their mobile strategy in place, specifically on the email side of things,” said Makepeace.

So what will affiliates do in future to drive email sales, asked Makepeace. “As an industry, the affiliates aren’t keeping up with mobile strategy and I think are falling behind. I’d like to see some more developments from the top affiliates to drive more mobile sales. It’s the perfect way for us to improve convergence.” Having a code that could easily be applied to the mobile site might, for example, be a good way to drive mobile sales, said Makepeace.

One member of the audience asked if smaller retailers should also be tackling performance marketing. “We’ve seen customers are ahead of us and it’s how they want to shop,” said Makepeace. “If your site isn’t mobile-optimised potentially you’re not giving them the best experience they can have. It’s only going to have a negative impact on your site if they come through and can’t shop.”

To hear the webinar for yourself, to view the accompanying slides and hear the question and answer session in full, visit the Affiliate Window webinar page here. To find out more about our other webinars visit the webinar page here.

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