I had the pleasure of sitting down with Simon Malls’ SVP of Digital Marketing, Patrick Flanagan, to talk a bit about his career in mobile. One of the things I loved about the direction this conversation took was the fact that Patrick is a huge believer in SMS marketing. He had a ton to say about the power of SMS when it comes to bridging the physical shopping experience with digital, and it’s clear that it’s worked well in Simon’s digital strategy. Here’s a bit of our conversation:
Lumavate VP of Marketing, Stephanie Cox: At what point did you guys switch to a mobile first mentality across everything that you do? And was that hard to do?
Simon Malls’ Patrick Flanagan: It was hard to do, but it was about two years ago when we reached the proverbial 50/50 tipping point on mobile web. We’re at that moment in time we were now having more mobile device users consistently make up the majority of page visits views. It’s not even just someone talks like, “Hey, we’re going to have a meeting and think mobile first!”, it’s an ongoing grind to rewire your team’s brain or your enterprise’s DNA. And it’s hard! So especially as a business leader who sits in front of a laptop or a desktop, a lot of our daily lives are first and foremost driven from a desktop type experience. It’s just being relentless about setting some basic rules like saying to my design team, “Do not send a mockup unless it has at least two break points for a full mobile and a full desktop”. I don’t want to see it if you haven’t thought through both.
SC: So when you think about mobile, how do you measure effectiveness? How do you know what’s working and what’s not working?
PF: Engagement is one of the top ones, but there’s so many nuances. You know for the app world, there’s always app downloads, but how about your active monthly users? I mean how many people have the app installed, know where it is on their phone, and care enough to actually use it? If you’re tracking that number, there’s likely a big drop off–you may have had thousands of downloads, but you quickly see that many have deleted the app, or put it in a folder hell to suffer the rest of its life in purgatory, never being used but never being uninstalled. If you’re trying to measure effectiveness, you start with something as basic as “do people care enough to use it, and use it again?”. At Simon, we do all of that and a whole bunch more.
SC: So you mentioned you’re doing SMS and MMS. Talk to me about about the program you have there and what you’re seeing with it.
PF: Text is amazing. It’s super overlooked. Sure, it’s a traditional, mature technology, no doubt. But here’s the magic thing: I’d say that out of all the push notifications on your phone, the thing that without doubt gets your attention and gets an immediate read–if not response–is a text. That’s the best way to cut the clutter with a very challenging environment of attention deficit that we have as as markers. And most marketers think it’s one-way! I want to send coupons and videos and sweepstakes…and that’s fine, but for us it’s a two-way dialogue where you can put a little keywords all across. For example, at a store in one of our malls, there’s a sign that says, “Text MALL33 to 74666”, and you’re going to get instantly texted back with a link to an interactive 3D mall map. So as you’re looking at the physical printed directory right in front of you, you can get it on your phone to take with you as you walk around. It’s a it’s a very high degree of immediate connection. You think about the trust that a shopper gives you when they give you their phone number–it’s our highest degree of content filtering and quality. We don’t want to mess that relationship up. You’re interrupting someone’s dinner, potentially. They’re going to read it. When a text comes through? Wow. You at least look at it and dismiss it. It has a higher bar to do well.