Auntie Anne’s Cross Channel Marketing Forgets User

Josh GordonIn the rapidly evolving world of direct digital marketing it often pays for marketers to sit back and ask themselves some important questions when considering what type of direct digital marketing campaign makes sense for their business. Given the three primary direct digital channels of Web, mobile, and email it is especially important to ask some serious questions when considering a campaign that will force the end user to cross channels for something like coupon redemption. Here are a few sample questions that can help:
  • Is mobile a good way to gather email addresses?
  • Are email and mobile so closely related as channels that marketers can mix and match without consequence?
  • Are ESPs REALLY able to just add mobile to their product offering, or are mobile capabilities so different that native platform development is mandatory to achieve really great results?

Let’s take a look at a recent mobile-email cross channel program and analyze it from two different user experiences.

Auntie Anne’s, a delicious pretzel company that usually can be found in a mall near you, recently launched an SMS campaign designed, I think, to gather email addresses. The campaign asked users to text a keyword to a shortcode (good idea) then reply to the message with another keyword + your email address (questionable idea). The coupon would THEN be sent to your email where you could retrieve it one day and redeem it in store.

My experience with this campaign was as seamless as can be expected, despite the personal inconvenience of not receiving a text message back with the coupon. In fact, sending that coupon to my email is pretty inconvenient for me as a user, delaying my coupon redemption and forcing me to take extra steps for a moderate discount.

My colleague’s experience with the campaign was different. She is still waiting to receive her email (more than 24 hours since she opted in).

This type of cross-channel campaign structure with mobile as a gateway introduces two basic drawbacks (there are a few more, but I’m running out of space).

The inherent channel confusion delays action. Sure, capturing email addresses with mobile can help build an email database, but the user experience is not neat and friendly. The only way that coupon can be used immediately by any user is if they are also able to receive email on their phone. And, if they can receive email on their phone, why not just send the coupon via SMS? Are the colors and brand nuances SO important that the message just has to be delivered via email? If the coupon is sent back via SMS the user redeems it immediately and has a good, delay free experience… while the brand comes off looking relevant and modern. The question begs – is an email address still so much more valuable than a mobile phone number/opt-in?

The second drawback is that email is filterable, where SMS is not. Users can lock down their inboxes and prevent a company’s message from making it to their eyeballs. A mobile opt-in has no such limitations. Once the mobile opt-in is secured, it is locked in until the user decides otherwise (it’s that whole Customer 3.0 thing I wrote about a while ago).

Cross channel campaigns using direct digital marketing’s primary channels are not only a good idea, they are increasingly necessary. The customer is multi-channel, so the user experience should be, too. However, when the use of multiple channels negatively impacts the user experience, then cross channel is not the answer. When considering a cross channel campaign, perhaps the first question that must be answered is, “How will this be perceived by my customer?”

Bookmark and Share


  1. Posted May 20, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Great post. I think cross channel promotions lose some immediacy. If I see a promotion and can take advantage of it instantly, I’ll use it and remember my good brand experience.

    If i’m waiting round for emails, I mgiht just not bother.

    • Posted May 26, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Andy. You’re exactly right, mobile promotions, and in-store promotions, both need immediacy to to achieve the type of results the marketers probably forecasted. A good promotions is born first after understanding the customer, then understanding the communications channel.

%d bloggers like this: