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Mobile marketing: New tactics for back-to-school retail

It's that time of year again: back-to-school shopping, an estimated $26.7 billion bonanza for retailers, down from $30.3 billion a year ago. Most purchases still happen in brick-and-mortar stores, but the number of consumers who are shopping via their mobile devices is growing fast — and back-to-school marketers leaning into new tactics and tools to streamline the experience.

Instead of bar-code scanners for checking prices and daily deals, some mobile marketing professionals are embracing apps that help consumers track and use coupons, provide "personalized shopping assistants" and give device users exclusive access to special features like exclusive music videos. It's part of an overall strategy of retailers to push consumers to do more with their phones and tablets than simply comparison shop.

One game-changer this year over last? The growing influence of Apple Passbook, the iOS mobile payment app that organizes and stores users boarding passes, movie tickets, coupons and loyalty cards, and other services. Passbook, which comes preinstalled on all new iOS devices, also tracks a users' locations and automatically displays redeemable coupons as they near an offering merchant's location. The service also alerts users to when coupons are about to expire. Consumers download coupons to the Passbook through their emails or message, Passbook-enabled apps or Safari.

Passbook isn't the only new tool in the back-to-school marketer's toolbox. Here are a few other mobile marketing strategies that are delivering results:

  • Multi-use coupons. Target’s recent release of the coupon app Cartwheel opens new doors for back-to-school savings at Target. Consumers sign up using their Facebook profiles and instantly save coupons to the Cartwheel. The best part? A shopper can use coupons repeatedly until they expire.
  • Exclusive music videos. Office Depot has teamed with pop band One Direction to provide behind-the-scenes music videos when some products are scanned in the store using Office Depot's app. After viewing the video, consumers can enter a One Direction concert sweepstakes. The partnership, which is part of an anti-bullying campaign, raises funds for the campaign through sales of exclusive One Direction products.
  • Shopping assistance. Sears has, since 2011, provided shoppers with custom mobile shopping assistance. A buyer simply sends a photo of a product from Sears or any competing store via its Personal Shopper app, and a Sears employee will find the same or similar Sears product. Then Sears will alert the shopper via email or on the phone once the item is found and offer for the shopper to purchase the item.

What back-to-school mobile marketing programs have been success for your brand?

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