Capping off a stellar lineup of presentations, the closing keynote discussion at yesterday’s Mobile Marketing Day conference explored issues caused by the incredible expansion of the mobile channel, which, as Michael Barris said, “has certainly turned things upside down.”

Barris, reporter for Mobile Marketer, moderated the panel, which included Yon Feldman, Vice President of Engineering and Mobile, Gilt and Greg Murphy, Product Manager, Mobile, Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

As Feldman explained, Gilt originated as a flash-sale website in 2007.  “Once or twice a year, designers hold sample sales –and people go crazy,” Feldman said.  “We wanted to capture that passion and put it online.” Gilt launched its first mobile experience app in 2009, and unveiled its iPad app the same day iPads first came out in2010. “We were a Web company and we didn’t know we had to be more than a Web company…When Apple opened up the app store for developers, we saw people who were fashion-forward were all using iPhones.  So we started to think we should look at the mobile.”

Growth took off very quickly.  Today, 50 percent of Gilt’s traffic comes consistently from mobile.  “People have really changed the way they shop,” said Feldman.  “We see people making $30,000 purchases on a regular basis via mobile.  We’ve sold cars, diamond jewelry, and Rolex watches.”

Panelists agreed that delivering messages specifically designed for the channel, and even the specific device, is vital to success.

“Besides trying to reach the right customer, [ask yourself] what experience do they want on each device-and how can we make that experience better?” Feldman said.  “How and when are they using each device, and how do they want to interact with you on each?  We design each experience differently — we use different designs, different speeds, different modes.”

Murphy described how Vegas.com launched a mobile app at the Las Vegas airport allowing users to book hotels, shows, tours, and the like.  This was based on research that showed that many Vegas visitors had no specific plans by the time they landed.  But Vegas.com did not see the return they were hoping for.  “They discovered that the likelihood of getting off a flight and downloading an app were low.” Wisely, Vegas.com shifted to a Web app that could serve all the same purposes, with much greater success. The lesson?  “Don’t build an app just to build an app. Understand your use-cases before you do.” 

“The brands that are using mobile best are the ones that understand the kinds of communications that would go out via mobile,” Murphy said.  “We view it as something that has to be disruptive.  It’s a positive disruption.  It helps [consumers] save time; not miss their flight; lets them know about a sale.  It’s something that means something to me specifically; it lets me how I might want to respond so I can take action.”

“It’s not an option anymore to interact via mobile,” Murphy continued.  “It’s an absolute requirement.  We are all walking around with a super computer in our pockets.  If you’re not making it easier for me to find what I’m looking for, it’s super easy for me to go somewhere else and get it.”

In the same vein, Feldman said, “People are much more loyal to their devices than to any particular business. If they install an app and find it’s not working for them, they just get rid of it and try something else.  There is zero loyalty to the company providing it…You have to put your best foot forward. If you’re not doing that, you’re out, and there’s no going back.”

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