Express takes bigger plunge into mobile with QR codes, SMS


June 27, 2012

Retailer Express is putting mobile in the center of its direct mail strategy with an initiative that lets consumers shop featured looks using QR codes and SMS.

The mailers are being used as part of a campaign running through June 29 that promotes Express’ line of denim. Express has used mobile bar codes in the past and is adding SMS to the mix with this campaign.

“While QR codes are becoming more universal, customers still interact with mobile in a variety of ways,” said Jim Wright, senior vice president of marketing at Express, Columbus, OH.

“Since mobile is such an important vehicle to our customer base, we wanted to provide options for the customer to choose which interaction was best for them and still provide the widest opportunity for engagement,” he said.

Mobile engagement
The Express mobile bar codes appear on the back side of the six-page mailers in the bottom left-hand corner with an SMS call-to-action below.

Users who scan the QR code are taken to a campaign-specific page on Express’ mobile site that showcases 12 pairs of jeans for men and women.

Consumers can then tap on a style to be taken to a filtered page to see all of the products from a particular line, browse details and reviews and check-out via the mobile site.

In addition to the QR codes, consumers can also buy the featured denim by texting the keyword DENIM to the short code 397737.

In order to shop the products, users first have to opt-in to Express’ SMS program. Users are then directed to the company’s mobile site to shop.

Tying a campaign directly into a loyalty program is a great way for a brand such as Express to bolster its mobile subscribers. Additionally, consumers will be more likely to opt-in to a program if there is an upfront value, such as being able to shop.

“The Express customer loves the elevated brand imagery that comes with our direct mail program, but they are also highly engaged with their mobile device,” Mr. Wright said.

“QR codes allow us to bring this traditional medium to life in a new way by engaging customers with video, offering our loyalty program or creating contests and promotions. It’s one more touch point to engage in a relationship with our customer,” he said.

“Using mobile to communicate time-sensitive events allows our customer to stay on the go while getting all the benefits of being an Express customer.”

Scan to shop
Express is building its mobile commerce strategy around mobile bar codes.

Last year, the company ran a similar catalog initiative that let consumers shop the retailer’s fall line (see story).

Express has also used in-store QR codes to drive application downloads and loyalty program sign-ups.

For example, Express recently placed mobile bar codes in store windows to encourage users to sign-up for its Next loyalty program (see story).

By continuing to run campaigns that focus on mobile bar codes, Express is able to continuously educate its consumers on QR codes. On the other hand, by adding a SMS component to its campaigns the brand is able to target a universal group of mobile users on both feature phones and smartphones.

“There is still an awfully large amount of direct mail, and you can get a richer set of engagement through a QR code – it is a zero-click experience,” said Mike Wehrs, CEO and president of ScanLife, New York.

Mr. Wehrs is not associated with Express. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

“The big thing is that when you do a large-scale campaign with a big brand, they have to worry about a lot of things and what to do when a campaign is over to drive engagement,” he said.