But no metric, however precise, can quite capture the qualitative aspect of mobile, what marketers refer to as the “magic” of this medium. Red Lobster and Angie’s Boomchickapop, for example, have recognized that there is an opportunity to engage with customers on their phones in ways that just aren’t possible with other media, even other digital media. Brands can create an intimate connection, reaching consumers at the precise instant when they are ready to shop—and to buy. Marketers like to call this narrow window, when a consumer is primed to make a decision and take action, a micro-moment.
In an effort to capture more of these occasions, brands are conducting focused, scalable experiments in mobile marketing—with strong results. Red Lobster, for example, targeted mobile customers with advertising when those customers were near one of its restaurants during prime dinner hours, reaching potential guests at those micro-moments when they were most likely to stop in for a meal.
Red Lobster ventured into mobile marketing using a test-and-learn approach. When it studied its guests, it found out just how important mobile was in their lives. About 75% of the traffic on RedLobster.com originates on a mobile device, and about 60% of the traffic on the site happens during dinner hours (3−8 PM).
Since about three-quarters of the US population lives within driving distance of a Red Lobster, the company saw an opportunity to test mobile advertising on a broad scale. Red Lobster reached out directly to consumers who were near one of its restaurants and on their mobile phones at dinnertime—at the micro-moments when they were ready to make a purchasing decision. As part of this effort, the company increased its investment in mobile engagement in two geographic markets with a large concentration of stores, then compared the results with a similar-sized control area.
Because Red Lobster couldn’t directly link specific purchases to mobile ads, it used store visits as a proxy to gauge the mobile campaign’s impact. Within the test areas, mobile users who saw a Red Lobster ad on their devices were 31% more likely than those who didn’t see an ad to visit a restaurant that day and 17% more likely to do so the next day.
Over time, Red Lobster has found mobile advertising to be an effective tool to help it achieve its business goals, including driving sales growth across its restaurants and contributing to increased awareness of signature events such as Crabfest.
Angie’s Boomchickapop, a brand that features eight flavors of gluten-free, non-GMO bagged popcorn, used a large-scale test-and-learn approach with the goal of boosting sales and market share in six metropolitan areas across the US. Building on the insight that its target shoppers—young, active females—were often looking for healthy snacks, the company developed a mobile-first strategy to reach those consumers during the micro-moments when they were most likely to want to munch. Boomchickapop targeted mobile users when they were near retail locations on weekends (Friday−Sunday), prime days for popcorn consumption. The six-city, cross-platform campaign lasted four weeks, and was followed by mobile-only “sustain” efforts running about four times a month.
Boomchickapop recorded a 23.4% lift in sales in the test markets and calculated an ROI of $1.30 for every $1 it spent on the digital campaigns. By testing different levels of mobile impressions in each of the six markets and looking at a broad business measure (retail sales) instead of a narrow metric, the company was able to learn from the results.
Sales increased fastest in cities where customers received a bigger share of advertising impressions on mobile phones. The top two geographies in terms of mobile’s share of impressions were five times more effective in lifting sales than the four other locations (see Figure 2). Mobile was also the most productive channel for driving customers to the store locator on Boomchickapop’s website. The company was so encouraged by the results that it plans to invest heavily in mobile in future campaigns.