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Making the Case for Mobile Marketing: Rolling out the Perfect SMS Pie with Pizza Hut

The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: How our friends at Pizza Hut in the United Kingdom took SMS marketing to amazing technical heights with a creative campaign.

While it might seem like a crazy case of SMS déjà vu considering we’ve already covered Papa John’s campaign in England, this week’s case study takes us back across the pond to see how Pizza Hut used the mobile phone inbox to pump up sales in a big way. Naturally, you’re probably thinking that the overlap between these two studies should be pretty significant considering that both are about the connection between SMS strategies and delicious pizza, fresh out of the oven. However, if you take a few moments to read on, you’ll soon see that these two approaches to great text messages come from opposite ends of the spectrum, creating a unique take on what really gets an audience into their local pizza outlets.

Understanding the Goal

While the goal of any SMS campaign is to build up interest and excitement with customers on the go, Pizza Hut was also looking to draw some hard comparisons between texting with customers and more traditional methods of advertising – namely online and TV ad space acquisitions. At first glance, it might seem like there’s no comparison between these options considering the power behind the Internet and how much brands spend on television spots that reach millions of viewers. However, Pizza Hut decided to stick with the campaign and let the stats speak for themselves once the 15-month trial period came to a close.

Adding in the Geofence Concept

Of course, no great SMS case study hinges on just talking about the battle between text messaging and other marketing outlets. As part of a hi-tech approach to connecting with customers, Pizza Hut decided to set up a “geofence” that encompassed 340 locations in the country. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, a geofence is essentially a virtual signal net that tracks and targets customers that come within a certain range of the indicators – in this case, the Pizza Hut locations. While this might sound like something straight out of Star Trek, it was actually just a clever way to make use of GPS technology that’s already made its way into countless devices around the world.

Unveiling the Complete Program

For any member of the brand’s SMS contact list that came within a half mile of these restaurants, Pizza Hut sent a special text promotion inviting the customer to come in and enjoy a limited-time offer. Depending on the time and location, coupons and discounts on specialty items and menu staples all served as enticing deals. Considering that these customers were already in the neighborhood after leaving work or school with the kids, building a plan entirely off of location based marketing was clearly a clever way to break the standard SMS mold with some smart technology.

Reviewing the Results

Before going any farther, it’s important to note that Pizza Hut’s findings were adjusted to make a fair comparison with the other advertising channels. Lining up raw numbers between Internet ads and television spots that air to millions around the world isn’t fair when viewed against zooming in on the population surrounding these particular restaurants. Instead, the brand decided to normalize the findings and draw comparisons that are more accurate between the methods.

By itself, this SMS campaign ended up increasing incremental sales by 142 percent when compared to not connecting with customers on the go at all. Clearly, that’s a great result on its own, but it gets even better when you expand this discussion to include television and Internet options. After adjusting the stats for a fair comparison, Pizza Hut found that this advertising channel was 4.4 times more effective than TV spots and 2.6 times more effective than Internet ads. When viewed from that angle, it’s hard to deny the power of offering deals to people on the phones they never leave home without.

Is This Right for Your Business?

After reading this, you might think the only way to get the most out of your SMS campaign is to set up a geofence of your own and follow in Pizza Hut’s footsteps. While that’s definitely a good idea if you’re a technology buff with an ample marketing budget, the truth of the matter is that you don’t have to go this route if you want to connect with your customers. Even a standard text campaign that hits on the basics – offering a great and timely deal to your contact list – can get you over the hump and ensure that your audience always takes a moment to stop by when they’re in your neighborhood.

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