Making the Case for Mobile Marketing: Subway’s Tasty Take on SMS Marketing

by justinolch
3 mins read

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 text messages brought hungry patrons to the doors of a 16-store Subway franchise in upstate New York.Considering that Subway is one of the most successful fast food franchises in the world, operating in over 100 countries with 10,109 stores, it might seem a little unnecessary to go the extra mile with mobile marketing to bring even more attention to the brand.  However, any Subway franchise owner will tell you that getting hungry customers through the doors still requires a smart approach to marketing and great promotions. But a 16-store Subway franchise in the Buffalo/Rochester area of New York learned some hard lessons along the way before turning things around with a wildly successful SMS campaign.

The Need for Change

Of course, no good case study starts with what went right. Instead, we need to look at where the franchise came up short to really create a solid comparison. In this case, the problem begins with direct mail marketing. Under this system, the Subway storeowners spent loads of money on physical promotions that shipped out to customers in the area. The results for this direct mail plan? A 1 percent redemption rate. Needless to say, those kind of results just weren’t good enough, so the franchise owners made the move to a more forward thinking digital approach.

A Smart Plan of Attack

So how exactly did this SMS campaign unfold? To start, the restaurant owners promoted the upcoming text message initiative via more traditional outlets, like radio, TV, and local print ads. With these advertisements leading the way, customers soon started opting-in and sending a text to a shortcode number. By doing this, the “My Subway Mobile” campaign set the foundation for constant communications with potential customers via special offers and updates on products and pricing. However, to really get the biggest bang for their buck out of this marketing push, the franchise owners needed to throw in a little extra something for the customers.

Building Better Results with Extras and Freebies

Naturally, the best way to get customers excited is with discounts and freebies. As part of this, members of the texting list received four to six messages a month, each with an enticing offer for free drinks and food with the purchase of other menu selections. To help light a little extra fire under the user base, these offers came with an expiration date in the message, leading customers to come in sooner and take advantage of these discounts in a timelier fashion.

The Final Tally

In the place of the 1 percent redemption rate generated by direct mail, the SMS campaign pushed this number up to 9 percent. In terms of customers, more than 5,000 signed up, leading to a final tally of 13,000 messages sent. To put it plainly, it’d be hard to imagine the owners of these 16 upstate New York stores ever going back to dated and inefficient alternatives, like direct mail marketing, after experiencing the success that comes with a smart and well-planned SMS campaign.

Can You Use This Approach?

To get the same kind of results, you’ll need an audience that will respond to similar techniques and methods. The main points that come from Subway’s approach focus on connecting via the right channel, offering the right discounts and promotions, and making sure you give the customers an incentive for acting fast. In this case, text messaging, free menu items with appropriate purchases, and expiration dates all fit the bill respectively. With these tools in hand, your company can take a marketing path that offers a positive uptick in exposure and real results in your digital or physical store.

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