Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mobile Marketing continues at Lakeside

Those of you who know me, may remember that I cut my teeth in mobile marketing as Head of Customer Experience at ZagMe back in the mists of mobile time in 2000 and 2001 working with Russell Buckley of Mobhappy and Admob fame. For those who don't know about ZagMe, we sent text messages to shoppers at Lakeside and Bluewater shopping malls and in the 9 months that we were operational, ran over 1500 SMS campaigns to over 85,000 opted-in customers across the two malls. Obviously, as an employee, I was signed up to the service.

Unfortunately, ZagMe died in October 2001 and the database was sold to a SMS push marketing company, The Mobile Channel, for a pitiful amount. The fact that it was probably illegal to sell the database at all (due to the privacy policy in place) was swept under the carpet. I do vaguely remember getting an opt-in message from that company and they sent me quite a few messages in 2001/2 all marked "(TMC)" thus identifying the sender. Anyway, the company who bought the database moved into online market research (Valued Opinions) and AFAIK ditched SMS marketing per se. Yet, I'm still getting messages from Lakeside with no other identifier than the word 'Lakeside' in the return path. So I'm guessing that Lakeside bought the database and are sending these SMS themselves.

Examples from the last 3 months include:

"Principles at Lakeside SALE starts on Thursday 29 June. Huge savings across the store! Don't miss out."

"House of Fraser Lakeside sale starts tomorrow with up to 50% off across the store plus an additional 10% off for Recognition Card holders until Sunday."

"Lakeside Gift Vouchers make the ideal present for Father's Day. Why not treat your Dad to a meal at Old Orleans and watch the World Cup on the large screens?"

"Triumph lingerie fashion show this Saturday at Lakeside. Shows at 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 3pm and 5.30pm. SAVE 20% on Triumph and Sloggi at participating retailers."

"BBC's Strictly Dance Fever at Lakeside tomorrow 6pm - 6.30pm. Come and see the last 3 couples perform in the central atrium!"

"House of Fraser Lakeside Mega Day up to 20% off across the store. Wednesday 24th May at 6pm-11pm Thursday 25th 8am-12pm, Friday 26th 8am-11pm."

"FREE face painting at Lakeside this Sunday between 2-4pm on the foodcourt, Level 3, by Sproggs Playcentre."

"FREE fragranced candles when you spend 35 pounds on Lakeside Gift Vouchers. Whilst stocks last."

"Goldsmiths level 1 at Lakeside exclusive Wedding Fayre now in store till 26 April. Free expert advice, designs and prize draw. Visit today!"

"House of Fraser Lakeside sale starts tomorrow with an extra 10% off sale prices for all Fraser Recognition card holders till Saturday."

So that's about 10 messages then. A few comments...

1. Thank you for keeping up the mobile marketing but can you be a bit more interesting with your offers and copy please? There's nothing exclusive, there are no barcodes or 'show this message' type campaigns in there (and there hasn't been since ZagMe days, rest assured). There's nothing measurable here.

2. Each time the reply path is the word 'Lakeside' so I have zero opportunity of opting out. I tried telling them about this a couple of years ago to no avail. Come on guys - haven't you heard of the Data Protection Act or best practice mobile marketing? Are you too tight to offer a 'stop' function?

3. I wonder how many other ex ZagMe customers are still getting messages nearly 6 years on without every having been asked if you want to stay on the list. Ho hum.

4. Ever thought of asking customers for feedback? Voting? A downloaded picture that entitles you to something free (free coffee with every sandwich with this picture of a cup of coffee)?

5. Not sure if these are targeted messages or not. They're fairly generic, aimed at the female shopper over 21. I'm guessing they're not very targeted.

So this is a 6 out of 10 I reckon for mobile marketing effort. It's a case of 'this is almost how to do sms marketing'. Good effort but could definitely do better (legals of ownership of the data aside). Anyone else have any comments?


  1. Aside from the glaring legal issues, such a campaign would more than likely deter me from ever stepping foot in Lakeside. It does the same as Spam emails, or overly regular email updates from sites/companies I initially quite liked. I'm quite surprised at the general lack of regulation of the telecommunications market. I suppose this has been largely due to the profitable nature of those enterprises dominating it.

  2. Interesting point Kieran. Thanks for commenting.

    In my experience, if you're opted-in, then this kind of stuff works very well. And that's from personal experience from running this kind of service at ZagMe back in 2000/1. The trouble is their data isn't clean, there's no opt-out and it's not that imaginative.

    Re the legals - there are plenty of legal restrictions around data privacy and what you can and can't do. In addition, there are best practice models from the MMA, DMA etc. So that isn't the problem The problem is inexperienced marketers and clients and the fact that mobile marketing is still pretty new in the world of marketing. As a result, lots of work doesn't quite cut it. But unless you try, you don't know. Catch 22.

  3. Any chance of getting Ofcom to take a complaint?

  4. Hi Damien

    Actually it's nothing to do with Ofcom. This would come under the data protection act. And in the bigger scheme of things, where we're dealing with folks spamming phones with nasty scams and subscription services this isn't really a major crime.

    This would actually come under the Data Protection Act and would be the Information Commissioner who would deal with it. IMHO, yes, they've broken the rules, but if they fixed it (and they could pretty easily), then I don't see why anyone should or would complain. Let's see if they fix the problem.

    Also, I don't want to see Lakeside kill their service, I just want them to do it better!


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