April 02, 2009
Case Study

Follow BMW’s Mobile Campaign to Get 30% Conversion Rate: 5 Steps

SUMMARY: The appeal of direct mail continues to decline as the prices of printing and mailing increase. What if there was a way to avoid the high costs without losing direct-response impact?

Find out how BMW Germany tested a mobile campaign to sell winter tires that achieved a 30.31% conversion rate. Includes a step-by-step guide and creative samples.
Mark Mielau, Head of Digital Media, BMW Germany, wanted to remind his 2006 customers that snow tires are more of a necessity rather than luxury, if you are spending your winter in Germany. He sought to urge those who had purchased a BMW in the warmer months to visit a local dealership and buy a set of tires for their new vehicle.

Moreover, he wanted to use mobile marketing. His team had created a mobile application earlier that year that let buyers customize an entire vehicle.

“We did much more fancy things but we figured out that the more fancy an application is, the less traffic we get. And so we thought, let’s go back to the really [basic] function of the mobile phone. So that’s where we started rethinking MMS and the campaign. And that’s where this came up, where we have the chance with one message to deliver a lot of information.”

The Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) standard is very similar to the Short Message Service (SMS) standard, which is used to send text messages to mobile phones. The exception is that MMS is used to send multimedia, such as images, audio, video and links.

Mielau’s team wanted to test sending a customized MMS message to new customers just before winter to remind them to buy winter tires and to direct them to a BMW dealership to purchase them.

Step #1: Target customers and get opt-in

Mielau’s team limited the test to BWM customers who purchased in Munich between March and September 2006. Those who purchased during that time would likely need to buy snow tires before winter. They ended up with about 1,200 customers they could message.

The team acquired the customers’ information and opt-in during the time of purchase. Information relevant to this campaign included:
-Make and model of car
-Date of purchase
-Mobile phone number

Step #2: Craft MMS message

The MMS message had a snowy design to remind customers of the weather ahead. It also included:
-Personalized customer greeting
-Picture of the make and model of the car purchased
-Picture and description of the recommended tire
-Price of the tire
-List of dealerships in their area
-Link to call a dealership
-Link to request a call from a dealership
-Link to download a tire application for more information

“It was a concrete proposal for your car instead of a very anonymous print mailing, where you have a tower of wheels which are not matched directly with your car,” Mielau says.

Ultimately, the team wanted customers to visit a dealership and purchase tires, and they intended to make the conversion path as simple as possible. “It always creates a hurdle when you make the process complex,” he says.

Step #3: Create application

The team predicted that some customers would want more information about their tires, or a choice to select a set other than those recommended in the MMS message. For those customers, the team created a mobile application (see creative samples below) that could be downloaded via a link in the MMS message.

The application showed how different sets of tires would look on the customer’s car; listed their prices, hours of operation and contact information for BMW dealerships in the area. Again, the application featured a winter-evoking design that included an opening frame of a snowy mountain road.

“The scalability of MMS is no big deal. There is some difference with the application,” Mileau says. MMS is a widely accepted standard for multimedia messages used by most mobile phones. Mobile applications, however, are much less uniform. The team decided to focus on the top phones that were used and bought in Germany, Mileau says.

“We optimized for about 20% of available phones. At this point, there were about 400 handsets in our market, so we were optimizing for about 80 of the main devices.”

Step #4: Send Message at Appropriate Time

The team segmented their list into three sets of about 400. They planned to stagger them and watch the results, but mother nature had other plans. “I was sitting there in the evening of, I think Oct. 13th, and I was looking outside, and I saw the first snowflakes falling down from my office in Munich. So, I knew everyone out there without winter wheels now has the highest demand for winter wheels. So I just called and said, ‘send out the first series.’”

The first set performed so well that the team sent the remaining 800 messages a few days later.

Step #5: Track results

The team matched the information of customers coming in to buy tires with the information of customers who received the MMS message. This gave them a good idea of the conversion rate and success of the campaign.

“The results were quite amazing,” Mielau says.

o 30.31% of those who received the message came to purchase snow tires from a BMW dealership. Mielau concedes that some of those customers might have come to purchase tires anyway, but not all of them.

We estimate that the campaign bumped up BMW's revenue by over $180K, assuming that a set of snow tires retails for about $500.

o 5.64% of those who received the message responded by either calling a dealership or requesting to be called.

“In comparison to an average response of 2.7% in that business, that was quite good.”

o 2.2% downloaded the application.

“This was 2006, and that was a time that, in Germany, flat rates [for browsing the Web] didn’t exist for mobile phones. And browsing had always the image of being expensive. From that perspective, the number of downloads was really good…today that would be totally different.”

Useful links related to this article:

BMW Germany Snow Tires Mobile: Creative Samples

How to Build a Mobile Ad Campaign: 4 Crucial Elements to Include

BWM automobiles

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