Office Depot's mobile strategy boosts active users, social status

Office Depot's 2013 back-to-school campaign utilized mobile technology to great success. And this year the retailer has followed it up with a version that more closely links the mobile and in-store experience. FierceMobileRetail spoke with the team behind the 2014 'Gotta Get INSPIR5D' campaign to find out more. 

For its latest back-to-school campaign, Office Depot partnered with the pop band R5 to develop a BTS campaign that uses augmented reality. The Office Depot mobile app uses image detection to recognize an item, similar to a QR code to deliver content to the end user.

Last year's program with the band One Direction used similar technology to identify products and deliver messages from band members. "This year, we made that in-store experience much more interactive," said Emery Skolfield, senior director, digital marketing.

Stores feature a stage and set that triggers a video, band members virtually gather around the user and interact with them. "It's a little more interesting, rich and immersive compared to last year," he said.

"This dovetails well with a digital and omnichannel strategy," said Rick Polly, senior director of e-commerce, product management. "We are seeing a continued trend of significant mobile growth, year over year. We are seeing a significant number of mobile customers logging on to their devices in stores."

The 2013 campaign generated more than 2.5 billion social media impressions across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Tumblr, according to Office Depot. At its peak, there were 200 million Twitter impressions in one week alone and 150,000 users were actively involved in the augmented reality experience. Active users grew threefold.

BTS attracts a different shopper than Office Depot's core business customer. "Back-to-school is heavily parent/child, this is a way to target the student who becomes the prime influencer," explained Stephanie Gutierrez, VP of retail marketing. "And they're tugging at mom's skirt to take them to Office Depot and OfficeMax (the chains merged in November 2013).

"We're learning a lot about the best ways to interact with this audience," said Skolfield. "Last year was unprecedented in terms of how much engagement we got around the Office Depot Brand. We know we're not the sexiest brand in retail (for young shoppers), but this taught us there was a willingness to connect with our brand online."

In fact, according to Facebook metrics, the office supply store was more talked about on the social network than iconic youth-oriented brands such as Apple and Gap, said Gutierrez.

Social media influencers are also proving their worth and giving Office Depot an education. For each week of the 2013 campaign, more than 50 percent of all campaign conversations started with influencers that Office Depot engaged with.

"The idea of influencers is a powerful message and a powerful way to market," Polly said.

While students are heavily reliant on smartphones, business owners are increasingly utilizing tablets. "We're keeping a close eye on tablets and are seeing an uplift and increase in traffic from these devices," said Polly. "A certain number of people are just going to the mobile Web."

Office Depot is learning much about mobile, social and reaching new influential shoppers. And after two BTS seasons, one thing is for sure, according to Eduardo Souchon, senior marketing director, brand strategy. "We will definitely have a mobile component to fourth quarter holiday season."