Topics: Retail Sales

Retail Trends 2012 Is Location Based Marketing Just A Coupon Device?

This is part of a series of retail expert discussions from the National Retail Federation's Big Show 2012 in New York. The goal was to have a point/counterpoint discussion of some of the hot topics in retailing. Sponsored by Alert Technologies, these dialogues allowed us to interact and help you as a C-level executive look at some of the more complex issues concerning bricks and mortar stores, their employees' ability to serve the customer and interactions with technology.

This interview features Ben Sprecher from Incentive Targeting and I discussing how location based marketing can be used for a lot of things but if overused by anxious marketers they could spook customers to drop the whole thing. Here is the video to watch and an edited transcription below.


Bob: Ben, one of the biggest things that people are talking about is mobile marketing, right?

Ben: Right.

Bob: So if I get them to opt-in with their phone number, then I can send them messages when they're walking by my store or if there's a sale or something, right?

Ben: Sure.

Bob: I think a man's phone is their castle. I invite you in on the idea that I can control when you talk to me. So the idea that somebody could, as I'm walking by, send me a little, "Hey, come in and get a $3 dollar widget or something," I think that's really spammy. I think you have a different opinion.

Ben: I do, a little bit. First of all, I think that we are at a very important moment right now. We are at the beginning of what I'm trying to call the "great convergence," the "great mobile convergence," and there are five key components to that. Conveniently I've come up with an acronym called CLAMP.


Ben: CLAMP. So you've got couponing and deals.

Bob: You know how I feel about that.

Ben: You've got loyalty. You've got analytics. You've got mobile marketing, and you've got payment. If you look around the show floor here, you've got companies like PayPal over there, Google over there. There are a number of companies who are looking at this giant convergence of all these different key areas, that have been very separated in the past, onto the mobile platform. The power of that is not simply that you have all these different components in one place. It's by pulling them together, you can make a much better go of giving the shopper what they want.

Bob: What do they want? Isn't it just coupons and deals? Isn’t that what we're making our smartphones into?

Ben: The shopper wants relevance, right?

Bob: So what does that mean to you?

Ben: It means a couple of things to me. First of all, it means making sure, and for marketers this is a very counter-intuitive statement, but it means saying less. It means communicating less. Up until today, every new marketing vehicle, whether it was direct mail, radio, TV, whatever, has been perceived by marketers as another megaphone to shout at their shoppers.

Bob: Absolutely. Which is like the guy in high school with all the zits on his face saying, "Look at me. I'm important," but we don't care, right? We care about us.

Ben: We care about us, exactly. Up until today, every marketer has treated it, with some exceptions, as a new vehicle, a new megaphone to talk to their shopper. Now we are starting to have an incredibly powerful computer that is with us all the time, that has incredible capabilities and knows where we are, knows what time it is, and knows who we are.

Bob: But still you're programming it to be kind of spammy. I mean you're saying if somebody's within 300 feet of my store, then project this message or this image or try to get the rat to the cheese to come into my store, right? It's not really personalized.

Ben: It absolutely can be, and that's the challenge to marketers today, is we all need to pull back and instead of saying, "Oh my God, I've got a new little megaphone that somebody's got with them all the time,"' say, "I've got an incredibly powerful, incredibly personal way to talk to somebody, and I need to respect that and respect them and use it only for good, never for evil."

Bob: But that's a whole new way to think, isn't it? It's like copywriting.

Ben: It's completely new.

Bob: Beginning copywriters are all about "look how great I am, I do this, and I do this, this and this." Yet we know that no one reads copy like that. They really look at how can he help me solve this problem?

Ben: That's exactly what it's about. So when you have somebody who is walking down the street, if their phone chimes every 12 seconds as they walk by stores, what's going to happen? They're going to opt out of that entire thing, right?

Bob: So one thing could kill the whole deal for them opting in to text messaging.

Ben: Exactly.

Bob: It wouldn't just be that one store.

Ben: The entire medium is at its infancy right now, and the entire medium has the potential to either tip in potentially the greatest way marketing has gone in human history, to be a little bit grand about it, or to be yet another way that you get crappy, spammy offers from everybody you walk by. What that's about is saying less. It's about using the information and the power of that medium to filter instead of to broadcast.

Bob: That's a whole different way of thinking, right?

Ben: It's completely opposite.

Bob: That is not in evidence around here, I'm sorry.

Ben: Well, I think that there are . . .

Bob: I mean it's a one size fits all. Just use our platform and you can do what you've always done.

Ben: Say anything you want to, do whatever you want.

Bob: Right. You can take your Valpak coupon and you can now make that into a Groupon coupon, okay, great. But there's got to be more to it because that's the thing that iPad promised, and that's what got everybody so excited. Like the first time you saw Facetime and it was two people who were deaf, talking. That was a moment. You were taken aback, "I never thought of that." But that took somebody to really turn it upside down, and I don't think we're seeing any good examples in mobile. Have you seen any examples where it has been customized and relevant and interesting, besides the work you probably already do?

Ben: So to speak in sort of general terms, I've seen some of those articulated as "vision direction." So again, if you look at Google and PayPal as companies who are trying to think many steps ahead here about where exactly is this whole thing going? The story that PayPal is showing at their booth is someone going to a coffee shop, he is being given not just any offer when they get anywhere near a coffee shop, but the phone knows them through loyalty as somebody who likes vanilla lattes, and they know they're five minutes away on their walk from the coffee shop. So now is the time to tell them, "Get your order in right now. Do you want your normal vanilla latte?" That is something that anybody wants to receive. So, done right, focusing not just on the who, but the where and the when . . .

Bob: But I go to the next level, even if it's an execution issue, that's all great. Ben, you're 5 minutes out and you want to do it, except there's already of line of 20 out the door. So your expectation, just go with me, is that when I show up, my drink is now first, and that may not happen.

Ben: This is where the Retail Doctor comes in, right? This is about where you go and you help the retailers to understand that customer service means a different thing, a little bit, in an era where there are many different ways where your customers are interacting with you.

Bob: This is a great idea. We're going to take this up in the second, which is that idea of customer service has a new meaning.

If you haven't downloaded my special report: Bricks and Mortar Retailing At Risk in the Digital Age, you can still do so here.

My thanks to Marge Laney at Alert Technologies and our cameraman Brian Laney who made this all sound and look great!

So what would it take for you to not allow a company you previously opted in with to sms you? What creative uses for mobile marketing do you see?

Please add your comments below.


Retail Consultants featured are part of the Retailwire Brain Trust Panel

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