Sep 18, 2012

Mobile Engagement 2.0: The Evolution of Retail Marketing

Digital advertising has a historical track record of blitzing new technologies only to have to reinvent new tactics once the new marketing ideas get over-saturated and counterproductive. In the 90’s and early 2000’s, we had those annoying pop-up ads that were intended to “grab” your attention and in today’s world digital world we have interactive display advertising that does not go away unless you physically click that tiny little x.

Enter the mobile realm - outselling PC’s 5 to 1, getting smarter, better looking and more cost effective by day, upgrading faster than any technology in human history and yet still remain severely under utilized from a marketing perspective.

Mobile marketing presents a quandary. How do companies utilize this incredible resource of potential viewers without the same insulting tactics of email spamming and mailbox coupon stuffing? They key is engagement. Unlike print ads and spam filters, engagement in a mobile sense actually means overt engagement using OTA (over the air) push methods that allow consumers to get what mobile properties they want when they are ready to download it. This is in stark contrast to SMS advertising, which had a good run, but is definitely not the best way to spend a marketing budget these days. Yes SMS is engaging to a degree, but in the end they are just text messages. Nothing creative.

Not surprisingly, those who search via mobile want whatever they are searching for five seconds ago. In fact, 70% of all mobile searches lead to action within one hour and mobile coupons are redeemed 10x more than print. Why? Because it plays into the instant gratification of immediate savings, something companies like Groupon realized early on, but simply utilized the wrong distribution method (mostly email) to really harness consumer engagement.

An incredible evolution of mobile engagement technology is unfolding unto society with the advent of apps that act as mobile wallets. This introduces the concept that mobile marketing does not have to be just about savings, but it can also be about creating a new chapter to the always-on-the-go lifestyle we love to live. Developers picked up on this scent a few years back and in certain situations actually have been able to form reasonably large companies around the idea of offering merchants a chance to directly issue things such as mobile coupons to consumers who download a content distribution app. Throw in Geo-target marketing (because every smart phone has a GPS), upgrades in QR code technology that allow for more complex embedded scripts, and boom, you have a revolutionary marketing tool. A good example of this is Yowza!, which is a mobile app that specializes in mobile coupons for participating (paying) merchants. It’s good idea, but it is limited and quickly becoming outdated.

My question is, why be limited to coupons? Apply that same logic and magic to mobile punch cards, loyalty programs, ticket sales, receipt storage and add in an actual wallet to store it all in and now we’re talking big business. Mobile Patron is an example of an emerging company that not only offers these services but also offers individual administrative control for the merchant, truly bringing the front lines of mobile marketing to the fingertips of both large and small retail business. 

No good emerging digital concept is complete without Apple and Google fighting to take it to the next level. Both are preparing to go head to head with the mobile wallet concept. Apple will be launching their Passbook application and Google has already launched Google Wallet with much success. These are not simply apps that tell you what good deals you can walk to down the block and redeem. Rather, these are full-fledged marketing solutions that intend on replacing the physical wallet, using NFC, or near field communication technology, that allows phones to connect using radio communications. In other words, they will also house your credit cards, bankcards and as such, no longer will you need anything but your trusty smart phone to house your complete identity. Sounds scary, but why not?

So if you are the type of guy whose back hurts because you are constantly sitting on an overflowing wallet (like me) or the type of gal with a black hole inside your purse, pay attention to this technology because it is destined to be a part of everyday life. It just might make life a little bit easier for all of us.
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