Mobile Yet?

Mobile Yet?


I'll fast forward a bit for this opening scenario, as I'm not suggesting it's going to be happening by end of this week, but it's certainly worth considering by the end of the year…or maybe even the end of next month.

One of your best customers is out shopping in the area near your location. Your store has a wireless mobile marketing network that alerts you to this fact through the cell phone the customer is carrying. A profile has been set up that automatically sends out a coupon for a sale on media cards that shows up on this customer's cell phone. You know they need a new higher-capacity media card because they were in last week and they used your kiosk and the data stored in that unit shows they recently installed a puny 512MB card to upload their images. You also logged the fact they are considering a move to a DSLR on the capture front.

They are now within a mile of your location, and though they hadn't planned on stopping in your store on this day, that media card might be a nice idea as they recall the conversation they had a few weeks ago with your counter personnel about how a higher-capacity/faster card would be a smart buy in the future and the DSLR market now has multiple offerings that might be a great fit for their photography level.

Moments later they are pulling into your –parking lot.

The mobile marketing world is starting to hit the fast lane, and the news over the last year or so that a variety of different retail channels are beginning to eye mobile phone coupons is worth keeping a close eye on. This new technology is allowing retailers to send text messages that include a bar code consumers can redeem as a discount store coupon. That's just one part of the equation.

The entire concept is essentially turning cell phones into electronic wallets and making that device even more central to the lives of consumers. The benefits here seem to come full circle—mobile phone operators win for the aforementioned lift to their product, consumers have a new, more convenient way to shop and the retailer has a slick, targeted marketing tool that speaks in a very personalized way to their customers.

While the statistics from a couple of years ago seemed to indicate that most consumers found this form of marketing intrusive, the tide appears to be turning. A recent report from Parks Associates now claims that almost 50 percent of those polled stated they are either indifferent to or don't mind mobile ads—a resounding turn around from 2008 when an overwhelming majority were strongly opposed to the ads.

This rapid adoption rate means consumers are starting to expect that their favorite retailers will have a mobile presence, making mobile commerce both an opportunity and an imperative for retailers.

The early returns within the mobile couponing world are showing surprisingly high redemption rates—as much as five to 10 times more effective than something like the typical loyalty card system. However, we are told the real key for the retailers and their manufacturing partners is the data they can get about customers when they sign up, which will later be used to target personalized marketing messages to their smartphones.

Again, for many of you, this isn't all going to happen by the end of year, there are still many kinks to work out and the jury is certainly still out on how consumers will ultimately take to some of this stuff. But one thing is certain, if it takes hold and your competitors are on it, you won't want to play catch up for too long.

Michael McEnaney