My daughter recently started college, and I was talking to her about how she manages her money. She pulled out her smartphone and pointed to an icon on the screen. “My bank is just another app to me.”What struck me about what she said – other than highlighting once again our generation gap – was that she was describing a very different kind of image of relationship with financial services than you might have considered in the past.
In the years since the iPhone hit the market, we’ve seen radical changes in how people interact with brands. As colleagues of mine recently noted, some 50% of consumers have used their phones to check a price of a product while they’re in a store, and 2/3 of them change their behaviour based on what they learn from these price checks. That means that a staggering 30% of the retail economy is influenced by in-store price checks.
What the smart phone has done is create a massive shift in customer expectations. Literally every thing that can have a QR code on it or an NFC chip attached to it is a communications channel. With that sort of ubiquity, customers expect meaningful information, service, and content from brands. Call it the Veruca Salt Doctrine of the Modern Consumer: I want it, and I want it now.
So what’s a company to do?
Become a mobile-publisher
As cool as the idea of coupon delivered to a customer who enters a store or an app that allows you to share your potential purchases with friends or an ewallet that you can use to pay both stores and friends, someone has to create the content for it to work. That’s billions of interaction points that will place enormous demands on brands to create and deliver just the right piece of content – whether it’s on an interactive billboard, a smart phone, or a car’s dashboard. Brands will need to develop multiple templates across many scenarios that can be reused and updated quickly. Predictive algorithms need to be developed to handle basic content needs – price updates, for example – that don’t necessarily need a human being to do them. Most importantly, a brand will need to develop this mobile content so that it’s part of a consistent experience across all touchpoints: in-store, online, customer service, etc.
Get serious about your analytics
The real promise of mobile for brands is the access to data that can help brands understand how to be more relevant to their customers. But you need to be able to do something with that data. Incremental add-ons and fixes won’t get you there. Marketers will need to invest in real time CRM databases to process information at high speeds and analysts who can make sense of the information to adjust tactics and offers. Do an inventory of your existing data sets across all your channels – both internal and those you can access externally – and figure out which ones are most important to pull together. This set, by the way, was one of the first things the Democrats did in putting together the advanced analytics capabilities of the Obama re-election campaign.
You don’t have to do this alone. Many retailers don’t have enough interactions with a consumer to merit a loyalty program, nor have the breath of data to make fine inferences. It is also hard for them to get privileged space on mobile phones, since consumers won’t download an app for every retailer. Enter third-party services like Shopkick, offering “kick-bucks” as a shared loyalty promotion across its retail clients, and letting retailers use its central app to offer targeted, in-store mobile promotions. Consumers join this program by enrolling in a single Shopkick app for real-time messages from a range of stores. The trend towards “on-demand” marketing is already clear and is placing new demands on marketers’ operations. Time to take a hard look at the nitty-gritty of process, organisation, and infrastructure.
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