BrainTrust Query: Will New Mobile Phone Technologies Empower ‘Shopper Search’ for Local Retail?
By Laura Davis-Taylor, Founder and Principal, Retail Media Consulting
Recently, the New York Times ran a story on the arrival of cell-phone shopping, and profiled some companies tapping into such services. One, NearbyNow, does this by prompting pedestrians to send a text message to instantly receive a hot list of current sales at local stores and malls. The user can then scroll down the sale lists on her or his phone and search in detail for specific items.
“If you type in jeans, you’ll get 90 stores, but if you type of Levi’s 501s, you might get 14 or 15,” said Scott Dunlap, NearbyNow’s CEO. “We have every product in the mall, which is typically 600,000 to 800,000 items.”
According to the article, NearbyNow pulls $1 for every viewed advertised page, with the average resulting sale coming in around $25.
How are shoppers responding? In a recent mall test, the first day garnered 2,000 users. At one point, a subset of shoppers were sent follow-up text messages to win movie tickets or gift vouchers if they were among the next 10 people to shop from a local store. NearbyNow watched as around 100 people answered their phones and made a beeline to the promoted store, personally witnessing the power of a strong mobile promotion that had an instantaneous redemption opportunity.
“It was a little scary,” said Mr. Dunlap. “We watched about 100 people answer their phone and walk straight for the store. Depending on the offer, you could start a stampede.”
John Greening, Associate Professor at Northwestern’s Medill School for Integrated Marketing, feels mobile phone technologies are a particularly powerful marketing tool because they capitalize on message ‘aperture’. In a nutshell, aperture is all about the most recent message being the most remembered. If a shopper in a mall or store is sent a sales list filled with tantalizing deals, the aperture is at a peak and the possibility of a response is high. Get the promotions targeted in on the specific user and the response possibility goes through the roof.
NearbyNow and other companies in their category may be cracking open a new flavor of search technology with this approach, potentially enabling a powerful new direct marketing media. In particular, it could prove especially fruitful in drawing those young cyber shoppers back to the mall. But are there unforeseen roadblocks?
Discussion Questions: What kind of impact will mobile marketing tools such as NearbyNow have on localized shopper marketing? Will it evolve into a new flavor of “search” technology for shoppers in-store?
NearbyNow is a potentially powerful digital marketing tool, appealing because it’s a “pull” technology, its results can be tracked and it empowers the user to find some appealing new products while actively shopping. We often talk about moving from a “Find Me/Sell Me” sales approach to a “Know Me/Help Me” one and this flavor of media certainly walks the walk. The potential of using the message opt-in to push additional promotions simply adds to its appeal. If done right, there’s no reason that it can’t be evolved to one day send highly personalized offers and sales alerts to each mobile user.
On that note, it’s very important that the brands using these tools carefully tread on the user experience with their strategies if they are going to gain user acceptance to take them to the next level. Disrespectful behavior such pushing messages of no relevance, sending opt-in promotions of low perceived value and/or over-communicating post the local shopping experience will shut this down before we get the chance to evolve them to their full consumer potential. It’s up to smart brands to recognize this and keep everyone in check.
Why? We see the power of search marketing online every day. Consumers are effectively now trained to type in what they’re looking for and get instant guidance. The online search model is not perfectly matched to the mall or retail store, but the same consumer desire is there and tools like NearbyNow could very well one day be an answer. Not every segment will use them, but if they’re relevant, helpful and valuable, my bet is that many will.