I’ve talked a lot about last millisecond targeting and the need for brands to deliver immediate, meaningful digital experiences or risk losing consumers. But that doesn’t end when customers take their shopping journeys offline. Mobile, in particular, has bridged the gap between brick-and-mortar shopping experiences and virtual consumption and as a result, last millisecond targeting remains even after you pass through the (actual) doors to shop. Welcome to “last inch” targeting.
Delivering relevance on the go
This crossover has been in play for some time. In 2007, Stop & Shop and Modiv Media launched Scan It!, enabling customers to scan their groceries as they shopped, and providing a quick, convenient path to checkout. Taking it a step further, Stop & Shop began pushing targeted offers to shoppers based on their perceived location in the store or past purchases (consumers started by scanning their loyalty card). Buying bread, deli meat, cheese, and pickles? Here’s $1 off chips. Purchase pasta each week? Try this brand, and here’s an exclusive offer for that product plus grated parmesan. Modiv Media estimates the system saves shoppers, on average, 10–15 minutes and $7 per basket.
Push vs. pull—and when is “too much?”
These push notifications have countless applications outside of the aisle. Think about your own interaction with push alerts. You download an app and opt in for notifications . . . now you’re getting pinged with everything from a friend’s social post to breaking news to a Words with Friends challenge. A brand pushes content or information to you, with no other action on your part. Some consumers call it invasive, but is it? Remember, creepy is never relevant. In that vein, if a brand is delivering spot-on relevant content, offers, or information, bring on the push alerts! Bonus if they’re related to what I’m doing, thinking, or considering right now.
Push notifications paired with location add another dimension to this experience delivery. Adobe Target enables brands to target push alerts to consumers who last engaged from a predetermined location. Got a special one-day discount at your apparel store? Use geofencing to blast it to every app user within a set distance. Or think about stores that allow shoppers to buy online and pick up in store. What about a push alert that lets the buyer know his wireless keyboard is ready for pickup—and suggest he pick up some extra batteries, with a discount from a partner brand?
The challenge here is how to get consumers to opt in for alerts. Ride sharing apps like Uber have push notification acceptance bordering on 80 percent—knowing your car is arriving is of immense value. On the flip side, social apps hover under 40 percent—maybe I don’t need to know everytime my college roommate posts an update. Ensuring your brand is delivering meaningful experiences is key here, or push campaigns won’t just fall on deaf ears, they’ll fall on no ears. The geolocation piece adds even more push-back potential. Thirty-five percent of consumers won’t share their location with an app, and 58 percent have deleted an app because it tracked their whereabouts.
Then there’s the “pull” piece. You’re in the store and in the retailer’s app. Personalization is happening within the app, but it’s also extending into the brick-and-mortar experience—think Target Cartwheel. Here, you’ve selected offers, are actively browsing the store, and the app becomes the last millisecond pull. The consumer is engaged enough, already invested and connected—the pull experience is that much more organic.
Beacons and Bluetooth change the game
Beacons make mobile wallets, targeted couponing, and other location-based services readily available and accessible. According to the 2014 Adobe Mobile Marketing Survey, 18 percent of brands are currently using iBeacon technology, and 36 percent plan to in the next year. Who’s already on the microlocation bandwagon?
- Lord & Taylor is working with location-based coupon app SnipSnap to deliver mystery offers to consumers within 500 meters of stores. Swipe to get up to 25 percent off your purchase that day.
- Macy’s will install 4,000 shopkick devices, delivering gamified in-store experiences. The “kicks” will serve as points in a scavenger hunt. Consumers can earn rewards for carrying out various tasks while shopping.
- GameStop and Shelfbucks is personalizing shopping experiences by enabling consumers to see product offers, ratings, reviews, and expert content via beacon technology.
The challenge? These campaigns all rest on consumers enabling Bluetooth on their devices. Smartphones are notorious battery hogs, and many consumers switch Bluetooth off to save power. It’s not an insurmountable hurdle, just something to consider. It’s also another reason why relevance is so critical. If I’m getting value, I’ll gladly flip my Bluetooth on as I enter the store. You as the marketer just need to get me into the habit.
Making it matter
These campaigns rest on some assumptions besides Bluetooth usage—namely, that consumers need to actively engaging with one or more touchpoints, be it opening an app, allowing location access, scanning a loyalty card, or enabling push notifications. Depending on the payoff, this can be a hurdle. I’m not willing to do any of that if I’m getting a commercial pushed to my phone in return. But for a meaningful discount, gift with purchase, or content that makes my purchase decision easier, I’ll readily acquiesce. You’ve got to grocery shop for your family—how great would it be to get a surprise discount (or, likely, discounts) on products you’re already planning to buy? Or a reminder that, based on what’s in your cart, you probably need chocolate chips? The store and the brand benefit, too—maybe you’ll buy more of it or, at the very least, leave with a more positive impression of the retailer or brand. That’s what creates loyalists.
This shift has created infinite possibilities for companies like shopkick, SnipSnap, and RetailMeNot, who can push customized offers or coupons via their apps to targeted consumers during key periods. But it’s also generated significant opportunity for the individual retailers themselves—in fact, possibly even more. Many experts argue that the more an experience is directly branded—the more you, as the retailer, are doing yourself—the more you’ll engage loyal shoppers. Branded experiences are, simply, more powerful, especially once the consumer is in the store.
Just like you think “last millisecond” consumer experiences on your site or mobile platform, it’s time to think “last inch” in store. Consumers are relying more heavily on mobile throughout all phases of the purchase funnel. It’s no longer the “last mile” medium it once was. Providing immediate, actionable, spot-on relevant moments that connect the mobile/in-store dots enhances the consumer experience on both platforms and drives greater satisfaction, engagement, and conversion. Everyone wins.