Location, Location, Location
Kevan Christmas, Digital and Mobile Consultant at The Collinson Group, argues that real-time, location-based marketing via the mobile offers a new opportunity to enhance the power of loyalty programmes
There has been an increasing level of interest and debate in the topic of real-time, location-based marketing, and this will only increase as Google and Facebook enter the space in a serious way.
That said, I have been surprised at how little of the conversation has focused on the opportunities this new technology creates for brands with established customer loyalty and reward programmes.
For example, the mobile social network/game Foursquare has been in the news after signing up its first national UK brands - Debenhams and Dominos Pizza. The app detects Foursquare users whereabouts, and when they visit the store or restaurant they gain points for checking-in.
Brands get involved by offering deals to users based on, for example, the number of times someone checks in to their local branch. Businesses get increased footfall, and ideally, a network of brand ambassadors who will pass on recommendations. The consumer gets great deals that are relevant not only to who they are, but where they are, such as Debenhams giving Foursquare members a free cup of coffee in the restaurant when they check in
So its no secret that Smartphones and branded applications are an incredibly cost effective way of targeting and engaging consumers. By creating tools which engage and add value that your customer base can download and use on a regular basis, you can integrate with their lives in a way that advertising never has.
The iPhone is clearly the leader with respect to the app marketplace. While some point to the iPhones still relatively low penetration of the overall mobile market (at around 2%) and even of the Smartphone market (14%), it is quickly starting to grow in a market that will also continue to grow exponentially. It is also worth recognising that the iPhone already accounts for 50% of all mobile web traffic.
At Collinson Latitude we have a lot of experience working in the travel sector, and some of the software we are developing illustrates the potential of the next generation of apps that can use a Smartphones GPS capabilities in a way that enables brands to hit a moving target.
We are about to release a product that offers travellers a web-based suite of services that help them plan, prepare and manage their whole journey. The capabilities include itinerary planning, destination content, check-in services, and miles management, as well as airline timetables and flight status texts its a travel toolkit. Its also enabled with an iPhone application, so travellers will be able to carry on planning and managing their trips on the move, even when offline, avoiding expensive data roaming charges.
The key insight here is that loyalty programmes should connect with all the different stages of the customer journey (in every sense of the word), from planning to booking, and from departure to arrival. Mobile technology can actually be viewed as a very direct way to plug in to that journey, wherever the customer may be.
What this means is that we already have a good idea of where the customer is going to be and when, as well as knowing how much loyalty or reward currency they have. This can be matched against the various outlets that reward programmes have affiliate marketing relationships with. Also, as the customer loyalty programme provider, you already have a huge amount of customer data, including payment information. As a result, the mobile device could actually be used, even offline, to facilitate some of the purchasing processes.
Say, for example, the customer uses a mobile app to find the nearest hotel where they can spend their loyalty points; they could actually book a room and check in via their Smartphone. A key principle of properly developed reward programmes is that they use as much customer insight as possible to make sure that the services and products offered are exactly what the individual wants and needs. This data should be used not just to meet customer expectations, but to exceed them.
Its also worth noting that there is a lot of trust inherent in the relationship you have with your customer base, which retail partners can benefit from. Furthermore, because the customers payment details are not held on the mobile device, but rather, by you as the programme provider, no sensitive financial data needs to be transmitted. This resolves a major consumer fear and barrier to location-based marketing.
Another capability that mobile offers is to push messages onto the customers device. Relevance here is absolutely crucial; its a disruptive technique that can increase engagement with the right insight, but can easily irritate if the correct principles are ignored. There is a clear benefit, however, to being able to message a customer to let them know that now theyve touched down, there is a restaurant nearby where their reward points are worth double.
This intelligent monitoring is a key part of our development strategy. Previously, weve been able to narrow down the offers made to customers according to their pre-arranged travel plans, but now we will be able to target people, based specifically on where they are, with this next level of customer insight. So whilst you have a captive consumer waiting in duty-free, this can be directly integrated with your loyalty programme, offering them ways to redeem their points just as they are walking past a retail outlet you are partnered with. Moreover, based on their itinerary, specific products could be offered that are relevant to where they are going.
Utilising these highly accurate GPS capabilities will also create new data, with new patterns emerging of how your loyalty customers behave when on the move. Its effectively an entirely new way to observe consumer behaviour, and should potentially lead to us being able to pre-empt customer needs specific to where they are.
Just as your communications with the customer must be relevant to what the customer actually wants, however, so must your offerings match your brand values and the specific objectives of your loyalty programme. That could be seeking to reward and encourage high spenders; prompting low users to spend more; motivating your customer base to use more of your wider service and product offerings, and so on.
Finally, I think there is a real opportunity for reward programmes to use peer-based social media capabilities. So instead of the app just saying: Here are the five nearest car hire outlets where you can earn or spend loyalty points, it could say: Here are the top three in your vicinity according to ratings provided by your fellow Gold Card-holding members. Providing scores, notes, suggestions, related recommendations and so on from a group of people who have similar tastes, aspirations and levels of affluence creates a great deal of trust and authority. Obviously, companies like Amazon have been doing this for years, but connecting it with your reward programme via mobile technology takes the concept to an entirely new level of relevance, utility and engagement.