Customer loyalty at the phone tip

On the occasion of Walmart’s 50 years in business, a recent article in Business Week highlighted how each week more than 140 million Americans shop at Walmart, a figure that far surpasses the audience of the 2012 Super Bowl (one of the most watched television events in the US) or the voter turnout of the 2008 presidential election. Back home on Australian shores, the situation will be fairly similar if we were to compare shoppers at Woolworths or Coles and the footy finals or announcement of Australia’s Got Talent winner, which was the most watched show last year.

The question I ask now is: which avenue presents more marketing and brand engagement opportunity? Consumers at home (or wherever they are watching the shows) or shoppers standing in front of your product? Point-of-purchase (POP) is still such an untapped potential for most marketers. It isn’t too often you hear of a marketing strategy that is led by POP and in-store marketing. It still forms a support function for the above-the-line and other marketing functions. That’s despite the fact that almost 70% of purchasing decisions are made in store.

In a world fragmented by technology and short consumer attention span, the need to create and retain brand loyalists through every available opportunity is more important than ever. We don’t have any excuses for not doing this either – not when the infiltration of technology is making solutions more cost effective and easy to manage. The coupon and loyalty cards which were the mainstay of most loyalty programmes is now evolving to integrate through omni-channel marketing into comprehensive social media campaigns. Technologies such as QR codes and as near-field communication (NFC)(eg. Tapit) are shaping this new wave of retail marketing and that’s the opportunity for marketers, retailers and brands.

Have a think of how new shopper behaviour patterns are shaping your marketing and retail plans. In the past, shoppers would go into a store, review the selections presented and make a choice on the product. This process would to an extent be influenced by advertising seen prior to, on the way to, or at the store. In the digital age, most empowered shoppers research purchases prior to store visit and will shop with an agenda and a clear idea of expectations. The opportunity here is in POP and how marketers convince these shoppers to not just change their mind and pick up their product, but also engage with the brand to become a loyalist.

Where in-store advertising aims to influence impulse purchases, NFC technology goes two steps further to create brand engagement and give marketers the ability to roll out integrated campaigns easily. Imagine a shopper walking up to a fridge to pick up a couple of beers on Friday night. With NFC technology, the said shopper could place his phone on the fridge and have the latest footy scores sent to it instantly – adding a little bit of value and excitement to his purchase. Or, to make it more engaging, the advertising message could prompt him to enter a competition to win tickets to the State of Origin game. In a ‘here and now’ world, loyalty and gratification is made instantaneous by such technology.

The real-estate associated with the display unit also increases when you have stronger audience engagement with it. The relevance of display units within the marketing framework gains more relevance from the shopper’s perspective. From a POP design and manufacturing company’s point of view, this builds a stronger case for semi-permanent and permanent displays that display easily-updatable messages. More women buying beer from the display unit than men? Just update your marketing content at hundreds or thousands of sites from a desktop to share recipe ideas using beer or calorie counts of different beers.

With most phone manufacturers around the world committing to NFC and marketers slowly acknowledging the importance of integrating all campaign touch points with technology, this just could be the next big opportunity for brands. It lets you own the channel and not just the brand and makes your POP very pertinent in the future. And, it also helps measure the effectiveness of campaigns successfully and in almost real-time.

 

Georgie Torrens
BY Georgie Torrens ON 19 November 2012
Georgie Torrens is marketing manager of Creative Instore Solutions, a global point-of-purchase design and manufacturing company headquartered in Sydney. She was part of the team that started the company in 1995.