Customizing the in-store experience

Move over dump bins, endcap displays and newspaper circulars and make room for the new high-tech kid on the retail block — digitization.
Smartphones and the concept of digital coupons may not be so new, but what is relatively new to the mass market and becoming increasingly pervasive throughout the industry is the use of mobile technologies and social networking platforms — by both retailers and manufacturers — to customize offers for today’s shopper.

“Their phone is really [the shoppers’] mini data device, so if you make things that function in that space, that also transpose to the regular computer, then it is a win-win,” said Alyson O’Mahoney, EVP and partner of Robin Leedy & Associates, an OTC health and beauty communications agency. “For example, when we do a Facebook offer for a client, we always make sure there’s a mobile-friendly link because so many people access their Facebook account via a mobile [device].”

Interestingly, a recent national survey of 1,027 respondents found that nearly 75% of consumers would switch brands if offered real-time mobile promotions delivered to their smartphones while shopping in a store aisle. The survey, sponsored by mobile commerce platform and applications provider AisleBuyer, also found that 81% of smartphone owners go to a drug store or supermarket with a list of items to buy; however, only 8% of this group list specific brands to buy. What does this mean? That many shoppers are making brand decisions while in the store, and retailers and brands have an ideal opportunity to influence pre-purchasing ‚Ä®decisions via a customer’s smartphone.

Clearly, technology is changing shoppers’ behaviors and, while the store experience remains important, it is becoming just one aspect of a larger, more connected and more personalized customer experience. Walgreens, for example, unveiled in early March the industry’s first mobile coupon program through Foursquare. Customers who check-in at any Walgreens store nationwide through Foursquare on an iPhone, Android or Blackberry will instantly receive a unique scannable coupon via their smartphone that is redeemable in the store. No texting or reply is required.

Meanwhile, CVS Caremark is piloting in 2012 a personalized circular. The personalized circular will enable CVS to target its ExtraCare loyalty program users, via e-mail or via its website, with offers specific to their needs based on their front store purchasing history.
It’s not just retailers. Brand marketers also are increasingly experimenting with cutting-edge technologies to better connect with a community and more accurately target a given demographic. One example is within beauty.

A recent report by international consulting and research firm Kline & Co. found that while there’s no cookie-cutter approach, the landscape for marketing beauty products has dramatically changed in recent years with brands moving from traditional advertising as promotional vehicles to also include mobile marketing, social marketing, enhanced loyalty programs and new sampling methods.

Kline & Co. noted that traditional couponing is being challenged by the growing trend of mobile marketing, where marketers are finding that mobile couponing offers significant advantages over paper-based forerunners in delivering higher redemption rates and encouraging impulse purchases.

Catalina Marketing also is working to help retailers and manufacturers stay connected to today’s savvy digital consumer. It launched in late 2010 its CouponNetwork.com site, a provider of online coupons and unique savings. Since that time, it has beefed up the site with such capabilities as a Video Rewards consumer savings solution and, more recently, launched “Like Rewards.” The new “Like Rewards” solution increases the value of coupons found on the site for consumers who “like” their favorite brands and offers on Facebook.

“If you look at how the online advertising industry evolved and, in particular, you look at couponing as it relates to other more traditionally newspaper-driven classifieds like auto or jobs, the auto and jobs advertising has really gone online — 60% or more of their marketing budget is going online. Consumer packaged goods and food is still pretty low, relative to the rest of the world,” said Susan Gear, general manager of CouponNetwork.com. “But if you look at how those other industries have evolved, they have really started to customize their communications and have been open to where and how those communications are delivered. So we’ll try to explore that as Catalina expands our digital channel capabilities over the next year.”

While it is important for industry players to embrace social and mobile strategies, O’Mahoney believed its important to remember that technology isn’t the consumer.

“There are so many great ways that are going to expose themselves to us, as brand marketers, going forward, but we still have to remember that that itself is not the consumer; it is just a communications tool,” O’Mahoney said.