It’s Hard For Retailers To Embrace New Mobile Marketing Technology


I’ve been engaged in a conversation in a mobile marketing group LinkedIn discussion where people involved in solutions such as mobile coupons are complaining that retailers are intellectually lazy and not looking to embrace new technology.

I argued that most retailers focus on BAU (Business As Usual), working in their business employing strategies and technologies they have used for years, which they understand and can deal with. They do not spend anywhere near enough time working on their business, including strategies to embrace new technologies.

sold outMany retailers have been hurt by one-day deal companies, where they gave up 50% and more in GP in the hope that if they gave great service, they would win new loyal customers. Of course we now know that didn’t work and the only ones that made big money out of it were one-day deal companies. They didn’t have to invest in inventory or carry any risk to speak of.

I’ve presented at a number of conferences on the topic of mobile and location based marketing. What I found really sad was that of all the delegates, the number of retailers at these events could generally be counted on the fingers of one hand.

I’ve been looking at how I could help retailers, particularly in New Zealand and Australia with solutions available today in a cost effective way. I think I have come up with a solution, but its going to take me a fair amount of time and money to deliver.

I will start in the area of Travel and Tourism, largely because they are more focussed on customers who are actively looking for services and new experiences and the industry is used to investing to win new business. Their market is also tough and the traditional business services continue to largely support those who own the systems, ie reservation engines, directories, commissions to tour operators, rather than retailers themselves. These businesses are easier for me to access and easier to quantify direct ROI. Also the individual transactions often have a higher dollar value, so if I can demonstrably increase their cashflow and profit and share in the gain, I can recover my costs more quickly.

I was thinking about how hard it is to get retailers out of the shop to talk to them and from years of calling on owner operator retailers in the past, trying to talk to them in their own environment with customers in store, that’s all but impossible.

So I’m thinking retail readers, if there are any here, and would welcome your feedback on the best way to get in front of you and your peers. The problem is that most of them will never read this. The majority do not attend retail conferences, they don’t even participate in their own main-street organisations. They don’t even do something as simple as co-promote their neighbours. I remember years ago hearing Mark Blumsky (past retailer and Wellington Mayor) talk at the New Zealand Retailers Association conference about how he collaborated with his neighbours by giving away free coffee coupons at the next door cafe to people who bought shoes from him and the cafe gave discount coupons for shoes to their patrons. Leading retailers (because they were at the conference) all talked about it during the lunch and coffee breaks, but I don’t know if a single one of them ever emulated the exercise.

We have amazing free services such as Foursquare and people have probably used one of these apps to check into your store. They may even be your Foursquare Mayor, but you probably don’t even know what Foursquare is.

You need to embrace mobile technology and I want to help. But you’re probably not reading this, so you will have to wait until I have helped some other people first. If you are reading this, leave a comment, connect with me and others who want to see Australasian retailers thrive and grow in this exciting new world. Learn at your own pace, but please step outside of BAU and do something. One little step a day is 365 steps a year and that’s quite a lot.

Nestle is tracking you down with Commandoes


Nestle in the UK has come up with a very cool imho marketing campaign. They are putting GPS chips in the wrapping of 6 food bars such as Kit Kats and when they are opened / activated, within 24 hours they vow to track down the chips, send in the commandos to find, and possibly scare the hell out of the people who bought them and give them 10,000 pounds.

This is a very cool use of location based technology that will fire up marketing people and those into location based marketing like me big time. CNET says that this campaign will appeal to men and perhaps they are not usually the target market for chocolate. In this case I suspect sales will go through the roof and while this campaign hasn’t yet gone seriously viral, I’m sure it will. It is also likely to be winning awards as TV cameras from around the world follow the commandos to the lucky people receiving the prizes.

Just as well they are using TVC’s and billboards with NFC and QR Codes to promote this campaign or people will be thinking that a new war has broken out.

Location based marketing is going to play a major role in our lives going forward and those who are in early will reap rewards by standing out from the crowd. This certainly puts a new spin on guerrilla marketing.

So how could you use location based services to grow your unfair share of the market? For more ideas, check out my other blogs at The Future Diaries and SoLoMo Consulting.


Ideas for Retailers including Borders and Whitcoulls


As I mentioned last week, I am speaking at the  Mobile Marketing Forum in Auckland next month. I’m going to share some good practical business ideas there that smart retailers and destination businesses can implement. You might catch the odd one on #NZSoMo on Twitter, but I’d recommend if you want to get into and ahead of the wave of new social media and location based mobile marketing, you should invest in attending this event.

Some time ago I talked about the situation with Whitcoulls and Borders. I said I had lots of ideas about how they could run their businesses more profitably without sacrificing their models. I’m happy to share some of my ideas, but not all of them, because I am thinking that maybe there is an opportunity to partner with some local developers or entrepreneurs to commercialize some of my ideas, seeing as the people in these businesses can’t see the wood for the trees.

I’m happy to share a few concepts to get things started and to show I’m not just full of hot air.

First is basics. Whenever a business starts falling by the wayside, the smart ones go to consultants or mentors. Often the business has gotten so busy they forget about what made them great stand out businesses in the first place and often they have forgotten good business practices.

A key one is stock turn by category. Some of the books I saw in the sales were going to struggle at $1 a book and should never had been stocked. How did Borders NZ decide what to stock in each category? Did they liaise with the people who read the books or just on what the publishers told them.

Back in the day the late Shaun Joyce of Sounds Music used to consult my daughter on which albums he should bring in for the big teenage market. She was big on music and researched amongst her friends which meant they got what they wanted and Sounds stocked what the segment wanted and it moved.

Shaun Joyce

I haven’t explored retail in the US for a number of years because it was no longer relevant to my current business environment, but that is changing, partly due to a new solution that GeoSmart is launching soon called BIonaMAP or Business Intelligence on a MAP. More on this in the near future but it is very exciting for lots of businesses including retail chains.

I fell in love with Borders in the USA. Shame they may not be there much longer.

They were innovative in lots of ways. there were 3 that I particularly liked (I’m not writing a book here folks!).

  1. They had book signings and meet the author every week (I’m talking about big city stores here). The ones I liked best were autobiographies, for example imagine going to a store, watching BB King play Lucille and sing a couple of songs, having a chat and then personally signing his new autobiography.
  2. They encourage you to read in the store and have a cafe you can take the books to. My first thought was, they will damage the books. My 2nd thought was now I can check a few books to find out which is the one I really want, especially for me technical or music related books. I very rarely go to a book store and buy only one book. This year I have bought at least 20 books from local stores and another 8 from Amazon.
  3. They have massive range, width and depth. If I want to buy anything other than a top 100 book (I’m not generally in the demographic for many of those).
I will come back with some advice and would love some feedback from you dear reader because part of the fin is coming up with the ideas.
My best business read this year has been Jeff Jarvis “What Would Google Do?” My first recommendation to whoever ends up owning and managing Whitcoulls and Borders (if they don’t just shut them down) has a mandatory read of this book. If they don’t come up with at least a dozen innovative, exciting and compelling ideas as a result, I’d suggest they resign from their jobs because they are stuck in the track of “This is how the book trade works, this is the way we have always done it”. Folks this is the way the book industry crumbles instead of making itself relevant. And no hanging a discounted eBook reader off a hangsell rack is not a modern way of doing business.
I will share some more ideas with you for those who need some sparks to get their thinking juices started, but I’m really keen for some participation here, so for each idea, I might also throw out some questions.
What do you think Borders and Whitcoulls can do better that would make you want to go to their stores and spend money?
I visited Borders on Saturday. They were having a stock take yesterday and I would expect some more sales coming up. Not much worth buying but I did get a copy of the 2010 book Kiwi Rock Chicks, Pop Stars and Trailblazers down from $49.95 to $5! They probably could have sold it in volume to the record store next door:(
Footnote, while I believe it is a long time before eBooks totally rule, but Amazon has announced that they have for the first time sold more eBooks for Kindle than printed books. Of course one issue and opportunity is the cost of freight, especially to NZ, but then that is compensated for by much cheaper books as long as you buy a few at a time.

What can they find out about you on Facebook and who is looking


I was having a discussion with my new Sales & Marketing Assistant today about permission and proximity based marketing and the impact that social networking is going to have on this market. The topic of Facebook came up and how it is different to other consumer facing networks. The key difference is that unlike ‘most’ social networking sites people use their real identities, names and other information rather than nom de plumes. This means that a huge amount of information could be available, much more than they might want known.

Who might want to use this information? Potential employers, lending institutions, the police, security services, marketing companies, loyalty companies, asociations, manufacturers, brands………………… Why? Lots of reasons, some good, some bad.

I may have mentioned in a previous blog that a major university in the UK is doing some research to find out what they can learn about their current students from Facebooks, and I’m assuming the exercise is to find out what they can learn without people’s informed consent.

It’s no secret that brands like Coca Cola are very interested in the ability to market to users of Facebook and I’m sure they will come up with some very cool games or other applications to get people to participate and then the fun begins.

Now the areas I am particularly interested in are proximity based marketing, in the long term using GPS based mobiles. Currently less than 4% of all phones have built in GPS and therefore tracking people’s whereabouts now is not a marketing proposition, but it will come. Subject to controls, and that is already looking difficult to impose, I would have no problem with a music shop sending me a text message saying “Luigi, we know you are close by, come and show us this message and we will let you have a play on our new Roland Guitar Synthesisor just in from the lab and if you by a set of strings while you are here, you can have a second set to the same value free.”

We know that in future fashion stores will have a database of their clients measurements, colours, likes and dislikes. I see in the future a scenario where a woman will get a PXT or Video message, saying “seeing as you are in the area, we’ve sent you this photo to show you what you will look like in the new autumn-wear that has just come in from Milan. Drop in in the next 30 minutes and we will give you a 25% discount on your purchase.”

But I digress as I often do. In marketing and collection of information, the theory is that you have consented to companies or organisations collecting and holding information about you and often you have unknowingly consented to their sharing your information with others. I am concerned that the definition of consent is blurring. If you put personal information onto your Facebook profile and for one reason or another people you have no direct relationship can access it, did you consent to their having it and did you understand what that meant.

For example, if you send a message or email to someone you don’t know via certain applications in Facebook, you will get a message saying that the recipient will be able to see your profile and information for 1 month, even if you don’t accept them as friends. Is that scary or what? People tell me that they don’t allow their information to be seen by strangers, but that’s what they think!

The thing about this phenomenon is that Facebook is not an application, it is a development environment that anyone can use to make applications that link in to the Facebook network through a range of API’s and Widgets with commonality in functions. In an environment like Bebo or even MySpace, you are really dealing with one company who have control of the environment, even if they allow people to add little Flash applications or plugins. Facebook is quite different. If I had the smarts, or the inclination, I could build a Facebook  application. Let’s say for example I decided to build an application for Flashmobbing. It may be a little old concept now, but I’m sure if I focussed on a High School or University as a start up location I could get hundreds of people to join up and I would then have access to their profiles.

There are lots of more criminal or sinister things I could do, but I don’t want to even mention them and give other people ideas, but I’m sure you get the gist.

I’m going to stop now, I have things to do, but this is what I’m thinking about. On the one side I would like to see a world of permission and location based marketing that knows what I am interested in and where I am, but on the other hand I want to be able to ensure that I am not pestered with spam and that my personal details remain personal.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)