Blog: Ron Bowers 

Ron Bowers (bio)
SVP, Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates

Monday, 27 June 2011
Smartphones are making people smarter, and they’re being used less as phones every day. People are using their mobile devices to simplify the tasks of daily life, and smart shopping is high on the list.

That much was obvious last week at the Mobile Marketing Association Forum, held in New York. One of the panels that drew high interest centered on how consumers are using mobile devices not just to buy goods and services but to find stores, contact businesses and make informed decisions prior to making a purchase at the traditional point of sale.

The results of a Google-commissioned study, The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users, revealed the following about U.S. smartphone owners:
•58 percent use their devices to go online daily
•70 percent using them while in-store
•74 percent make a purchase as a result of information obtained via their phone

People who are using smartphones to shop are being converted to purchase either in-store, online or even on their phones. There are numerous paths, and in-store merchandising and mobility are destined to become more closely linked, because engagement across channels and media has become commonplace and expected by consumers. Consumers want a seamless experience between online at home, on their mobile device and in the store.

At the Forum, John Hadl, CEO of Brand in Hand, shared his insights that, at the core, mobile satisfies the consumer’s desire to self-promote, look good and get information that helps him make decisions, engage in commerce, maintain relationships and be entertained.

Some of these desires are fulfilled when consumers interact on their phones with digital signage. Others will be fulfilled when they grab information viewed on a kiosk via text message or when they scan a 2-D bar code and link to it on their mobile device. Mobile lends connectivity and portability to a time-strapped consumer.

Consumer behavior is evolving rapidly. Retailers and brands readily admit they do not have strategies and tactics figured out yet. The message from panelists at the Forum was that retailers should test, learn, refine and test again. Marketers are working to find out what consumers want, when they want it and where they want it.

If we are to serve our clients well, we must be along on this journey with them. We as an industry need to facilitate the education and serve as an advocate for our clients. Kiosks and digital signage are activating media for the integrated cross-channel marketing programs for brands and retailers. We must be attuned to their strategies and keep track of shopper activity to engage consumers the way they want to be engaged.

The result of successful engagement is trial; the result of successful trial is loyalty. The end result of brand loyalty is a relationship that allows the customer to have input. When successful, you have created an evangelist for your brand!

The path to purchase will not be solely facilitated by mobile technology or another technology medium; it will be aided by mobile and the engagement of merchandising solutions we have created for retail, often working in tandem. This offers today’s consumers the opportunity for a true one-to-one relationship at retail.
Posted by: Ron Bowers AT 01:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  
Friday, 03 June 2011
A recent survey of U.S. consumers by MasterCard indicates 62 percent of U.S. mobile phone users would be open to using their device to make a purchase. MasterCard had a little fun with their survey and found out that 45 percent of women, versus 34 percent of men, would rather have their phones than their wallets surgically attached so they'd always remember them when leaving the home. If Near Field Communications (NFC) is as transformative as some speculate, it will make our mobile device an even more valuable appendage.

Much of the conversation about NFC revolves around the enabling of mobile payments and the cooperation needed among players to make the tap and pay option widely available. There was news in February that many international network carriers are driving toward standardization. More recently the three major U.S. carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile announced they will team up with MasterCard and Visa in the ISIS mobile payments venture.

New Blackberry and Android offerings are equipped with NFC and there has been much will-they-or-won’t-they speculation about whether it will be in the next iPhone. John Paczkowski, of All Things Digital, recently wrote in his Blog, that Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi, who believes Apple, will forgo supporting NFC on its iOS devices until consumer adoption is certain and it’s reached a critical mass with merchants. Sacconaghi went on to say, that currently, a very few U.S. merchant locations support NFC-based payments, which means the ramp-up to broad NFC infrastructure will likely be a long one. “NFC-based mobile payments require NFC-capable POS terminals,” Sacconaghi wrote. “Only 51,000 retail locations support contactless payments (per VeriFone’s 10-K); given that First Data alone deals with 4.1 million merchant locations in the U.S. this suggests current penetration of just over 1 percent of merchant locations. Sacconaghi concludes that clearly, a higher critical mass is needed before payments would take off!

Amidst this newsworthy backdrop, there is an opportunity to take a step back from the ecosystem and technology and think about the person doing the tapping. Andrew Berg, writing for Wireless Week, believes it will be customer focused benefits other than payments that will lead the way in orienting people to NFC and establishing the trust needed to gain a wide acceptance network of mobile payments.

NFC will facilitate a range of essential consumer activities. Right now most of the NFC trials in the U.S. involve payments. At the same time, Google is testing the use of NFC in certain cities for Places, its local recommendation service. and The New York Times will be delivering exclusive mobile content and offer Smartphone application downloads in a test of the out-of-home service mTag in San Francisco.

Most relevant to our industry is the targeted discovery it will enable. A tap of an NFC enabled phone can trigger offers and informative content at the point of decision, trigger an application download that promotes loyalty and ease the exchange of information. These are just some of the customer benefits that NFC will bring one day to the environment of kiosks, in-store merchandising and digital signage.

When all of the pieces are in place, NFC is a technology that can facilitate the relationship between the brand and the consumer. Consumers will decide if they want to be marketed to in this way. If they perceive real value, their early experiences will pave the way for closer engagement.

By 2015 iSuppli, a technology market researcher, estimates that 30.5 percent of handsets worldwide will be equipped with NFC. Will the readers of this blog incorporating NFC into their solutions help pave the way for consumer acceptance? Are we focused in on the Consumer Engagement possibilities yet? What do you think?

Posted by: Ron Bowers AT 10:36 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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