Mobile Innovation in Out of Home Media

18 Nov

An evening on integration ‘traditional’ with ‘new’ media. In this event of our Amsterdam Chapter, we’ve showcased/discussed innovation in the field of Out of Home advertisement.

Local from its origins, mobile and social in this present time, the billboard has been transformed from a static surface to an interactive and geo-targeted advertising hub. Whether it’s free WiFi offered at a busstop or digital screens dynamically adapting to passing traffic, modern day OOH media are a blend of the familiar and the surprising. Or more importantly: a testing bed between what advertisers know to buy and what they would like to try!

Chapter President PJ Verhoef opens the event with an introduction to the speakers and a video on Screenscape: an example of how disruptive web-first business models can turn a traditional model upside down.


LocaModa Founder and Monster Media EVP Stephen Randall discusses how social, mobile innovation is used to amplify reach and results of traditional outdoor marketing campaigns.


Layar is represented by Marjolein Stromeier and VP Product Rags Vadail. They present inspiring examples of using augmented reality in out of home marketing.


Guy Grimmelt, director of Host and sponsor CBS Outdoor, presents local examples of how the outdoor media industry is transformed by using social, local, mobile marketing.


Check out the photos for an impression of a typical LBMA MeetUp!


The Changing Art of Location Intelligence

9 Jun

Mobile marketing and commerce is finally starting to deliver on the promise it has been for the past decade. Not in the least due to location based services, which are allowing the delivery of value and relevance to customers in a new way. But what’s still missing in most campaigns are the market analytics that allow for targeting a message or offer to relevant audiences. Help is underway from several platforms.

Most mobile marketing campaigns and apps that rise above the noise of daily hypes and trends, seem to have a creative/fun or discount angle, such as BMW with their Mini Getaway games or the many Coupon offers being developed.  From the headlines of tech blogs, you’d almost get the idea that the “old-fashioned” way of using market research to reach an audience is all but forgotten. Contrastingly, the potential of using location signals to do targeted mobile advertising is as promising as cookies once were. Ad platforms are starting to support the hyper-local awareness that’s now available through apps and search on smartphones.

It is not new that sales can be analysed on location, such as a country, city or postal code. Enterprise class GIS systems such as ESRI ArcGIS or simpler tools such as Microsoft Mappoint can be deployed to do geomarketing analysis on “big data” sets that are gathered from point-of-sales data. Brands use this to determine shelfspace in stores, new QSR locations or catchment areas of their sales staff.

Mobile scenarios however, promise new ways to locate an audience in realtime, allowing marketing strategies to target them at a physical place at the time they are there. These strategies should be informed and planned through the use of location focused marketing research tools. Below are some examples.

Search platforms

Though there are more mobile ad platforms such as AdMob, Smaato, WideSpace and Apples iAd, Google has the unique combination of its company’s search assets and mobile platform to lead the pack in location based intelligence and targeting. In Analytics, you can research to great detail where people are looking for your product. Through the revamped AdWords location targeting, mobile search engine marketing can be focused on a maximum of 10,000 individual locations (with an optional radius). Google claims that location targeting lowers paid search CPC by as much as 36%.

(Geo)Social networks

Although an increasing part of search is mobile, there’s more to mobile marketing than search. Social platforms are also increasingly being used on mobile devices and deliver an additional wealth of signals. In addition, geosocial apps and networks such as foursquare and SCVNGR,  provide the “opt-in” permission of a check-in, making a brand engagement easier.  “Traditional” social media monitoring tools however only analyse “keywords” in relation to a brand, which creates a “location blind spot” where this may be of great interest to a brand.

The Local Blind Spot

The Local Blind Spot

Burger King for example, may be quite interested in gathering a facebook comment like “this place is a mess” if it has been made at their restaurant, but that sentence would never qualify as a reasonable search term for monitoring platforms such as Sysomos or Radian6. In 2010 new platforms emerged that specifically analyse this space and in some cases allow for cross-platform targeting of ads. A non-comprehensive list:

Geotoko: recently acquired by Hootsuite, this tool analyses daily check-in data from foursquare, Gowalla/Facebook and Twitter. A neat feature is the location heat map, which visualizes the relative popularity of venues around the promoted location on these platforms. It emphasizes heavily on its promotional features that allow for a variety of sweepstakes, scan-to-win and other frequently used marketing tools.

Venuelabs: which is a smart pivot from the analytics platform Valuevine in 2011, is now positioned to become the “Klout of storefronts”. It’s Venuerank rating produces a score for brands to better understand how their local storefronts are doing. This scoring model is designed around an array of location-based dimensions, including, Reach on platforms, the frequency and levels of customer engagement at storefront level, the size and influence of a storefront’s community and the (expressed) sentiment of customers at the location.

Momentfeed: positioned as the “Google Analytics of the real world”, aggregating data from across various geosocial networks to present a more complete look at consumer, real world behavior. It is currently using data from the API’s of Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook (with ever growing plans to pull in activity from other platforms. On top of filling a large database with check-in data for cross-platform and historic analysis, it competes with Venuelabs with a proprietary algorithm to determine the level of engagement at a location.

Operator and in-store marketing intelligence

Operator driven geofenced offersand indoor position technologies are allowing for a new field of location based marketing, triggered by the customer’s presence nearby or even inside a venue.  In the (UK) example of O2 More, over 6 million subscribers opted in to receiving SMS coupons, triggered by their preference (e.g. movies) and their vicinity to a participating venue (e.g. theaters). In the US, Shopkick offers promotions to mobile customers that simply walk into a participating venue, eliminating the need for people to check-in altogether. Larger malls are actively experimenting with smart indoor positioning technologies, that use (an app on) the visitors phone to push information and advertising of their merchants. All these platforms are creating loads of valuable marketing data that are currently already accessible to participating brands and merchants. New technologies, such as used by WifarerViewsy, Yfind, and others, even make it possible to identify hotspots, dwelltimes and return visits to indoor locations as detailed as shopping aisles.


Indoor Heatmaps

Indoor Heatmaps

Advanced location targeting

Companies such as Localsensor and PlaceIQ use anonimized traces from Ad Exchanges and Real Time Bidding platforms to allow for highly focused customer profiles. Imagine targeting “Double Income No Kids couples on a beach in France when it’s starting to get cold”. Or perhaps you’d want to retarget ads to an audience that has just visited a (not your) festival? Sounds creepy? Click-through rates on these ads are phenomenal so we’ll have to see what the audience will decide. Below some interesting case studies that use location targeting to increase the relevance and impact of the campaign.

Creepy? Funny? Let us know which one you (dis)liked most and why!

Have A Location? You’re In The Media Business

23 Jan

For many small businesses focusing on one product, a particular niche and customer service has always been a banner for success.  But, in challenging economic times, new ideas and opportunities often emerge.

One such opportunity is to view your small business as an untapped resource for the placement of out-of-home or digital-out-of-home, media.

Effectively we are talking about the rental of space within the four walls of your business to external advertisers.

dentalscreenDigital Clinic a division of Wand Corporation, which is a major player in the quick serve restaurant category for providing digital screens and menu boards, has recently announced Facebook integration for its digital signage system for dental and doctors practices.

With Facebook integration, Digital Clinic creates a new social engagement platform practitioners can use to build social media presence and reach customers.

Essentially, these clinics are showcasing positive comments, feedback, customer reviews and testimonials from Facebook onscreen in the waiting area or lobby, doctors and dentists can build and enhance their reputation and encourage patients to connect.

The digital signage system from Digital Clinic also integrates with Twitter and Demandforce to further leverage and promote social media and online reviews.

In a similar vain, Canadian company Rouge Media Group has turned their attention to women’s beauty salons. Seems like a no-brainer. Consumers in a relaxed atmosphere for hours on end; what better time to sell?

Such places routinely showcase hair products, skin-care products and make-up, but marketers had not systematically used them to push clothing, food or non-beauty services.rougemedia

The company has signed up 150 venues, which agreed to accommodate their glossy murals for products ranging from shoes to banks to reality TV shows.

The “thousands of dollars a year” individual salons can earn “seemed a business proposition too good to be true” to the places Rouge initially contacted, said the company’s president, Martin Poitras. “Until we paid them the first cheque, I think they all had doubts. It’s good incremental income, effortless.”

With a new medium like this however, convincing brands of the potential can often be challenging.

“It certainly was a different approach to purchasing out-of-home space and marketing real estate,” said Lindsay Cook, Director of Marketing, Joe Fresh, Home & Entertainment, which used the program for a make-up line.

“I highlight my hair and spend hours upon hours in those places and usually find myself staring at the wall in the same spot for a long time, so it seemed like a great idea to have some of our Joe Fresh collateral up there.

In a new world, with challenging economic times it’s clear that small business owners and media platform companies alike are finding new ways to engage consumers and drive revenues.

It may not be sexy.  It may not be mobile, but it certainly is profitable!

The Dutch SoLoMo Ecosystem

14 Dec

ESA-BIC LogoIf the engagement at last night’s LBMA Event at the European Space Agency incubator ESIC was any indication, there is great future ahead for the SoLoMo community in The Netherlands. With speakers and panel members from local start-ups like Scoupy, Whatser, Spaaza, Localsensor and Flirtmart, the attendees were treated to excellent content and discussion on entrepreneurship in this space. Add in those speaking on behalf of incubators RockstartStartupbootcamp and Rhodan and people walked away with understanding the phases of a start-up, from incubation through acceleration to adoption. Big thanks to the sponsors of the evening, ESA-BIC and GeoRun for making this event free for most attendees.

Intro by PJ Verhoef

Local chapter president PJ Verhoef kicked off the evening by thanking “Amsterdam” to travel well outside their comfort-zone to meet each other at the intersection of rocket science and business incubation. Going through the background of The LBMA in Europe, he invited attendees to apply for (“founding” or regular) membership by detailing the benefits of each.

The Role of the Incubator by Martijn Weeber

Martijn explained what incubators and accelerators can offer to start-ups in general, and space related technology in particular. After showing some of the rocket science start-ups under their roof, he put forward an attractive  invitation to apply for the upcoming call for proposals, with grants of up to 50k euro for R&D. Incredulous start-up entrepreneurs asked how they could make money if no equity was involved in the deal. The answer is that ESA is looking to transfer their technology to society through entrepreneurs such as present.

Scoupy from Incubation to Acceleration to Adoption by Valentijn Bras

With a pace as fast as the growth of his company, Valentijn went through the history of his mobile couponing start-up. Along the way, many decisions were taken that proved to provide a basis for their current success. Amongst which were the choice to invest heavily in (expensive) SME sales from the start and to be very selective on the type of venture partners to use at pivotal moments of the growth cycle. Valentijn ended in style, by announcing their new branding campaign and offering a special “LBMA” location based coupon with some great prizes for the attendees.

What we Learned at Whatser by Michiel Verberg

Michiel helped all existing and aspiring entrepreneurs in the room with a great talk on lessons learned in his company. Starting out as a mobile city guide, Whatser discovered a few pitfalls  about the market that can be avoided, but more importantly, distilled new opportunities from these challenges. The Dutch LBMA had its first scoop in its history with the announcement of Whatser’s pivot business concept. Michiel will likely have spent a lot of time at the networking party answering questions on detail. We’ll all just be looking towards further announcements, coming very soon.

The formal part of the evening ended with a great discussion by our panel on topics ranging from the threat and opportunity of LBM to retail and the investment climate in The Netherlands through the most interesting/important developments for 2013. During drinks, many attendees said they liked the combination of high quality speakers and attendees with a more intimate setting. “At bigger conferences (that attract the same bigger names) often one is lost in the crowd, looking for interesting and relevant networking contacts”, was heard several times. We’ll commit to keeping our events focused and intimate like this for the coming year.

Sounded interesting? Come join us at next event or contact us for further information on membership.

Bridging the gap between Clicks and Mortals

16 Nov

Why do I get a coupon in a local magazine for a shop nearby, while the brand I buy at this shop is pushing a mobile ad with a discount to a webshop? Why does this billboard tempt me to travel to Turkey for  a weekend, without giving me the option to book (or at least bookmark) the trip online?

I don’t want this color, I don’t want to stand in line for the cash register and I want an instant comparison between 5 products in this category. Why can’t I order this product directly from their webshop, with my smartphone? Oh wait, let’s just scan the barcode and buy on Amazon.

Smartphones & tablets will present both the diversity and comfort of webshops, as well as an augmented shopping experience at local retail. In that sense the technology could provide for a level playing field for pureplay ecommerce and bricks & mortar retail. All too often, digital marketing & commerce innovations are developed in silos, benefiting only an online or offline retailer, while the consumer has no need or benefit from a fragmented buying experience to answer questions like the above.

Bridging this gap for retail and brands is not an easy feat, since the pace of chance is simply breathtaking. We’re rapidly bringing the web with us into the streets and into shops, which are only just trying to figure out how to deal with the challenges of eCommerce. It’s difficult to choose which trend to follow and which to wait out. It’s particularly difficult to choose which technology to bet on and which to discard. The rumored move of Google into same-day delivery services is a great example of how ambiguous the benefits of new technology can seem for retailers.

The idea behind the new delivery service is that people searching for products online or on their phones could buy something from a local retailer or the local branches of nationwide chains, and could then take the next step –delivery– through Google. Over the past years, it has enhanced its product search and introduced new (mobile and online) ad formats for retailers. It now shows sites that carry an item and compares prices and shipping fees, and connects with stores’ inventory feeds to show where the item is in stock nearby. The new service would be an extension of that.

“Same-day delivery through Google could help physical retailers compete with e-commerce companies, by offering the convenience of shopping without leaving home. At the same time, online retailers offering same-day delivery could make life even harder for physical retailers, because letting people own something the same day has become physical retailers’ biggest remaining advantage.”

The online and offline worlds are merging and commerce is one of the first realms to see the result. Health, government and education are trailing closely. With the smartphone, we’re connecting our human experience and preference, augmented by advanced sensors, to the wealth of online information and social sharing. According to some knowledgeable sources, there’s a freaky, contextual and automatic world coming. As the phone (or the cloud that it connects to) learns our daily rhythms, travel patterns, product preferences, health status and whatever next personal need we’ll be using apps for, we can use this for delivering on a big promise.

The end game is a world where -through advanced marketing technology-, production and sales can be tailored so closely to consumers requirements, that we eliminate most of the waste caused by imperfect information.

Waste in creation of dispensable products and services. Waste in overproduction and stock. Waste in logistics & distribution. And yes, waste in marketing, selling and servicing those unwanted products.

How Restaurants Can ‘Listen’ to Location-Based Services

7 Nov

How Restaurants Can ‘Listen’ to Location-Based Services.

Mobile, Social, and the Reality of Retail

27 Sep

With the internet in their pocket, today’s retail customer stands before you, ready to share, review, like, check-in or otherwise communicate their physical experience to who knows how many friends or followers in the virtual realm. Mobile devices are increasingly enabling retail customers to be in two places at once. On the other side of the counter however, there is a different reality; one that has only ever been concerned about meeting the needs of that person directly in front of you.

This new reality in retail is quickly disrupting the customer service models we have used for years. While customers go sit down and go online, those at the counter simply get to deal with the next customer.

Add to this the reality that many of these empowered consumers will say things online that they may not say face to face. With many more businesses starting to engage in these new realms, expectations around customer service are increasing and accountability at the local level will continue to rise as well.

Clearly we should be concerned about what is happening in the virtual realm. Search engines love this kind of hyper-local content and done right, engaging in meaningful ways can yield great benefits for brick-and-mortar businesses. Figuring out a strategy that will work best for your business is going to be the trick.

For starters, here are 5 ways to retailers can stay relevant online:

  1. Understand the big picture and the impact that the use of these technologies is having around expectations and accountability. Your opportunity to extend the good conversation also needs to be understood. Impart that understanding to those on the front lines, those in the C-suite and everyone in between.
  2. Be an active listener. Getting visibility to the content being created online is critical if you have any interest in being relevant within those communities. Awareness and listening are just the beginning. If there is one comment or customer service issue voiced online, you can bet there are others that aren’t being communicated. Google alerts are just the low hanging fruit. Real-time Twitter searches for brand names and mentions are a good place to start. Many great (and free) tools are available to help with monitoring and engagement.
  3. Play the game. Download, signup and at least start to understand the mechanics and the dynamics involved with the social and mobile applications your customers are using. Don’t know? Ask them. Step 2 above will help identify what communities your customers are using.
  4. Be a curator. Brand stewardship means collecting and distributing the stories and experiences customers are sharing about your product or service. Impart those stories to the rest of the organization. This will help reinforce item 1 above.
  5. Be a creator. Understand the long term benefit of consistently creating relevant and valuable content for your audience. Be a leader and authority in your industry online and be helpful. Then you’ll have the awareness, affinity and purchase consideration when the time comes. This kind of investment online will protect you in several ways. Start with answering questions about your brand before someone else does.

For more pointers and actionable strategies, consider The Tasti D-Lite Way: Social Media Strategy Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave.

BJ Emerson is a LBMA member and the VP of Technology at Tasti D-Lite as well as co-author of The Tasti D-Lite Way; Social Media Marketing Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave.

Considered a social loyalty pioneer in the industry, in 2010 he led the deployment of the first ever loyalty platform to feature an integration with Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare which has been recognized with a variety of industry awards. His projects were featured as case studies in 7 different books published in 2011 and he provided the foreword to Location Based Marketing for Dummies.

BJ speaks throughout the United States as well as internationally on a regular basis on the topics of social media, technology and customer loyalty. His passion for being an ambassador and empowering others with technology can be seen through the innovative solutions and campaigns he manages.

New Hyperlocal Opportunities as TV Goes Social and Mobile

11 Sep


For years now, we’ve been sounding the death knell of traditional television in favor of online and mobile viewing. But the demise of TV just hasn’t happened. According to Mike Proulx, co-author of Social TV: How Marketers Can Reach and Engage Audiences by Connecting Television to the Web, Social Media, and Mobile: “What Nielsen has been reporting for the past couple of years,” he says, “is we’re now watching more TV than we’ve ever been, in spite of the rise of both online and mobile video viewing.”

According to Proulx, between 60-70% of people, also have a second screen device, such as a laptop, an iPad, or a mobile device, when they’re watching TV.

A recent example of this is the relationship between Twitter and the networks. @CBSBigBrother has been leveraging the service to bring fans even closer to the on-screen action. For the first time ever in prime-time reality television, followers can influence components of the show via a Twitter vote! Now in it’s 14th season, Big Brother has started to incorporate Twitter directly into the broadcast – from showing live Tweets from viewers on air to allowing viewers to influence components of the show decided by a live Twitter vote.

The Role of Location
Looking further at the role location plays in TV leads us to two key areas of opportunity.

The first is the collection of locationdata from Twitter and other social TV platforms enabling networks to identify high and low geographic engagement regions — and leading to responses in the form of ad spend to supplement coverage in underperforming areas.

The second is the relationship between the viewers’ location and the presentation of offers/deals by brands with directions to locations at which the consumer can purchase/interact with those brands.

We’ve seen several examples of this type of engagement recently. From platforms like Shazam connecting users to commercials from Coca-Cola during the Olympics on NBC, or Toyota during the Super Bowl, to Foursquare-like platforms such as GetGlue and Miso focused on content check-ins and rewards with brand partners like the Gap and Pepsi.

The Demographic Brands Want
A new study from Horowitz Associates – Multiplatform Content and Services 2012, looks at the relationship between social media and television.  The study shows that social media disproportionately impacts the viewing behaviors of younger consumers: One-quarter (24 per cent) of 18-34 year old adults and 30 per cent of 15-to-17-year-olds have started watching a show on TV because of something they saw online or through social media, compared to 16 per cent of total 18+ adult consumers surveyed.

For advertisers, especially those that have physical locations (retailers, financial institutions, restaurateurs’, etc.) at which consumers can interact with them, it’s paramount that they explore the new abilities afforded between television viewership and mobile location services to drive traffic to those locations.  This younger consumer is clamoring to become a brand advocate and constantly seeking new ways to interact with the brands they love.

The Online Viewing Opportunity
When you consider OTT providers and network operators such as Netflix, who regard TV as an on-demand service, much of their focus around a social strategy has centered on building forums to support their non-linear content.

Netflix allows users to let their family, friends and associates know what they’re watching and make recommendations. Word-of-mouth marketing has become an invaluable tool for most brands, so social recommendations and conversations are extremely useful for operators. As more content is created, the valued seal of approval from a friend will be an important selection mechanism in the viewing selection process.

The opportunity for these providers and the brands that may choose to advertise with them lies in their ability to gather and analyze IP-based geo-location data. Working with companies like Digital Element that delivers these services, brands will be able to provide hyperlocally targeted content and ads online, in much the same way that Nielsen supports them in traditional television.

As content becomes much more accessible on these devices, the sky’s the limit on what the notion of TV really is, and that’s why it’s going to survive.

People all too often think of TV as the physical TV set, but in my opinion, TV is about programming and content — and whereand how we experience that content is up to our individual preferences. Television clearly isn’t going away. In fact, thanks to social media, mobile and location services it’s entering a new renaissance.

How Real Estate Agents Are Using LBS to Connect Buyers and Sellers

4 Sep

Real estate has always been about “location, location, location,” but that maxim is truer now than ever. Mobile apps and location-based services are increasingly becoming an important part of a real estate agent’s marketing arsenal, and an important part of the way prospective buyers find places to live.

Leveraging the Check-In
Facebook and Foursquare present interesting networking tools for location-based engagement. The ability to know where consumers are via check-ins or to identify others around you presents a great opportunity for real estate professionals.

For agents it presents the ability to broadcast their open houses and other events in real time to a quickly growing base of mobile-engaged users. Best of all, the cost of rolling out campaigns on Facebook or Foursquare is often negligible or even free. And prospective clients that see your updates in real-time can react immediately if they are interested in a property.

Real Estate Advertising on the Rise
“The agent of the near future is likely to be the most socially-savvy, mobile-connected business in town,” stated Borrell Associates’ 2012 Real Estate Advertising Outlook report. The report suggests that targeted display ads will eclipse email to be the primary ad format, making up nearly half (47%) of ad spending, while video advertising will double to 22%. Both ad types are expected to flourish as real-estate advertisers turn to emerging platforms, like social media and mobile, to connect with prospects and improve ROI.

An estimated 62% of real-estate agents maintain a social site, with an average of 535 friends and followers each — a third less than the typical small and medium-sized business. But the local media research firm expects social to play a growing role in advertising.

On the mobile front, agents are early adopters. They are 38% more likely than the average SMB to have used mobile marketing in the past year, and 53% more likely to be planning use before the end of 2012. Falling costs and off-the-shelf solutions should help more realtors establish a mobile presence in the coming years.

The Power of a Code
Xpress Realty, a Milwaukee firm, recently launched Xpress Connect, an online marketing program that incorporates Microsoft Tags (a QR code like feature).  Xpress Connect integrates a number of disparate methods for connecting home sellers and buyers through the Internet via mobile technology. Each property listed for sale in the Xpress Connect program has its own dedicated website, YouTube video feature, and social media listings along with various online advertising opportunities.

The social media marketing platform also offers Microsoft Tag signage through its Smart Sign program, directing customers scanning the Microsoft Tag directly to the property’s unique website. It’s location-based marketing at its finest.

Another company, FloorPlanOnline, offers an iPad app that allows potential homebuyers to interact with properties before they view them in person. Users scan a dedicated QR code that then links interested parties to the FloorPlanOnline sample tour. Homebuyers can then view floor plans, photos, videos, and more.

The app works on any tablet device, not just the iPad, and can also be accessed via the Internet. The company also offers advice for listing agents on how to maximize the experience for your property, and offers a scannable QR code directing to a sample tour. Integrating Microsoft Tags and QR codes allows real estate firms to create an online presence for their properties and reach potential buyers all over the globe with a single click or scan.

Layering Data on Maps and Beyond
UK-based is all about enriching the consumer’s experience via a mobile handset. Users of the mobile offering can open an augmented reality app on their iPhone, and by looking through their viewfinder at buildings directly around them, see property information is displayed on screen such as price, direction and distance from the user’s location.

Lastly, there’s PadMapper an apartment rental search engine in the market with over a million visitors each month. PadMapper’s offers real time filtering and a unique browser interface that displays apartment listings as the user moves around a full screen map. Zooming into the map loads more listings in that area, zooming out broadens the search. Listings are filtered out or allowed back into the results as filter sliders are moved. PadMapper delivers apartment listings from hundreds of Internet listing and classified sites, assuring its users a robust search experience.

No matter your choice, check-ins via Foursquare or Facebook, QR codes on your signage or augmented reality property finders, mobile and location based tools can no longer be ignored as valuable tools for the real estate marketing professional.

LBS Marketing Spotlight: Restaurants

28 Aug

With today’s consumers always connected and always looking for convenience, it seems obvious that that restaurant owners would want to engage them on the mobile battlefront. New data from Nielsen found that 47 percent of all smartphone owners, used mobile apps Shopping/Commerce category in June. While these results are not specific to restaurants, they indicate that consumers want deals, and that they want to easily interact with businesses without having to jump through hoops.

Creating Loyalty
Restaurants that want to stay ahead of the curve need to utilize their mobile apps as a source for offering programs for loyal diners. According to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Industry Forecast, 57% of adult consumers are more likely to choose restaurants that offer a loyalty rewards program. Meanwhile, 40% are using smartphones to look at menus and order take-out.

Whether you build your own app or choose to use of the vast array of mobile and location-based solutions in the marketplace, is a difficult question.  Whatever your decision, digital menus, restaurant locators and online ordering are now the bare minimum that consumers expect. Serious thought should be given to location-based deals, group discounts, mobile payments and loyalty program integration. However, a restaurant that wants to create true loyal customers needs to integrate all of your program elements to the app as well.  Make sure you allow diners to check their point status, receive rewards and be able to store them in one place.

One innovative way example of this is Kansas City-based Front Flip.  The company has essentially created a digital punchcard system that owner/operators can use to incent sales during slow times and reward repeat business for loyal customers.

According to CEO Scott Beckner “Users can download Front Flip, then scan Flip Codes at participating retailers to get a virtual scratch card that offers a chance at a prize. For businesses, Front Flip offers access to customer data and helps them keep and reward customers through targeted mobile outreach.” Companies like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Hooters, 54th Street Grill are already using it.

Track and Target Your Best Customers
A loyalty program that’s integrated in a mobile app can track based on frequency or spend, depending on what fits your restaurant best. You can tailor personalized offerings to their app based on what you know about them from their activity. Then you can fully understand your best customers and reward them for their patronage within one centralized system.

Extending loyalty to payments
It’s not only about rewards and specials to incent customers, but increasing about making it easy to transact too. In April the TGI Fridays chain released new apps for iPhone and Android that lets customers start a tab, keep track of their bill, and pay it right from their phone. Currently, 350 of the chain’s 600 locations nationwide are now accepting the new mobile payment method.

“This new app puts the Friday experience at guests’ fingertips – whether they’re looking for the closest Friday’s to celebrate and indulge or if they want to pay their bar tab quickly,” Ricky Richardson, chief operating officer at T.G.I. Friday’s, said in a statement.

The app’s payment functionality is powered by a platform called TabbedOut, which launched earlier this year at SWSW in Austin, Texas. The app automatically integrates with Friday’s point of sale software, allowing customers to pay their bill without the need for additional hardware.

These are just a couple of examples of how restaurants can start engaging customers using mobile and hyperlocal services, but it’s clear that mobile marketing is going to be key for restaurants in the future.