Archive | September, 2012

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.