Have you opted in to receive text message offers? Have you downloaded the new shopping app? What about the new location-based couponing service? Does your phone have a 2-D bar code reader built in, or have you downloaded one? Have you used a shopping kiosk to connect to the online world?
If you ask someone aged 18 to 29, or perhaps 30 to 49, chances are they will answer, “Yes” to one or more of these questions. These two generations of customers who are most facile with technology are driving marketers and retailers to step up their game. And, there is a generation on the heels of Gen X and Gen Y who have cut their teeth on mobile devices.
At a time when self-service retail solutions and consumer acceptance of them are on an upward trajectory, a flood of mobile technologies offers the prospect of convergence at the kiosk. The task for marketers is to choose the technology that best fulfills objectives and is aligned with consumer segments. The task for suppliers of self-service solutions is to understand how new mobile technology can add value to what we design and produce.
The truth is we are trying to evaluate mobile tools against a moving target. It pays to know where consumers are, but in a rapidly evolving environment we are also called to figure out where they’re headed.
Where We Are With Apps?
It seems there’s an app for everything, but not everyone is for apps. In order to use a product or retail-sponsored app, we have to first download software to our phone, and we’re not all there yet. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 29 percent of adult cell phone users have downloaded an app to their phone. About half of the app-using population falls into the 18-29 age group, and there is a big drop off in app usage after age 49.
Pew’s Kristen Purcell believes app usage will expand as people become more familiar with their utility for customizing content and sifting through information to find what is meaningful.
IPhone owners have been the most intense users of apps. A surge of development for competitors like Google’s Android and RIM’s Blackberry will bolster app usage across a broader population.
Leading retailers and brands have developed applications, but if you build them it doesn’t mean people will come. Marketers have to promote their apps. Kiosks are useful in generating awareness, trial and downloads.
How Do Consumers Want to Receive Mobile Offers?
We have become a nation of texters. Seventy-nine percent of cell phone users send and receive text messages, according to Pew. Couple texting penetration with a population that is as deal conscious as ever, and there is demand for receiving offers via phone.
In a recent study of mobile shopping influences by Catapult Marketing, 14 percent of respondents have received text alerts from brands, but 25 percent expressed interest in using them in the future. When asked about receiving mobile coupons, 34 percent expressed interest.
The real question may not be whether but how consumers want to receive mobile offers. New location-based offers like Shopkick that detect when users are in the store combine rewards with relevancy. A feature that lets users scan bar codes for additional offers can solidly tie mobile technology to kiosks. Many of us in the industry will be watching to see the experience of Best Buy and Macy’s with this service.
What Is the Prospect for QR Codes in the U.S.?
Only a small percentage of people in the U.S. have used QR codes. We are seeing the usage of QR codes, or 2-D bar codes, jump from print media to in-store media. The simplicity of scanning and instantly engaging with content should be undeniably appealing; however the lack of a uniform platform for delivery means not all consumers have the appropriate software on their phones.
QR codes offer great promise in adding portability to information viewed on an in-store kiosk. Their usage at retail is limited only by our imaginations. The good news is that Catapult Marketing’s survey found 35 percent of respondents were interested in using them. The bad news is their widespread adoption will require education and patience on the part of the consumer.
There has never been a time when consumers have had such high expectations for informed and converged shopping; nor has there been a time when marketers and retailers have so many options to shape the shopping experience.
New mobile technologies will not supplant the need for self-service kiosks but in many cases will complement them and make the information and services offered by them more customer experience focused and portable. We could look at emerging technologies and over-hype their importance or look at the current adoption rate and underestimate where the consumer will end up.
We can’t overlook the value of testing and anticipating how various segments will adapt new tools into their shopping routines.
Ron Bowers and Frank Mayer & Associates are recognized for their expertise of the in-store merchandising marketplace. Their creative insight has developed leading edge point of purchase displays, digital signage, kiosks, mobile, and self-service retail customer experiences.