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Being Pushy Is Destroying Mobile Shopper Trust

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review (login required) points out the potential dangers of push notifications. We should also note that hbr.org is not practicing what they preach by asking to use the location data of their readers (great of HBR, but of no use to their readers). The article brings up some good points, yet it is indicative of a greater issue facing marketers and brands today: You are not in control of your messaging. The modern mobile shopper is in control, and they know it.

While everything the article says is accurate, for brands it is the middle of the conversation, not the beginning. Several reports note that shoppers don't just turn you off but actually seek out your competitors after what they perceive as a negative mobile experience (reports range from 60-64% of mobile shoppers). What is perhaps more important is that this negative perception is not driven by just your own vertical market. For example, most grocery retailers are behind in mobile; however, many other retail channels responded early to this mobile shift, and now it is an expectation of the modern shopper. Companies like Mondelez International will affect nearly all CPGs, not just competitors with their mobile first approach.

The old saying "you only get one chance to make a first impression" is especially appropriate in the mobility landscape. Abusing the privilege of reaching into a shopper's private, personal phone/tablet will get you shut out of future opportunities. Yes, mobile is the seventh medium, but it is the only one that is personal. What is acceptable to a shopper in other media is not acceptable on their phone.

Here are some steps to take to avoid becoming irrelevant to your shoppers:

  • If you have just added mobile as a channel to your current marketing, or if you have yet to engage your mobile shoppers at all, stop reading this and schedule a meeting with your marketing team now. Go ahead, we'll wait. This is critical.
  • Shift your marketing strategy to mobility, not mobile. Beyond the medium, mobility and the dynamic shift in shopper behavior it has brought need to be the center of this strategy; think long-term engagement and how mobile connects your shopper to your brand, with other media being nodes, connected by mobile.
  • Don't tell your shoppers your story; make them part of the story. Listening may be more important than telling to the mobile shopper.
  • Your mobile shoppers tend to be loyals. Your path to acquisition in mobile is letting these loyals become advocates. They are willing and able. Think beyond the coupon in terms of value. What saves them time, adds value to their life? They will shout this from the rooftops for you (or at least share on Twitter. Facebook and Pinterest).
  • Start with e-mail. With nearly half of e-mail opens on mobile devices, this is already affecting how shoppers view your brand. More than just a mobile version of your messaging, think outside of the "blast". If you are not already collecting behavioral data on your shoppers, you can jump-start this by making e-mail preferences more granular. Not only does this provide your brand with valuable behavioral data; it again gives the mobile shopper control. If the only control they have is to turn you off, then they will most likely take that option.
  • Make your shoppers want you to be pushy. Most apps use the default launch "This app wants to send you push notifications". This generally results in preferences as seen below. Push notifications are not just an opportunity to do what you have always done to your shoppers. Push is that chance to show your loyals that you get them and value their business. A great example of push notification success is the Walgreen's app. When you enter your prescription in the app (a great service by itself), the app asks if you would like to be notified when the prescription is ready. Who wouldn't say yes to that, as opposed to the generic request? As with e-mail preferences, don't just offer a yes/no opt-in; let shoppers control what they want on their phone.

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