We’re constantly searching for the most effective and innovative approaches to marketing products and services. Too often we can be behind. We’re in the position of adjusting and modifying approaches that already exist, trying to match them with products and services that already exist. This approach has always been around, but it often fails to engage consumers as it’s not the most effective tactic. As marketers, we can do better by recognizing that marketing innovation needs to start at the point of product inception. We’re looking to build the experience we want the consumer to have right into the design of the project.
The future of marketing is engagement
Marking innovation starts at product inception, but it doesn’t end there. The engagement process itself is critically important to building a successful relationship with the customer — one that’s emotional more than transactional; one that’s long term; and one that provides value wherever they are. Engaging consumers locally is more important than it’s ever been. With the maturation of mobile, it’s more possible than ever before.
It’s an idea that you can see in play right now that accounts for some of the most innovative and successful customer experiences. Look at what shopkick and Nike are doing together. Open the shopkick app and walk into a Nike store and you get a welcome message with 60 kickbucks, which can be redeemed for special offers. Walk into that same store several times and you can amass enough kickbucks for a $25 gift certificate just for being a return customer. shopkick drives foot traffic to local stores, making it possible for retailers to unlock the marketing potential in foot traffic alone.
Take the example of American Express and foursquare. Syncing your American Express card to foursquare creates another opportunity for hyperlocal customer engagement. By checking in at a retail store via foursquare, your smartphone finds and downloads exclusive specials to your Amex account. All you have to do to access these savings is use your American Express card. The process couldn’t be simpler, and it again drives foot traffic and sales.
Hyperlocal is critical to the future of engagement. Let me illustrate its importance with something that happened to me last week.
In the middle of a presentation I was giving in Chicago (yes, I was on stage in front of hundreds), a microphone jack broke off in the port on the side of my MacBook Pro. Snap. I got through the presentation fine, although I had to do the voice-over for the video since the audio on my Mac was dead. Later that day I had to fly to New York to give a presentation the following morning. There was no time to head to an Apple store to have the problem fixed.
Throughout the rest of that day and on the flight to New York I tried to get the broken jack part out of the Mac. No luck. There was simply no way I was going to be able to remove it myself. To make matters worse, I needed that particular MacBook for the presentation I was giving in less than 10 hours.
I would have been sunk just a few years ago. But here’s where Apple’s engagement philosophy showed its value to me in a graphic way with tangible benefit. The impact and importance of the hyperlocal engagement made possible by mobile came into its own.
As soon as I landed, I picked up my smartphone and searched for Apple store locations in New York. Not only did I find that the largest Apple store in the U.S. is in New York, I found that it’s open 24-7. I told the taxi driver to take me to it and while en route I scheduled a Genius Bar appointment. I arrived at the store just before midnight. Once there I was told that a new logic board was going to need to be put in. Not to worry. I could leave the laptop and it would be ready by 6:00 the next morning.
When I returned the next morning, my Mac was fixed. And because I was still under warranty, the entire $400-plus repair was free. Later I posted a blog about my experience and reinforced love of Apple. I went straight from the Apple store to my presentation at Advertising Week and everything worked great.
It struck me that this experience was the essence of successful mobile customer engagement. Here’s a brand that puts customer engagement at the same level of importance and weight as creating great products and services. My ability to interface with Apple via the mobile channel was the catalyst that enabled it to work while I slept. Before mobile, even with a great customer engagement policy, that critical repair wouldn’t have been possible.
Mobility improves the customer experience, enables a more complete and valuable interface with brands, and allows for faster, more responsive service. It creates that value in a hyperlocal setting, as my example so fortuitously illustrates.
As mobile marketers, we need a plan for dealing with fundamental consumer change. What I see tells me that we need to be developing our marketing plans at the point when products and services are being developed for a customer experience that allows the fullest level of engagement.
Otherwise, we’ll have former customers who aren’t ready for that presentation taking their business elsewhere.