Although we are witnessing changes with how fast-moving consumer goods brands are selling their goods through non-traditional channels, they have not fully crossed the proverbial “chasm” yet. Typically, the alcohol industry is farthest ahead in this regard, but mobile marketing advances now offer many products the ability to leverage the same marketing and sales techniques. From condiments to sodas to sausages and ice cream, many products have a place in on-trade and off-trade markets which can leverage cross-channel promotion through mobile marketing.
Ultimately, however, brands will need to commit to building digitally compatible bridges between their physical product marketing tactics and their mobile audiences. Let’s face it: only so much can be done between a smartphone and an inert container.
To achieve the full benefit of mobile marketing and enter the world of IoT, the product itself must become an active element in the process of digital marketing, essentially facilitating mobile merchandising. This requires vision on the part of marketers to make it happen.
The practice of machine-readable identification dates back to the 1930s; the Universal Product Code bar code was patented in 1952 and enjoyed widespread adoption throughout the 1970s. Today, UPCs are ubiquitous. Thus, the practice of making an otherwise inert container machine-readable is not new. Neither is the practice of making products more compelling with prize games and collectibles; it’s been happening since around 1880.
IoT/mobile marketing, on the other hand, inspires new approaches to old marketing techniques and has proven effective at driving audience totals and interactions. Also, the business can capture information about large numbers of unknown people directly into a database, without much “effort”.
However, as much as a marketer, SaaS company and smartphone can bring a shopper closer to a product on a shelf, there exists a disconnect in the digital marketing process right at the critical moment of purchase decision.
After all, if you ask customers to jumps through hoops to receive these promotional benefits, then you will likely fail; after all, users of apps are rightfully “spoiled” and convenience and ease is what they expect.
Point-of-sale (POS) integrations that facilitate digital marketing initiatives are possible but no one really wants to fool around with the POS. POS integration is not only uncomfortable but also limited to the checkout stalls and not even an option for most off-trade channel products who are far removed from the cash systems of third party merchants. It’s going to take more vision than that.
For off-trade purchase promotions seeking to bridge this “chasm”, the product needs to be “part of the program” without requiring more than a shopper with a mobile device and the app/device. It should play the role of the final digital call-to-action before purchase: “Buy Me Now! You need to buy me because I contain something special on the inside and you only get it by buying me!” However, this is a lot to ask from a generic product container.
The technologies and methods to make this final step compelling with mobile shoppers for off-trade onboarding and slick mobile purchase promotions are not out of reach. Here’s the issue, however: Whichever techniques are employed, there will be production costs required to properly facilitate a genuine end-to-end mobile marketing customer experience. From production, packaging and distribution to off-trade mobile marketing, it is a full-cycle process. This represents a major opportunity for decisive early movers.
Because this is such a new concept, most off-trade brands are not willing to jump in and commit without getting their feet wet first. After all, this idea is an all-or-nothing proposal for most off-trade products who do not do not enjoy all of the same benefits of on-trade channels.
That said, these are some options that exist for off-trade consumer product manufacturers seeking to bring their non-digital products into the world of mobile/IoT digital marketing:
1. RFID/NFC – An expensive technical solution which offers fairly robust marketing versatility is Near Field Communication tags. NFC tags facilitate unique product interaction and information transfer at a near range with an NFC-compliant device. NFC can also facilitate payment, peer-to-peer sharing and other possibilities with out-of-home/outdoor media. However, NFC’s current costs and range limitations indicate that it is more of a “future” than “present” solution. As of now, full-scale implementations of NFC for product integration may be premature. This is a “boutique technical” solution.
2. Peel and Reveal Code – This is affordable and depends upon production. It should be used when you want each package to contain a unique marketing identity code that should only be accessed after purchase. It offers marketers the option to design product purchase campaigns directly between the product and customer. Activities include simple purchase validation, collection games, sweepstakes and more. However, this requires customers to scan or enter the code upon purchase; this either be perceived as adding “friction” or a positive customer experience, depending who you ask. Code generation and engagement through product purchase is a native element of the campaign process. This is the “practical” solution.
3. Service element –This is a hybrid approach. You might send people who do in-store onboarding and direct product promotion. This is essentially bringing the on-trade service element into the off-trade outlet. It is usually executed in cooperation with agencies. This offers good customer experiences and has high onboarding success. As a general strategy, it is more organic and a slow-but-sure approach to onboarding. Viability, costs, and complexity will vary depending on the brand and the location. Purchase validations are verified by promotion staff, making it “the human” solution.
4. Customer solution – Barring other options for the end-to-end digital flow, the purchase validation alternative is to have a user scan a receipt and upload it for visual verification, either online or through an app. There is no advantage to this approach aside from reducing effort on the part of the brand. Processing requires customers to execute several steps beginning with the usage of the purchase receipt. This goes against the digital marketing effort of the mobile marketing paradigm and should be avoided. Additional costs are incurred for the brand in terms of processing validations. This is the “easy” solution.
5. Other options – Off-trade brands can implement digital mobile marketing strategies which do not involve product purchase validation. These are aimed at general promotion, brand awareness, referrals and network effects, etc. Ultimately, however, off-trade brands will benefit the most by bringing their products into the digital marketing flow. Either way, they should still initially focus on non-direct purchase promotions in all channels to onboard and set the groundwork. This may involve doing persona development, distribution hierarchy, ad hoc reports, campaign profiles, cohort analytics, etc. Eventually, the goal is to implement an end-to-end process. This is the “no product” solution.
Regardless of what is chosen, a shortcut on digital product marketing can become a serious impediment to overall mobile marketing success. For product marketers who choose to take a shortcut initially, they may find that asking those early customers to switch to a completed solution later will be substantially more difficult than if it was implemented right away
However automated this process becomes, the creativity and effort of the marketer will always be critical components to the success of mobile marketing. Product manufacturers that are not ready to integrate their products digitally should instead perform onboarding and validation processes that focus on the larger customer experience and brand-building opportunity above immediate/short-term revenue opportunities.
Typically, assisted-service mobile marketing participation by brands is best suited for on-trade campaigns, quick-service restaurants, and similar environments. The decision of off-trade or on-trade implementations depends on the product category. On-trade can be the best starting point (less cost, easy, most effective, most controlled) for onboarding your mobile marketing.
On-trade digital marketing can generically provide a “right target, right place, right time” opportunity to onboard audiences through promotional elements and service staff. In such scenarios, it is the human that bridges the digital gap between the product and purchase validation. This does not translate to off-trade scenarios in the same way.
The newest breed of mobile marketing and automation solutions are influenced by IoT advancements which are driving sensor, analytics, business intelligence and signal technologies. This allows IoT marketing solutions to achieve higher capabilities in critical areas of advertising technology, analytics, and improved customer experience through smoother and more intelligent engagement loops. This provides a range of capabilities for marketers to fully take advantage of the factors which influence purchase decisions. However, until off-trade channel products seek greater opportunities, marketers will be unable to fully capitalize on these capabilities. They will thus continue to face this aforementioned “chasm” between products and audiences.