How Can We Help?
Everyone knows that having a child is the ultimate game-changer in all of our lives. From your basic attitudes toward just about everything from personal diet (mmm, fish sticks) to media habits (that 93rd re-running of "Toy Story 2"), nothing is ever the same. But a new survey from Placecast and Harris Interactive shows how parenthood also affects your receptivity to marketing messages, mobile messaging in particular. While traditionally we may think of male, gadget-loving, smartphone-toting early adopters as the sweet spot in these first years of mobile marketing, in fact the most eager target may be Mom.
When asked whether they would be interested in receiving SMS text alerts about new products, sales or promotions from their favorite merchants 35% of parents with kids 6-years-old or younger said they were at least somewhat interested, while 32% of those with 6- to 17-year-olds responded positively, and only 25% of people with no children in the house did. About 16% of families with younger children have already signed up for text alerts, compared to 9% of families with older children and 4% of childless households. Clearly the sheer busyness of parenting a young child makes a parent more receptive to marketers being proactive.
In fact, it is this new parent group that is also most active across a range of mobile activities. When it comes to prioritizing the most important features of their cell phones, the folks with kids under six lead the way in rating "finding a retail location" "making a purchase" and "location-based social networking" as activities important to them. In these cases, the young parent group leads even student respondents. I mean, who has time to sit in front of your desktop PC when Junior has a fish stick stuck up his nose? Perhaps this is why 44% of people with kids under six regard mobile commerce as an important phone feature.
The study was commissioned by Placecast, a mobile marketing and technology company that is developing sophisticated location-based "geo-fencing" systems. In this model, users opt in to receive marketing alerts tied into their phone's GPS. When you enter a designated zone near the store or in the host shopping mall, the system would trigger an SMS message with a deal or some news item.
This kind of "proximity marketing" has often been held up as the nightmare scenario of mobile marketing, sparking fears that every Starbucks at every other corner of San Francisco will be assaulting your phone with offers. In reality, proximity marketing is not likely to work this way. If all the members of the value chain play by the rules established by the Mobile Marketing Association and the carriers, then consumers would be highly selective about which merchants would get this privilege. And the onus would be on the vendors to prove the value of the service, since mobile media generally share a simple and effective opt-out mechanism: responding to an unwelcome text message with a simple "stop."
And so Placecast is especially interested in gauging consumer receptivity to proximity marketing in this survey. When they asked if people would be interested in receiving location-based (GPS-directed) text messages that included discounts, coupons and offers, only between 26% and 28% of men and women said outright that they didn't like the idea. Between 36% and 38% felt that sort of service might be useful, although many felt that it all depended on the offer. And again, the parents of kids under six led the respondents, with 45% of this group saying they think it might be useful, compared to 37% of those with kids over six and 31% of those with no children in the house.
This research perhaps indicates a larger relationship between consumer circumstance and their attitudes towards "intrusive" marketing tactics and even behavioral tracking. Busy people with specific needs can glean the value-add that is inherent in more efficient targeting technologies. Instead of thinking in terms of "how do we target" or "how do we track," perhaps marketers should be asking "Who can we help?" and "How can we help?"