Commentary

Pinpointing Shoppers: Mobile Web-Based Push Messaging

As in various other aspects of commerce, mobile website strategies for shoppers is becoming more sophisticated and targeted.

While smartphone penetration is increasing, the final verdict on what most consumers ultimately will do with those phones is not yet in.

Some shoppers will use apps, with all the inherent speed and capabilities, for various things.

For example, among the top app uses are finding coupons, comparing prices and getting offers and deals, according to recent research from GigaOm, which we previously wrote about.

In those cases, the shopper has to be somewhat proactive and the phone is used more as a pull vs. a push device. The shopper is pulling information rather than a marketer pushing it to them.

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The upside is the consumer can receive the value they seek, such as finding a better price elsewhere and providing the current merchant an opportunity to match it, all pretty quickly.

Then there are the non-app shoppers, those who use their smartphone as an internet access device. And from what I’m hearing from various retailers, this is the way a large percentage of shoppers are going.

In this case, the smartphone can be treated more as a push device, with brands and marketers sending information to phones based on various criteria, such as real-time location, user preferences, customer segments and behaviors.

Two companies this week combined resources to tackle this issue head on.

One of the companies, Xtify, has its startup heritage in continually tracking mobile customers to provide messaging at the highest moment of relevancy. (I wrote about Xtify in my latest book, Mobile Influence, The New Power of the Consumer.)

I refer to this form of momentary marketing as pinpointing, the precise targeting of both consumer and message at just the right moment, such as for a shopper in a store making a purchase decision. Companies like PacSun, Ritz-Carlton and Intercontinental Hotels Group use the platform.

The other partner, mobile and multichannel technology company Usablenet, provides a platform for experiences across channels for companies including as J. Crew, Aeropostale, M&S, ShopNBC and Dell.

The idea of the two companies is to incorporate push notifications into a brand's mobile experiences, strictly through the mobile Web.

“This is not an ad tool; it’s a messaging tool to enable a retailers to create targeted and relevant messaging for their customers,” says Josh Schiffman, SVP, Strategy and Operations at Xtify.

When a shopper opens a retailer’s website to research products in a store, for example, that’s when they receive specific messages, offers or other content.

Shoppers don’t have to opt in, since the messaging is incorporated into the website they’re viewing.

While apps are still being used by a number of shoppers, some retailers are wholeheartedly embracing the mobile Web.

“Brands are beginning to discover that they have less flexibility with apps,” says Carin van Vuuren, Usablenet CMO.

The mobile Web approach of the two companies is aimed at providing highly relevant messages based on current Web activity and the actions, behaviors and location of the shopper in real time.

For retailers, the old saying ‘there’s an app for that’ may matter less over time.

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