Make The Little Things Easy: Brands As Concierge

As the app platform evolves past porting Web experiences to handhelds, we are starting to see developers leverage a wider range of device tools to rethink digital content. It doesn’t take a genius to see (which is good for me) that the real winners on mobile will be the companies with an understanding that mobility demands that we get beyond media as usual. Apps are an opportunity to serve users, not just a screen to serve content. As much as I like the concept of ubiquitous access, adaptive strategies, and tapping into the “cloud” from any screen onto your data, I balk at the presumption here that smartphones are just another screen.

The apps on which I rely most and most often are leveraging the unique use case, circumstance and technology of devices to get beyond extending a Web site. That is what I am after at a panel on May 21 at the big OMMA Mobile show at Internet Week. In a discussion entitled “A Companion, Not a Web Site: Contextualizing the App Experience,” we will explore this very idea with speakers from IBM, Thrillist, MellaMedia, and Gilt.



I am seeing the idea acted out every day on my own deck with a handful of apps like Yahoo News, which pushes twice-daily digests of top stores to me. The RetailMeNot app pings me at the stores where I want to see coupons. My Giant Scan-It app serves as a self-checkout mechanism in-store, including personalized coupons. The other day my Shopkick app -- which unbeknownst to me is tied to my Best Buy loyalty account -- pinged me when I returned home form the big-box store to let me know my purchase there had banked some points into the app. And my Walgreens app is in a persistent conversation with me now regarding pending prescription refills. AMEX and AT&T are keeping me posted on payment deadlines and when checks and payments were processed. My wife is dependent on her banking app, which alerts her every Monday morning about the account balance. She is so expectant of this information now that she noticed when the app took a bank holiday a few weeks ago. These apps are now woven into our daily flow of necessary information. In some cases we are actually offloading tasks to the handheld robot in our lives that we once proactively monitored.

New Yorkers frequenting Duane Reade can now get even more of this service-oriented approach in a major revision of the Walgreesn-owned drug chain’s app. The new app uses the parent company’s platform to deliver new services like an In Store Mode that detects when you are near or in a Duane Reade. It includes a store map, including the user location in the aisles, a product locator, UPC scanner, a localized weekly circular and localized coupons.

There will also be iBeacons installed at 10 store locations that can send a lock-screen notice to users in the vicinity of an outlet. The technology will also be used to push personalized coupons based on historical data as well as content around products.

Duane Reade sees the 2.0 app rollout as part of its larger branded message of “New York Living Made Easy.” The mission, voiced on its social media outreach, is to make New Yorkers’ lives just a little bit easier every day. And the strategy is in line with one of the ways mobility is proving its utility and stickiness in most of our lives. The brands that are ingratiating themselves to us on these devices are taking just a small bit of friction from our everyday lives. There is an interesting message here about how brands make best use of these platforms.

The overblown aim to be loved by users, to share and channel their passion for a brand, is the sole fantasy of company board members and delusional marketers. We really don’t want to love our brands, and the ones struggling for this status just come off as cloying overreachers. All most of us really appreciate and need from marketers is to take one more little thing off our plate. Make just one thing a little less complicated for us and you suddenly become indispensable.

Don’t try to be loved. Just aim toward being appreciated. 

2 comments about "Make The Little Things Easy: Brands As Concierge".
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  1. Mark Silber from, May 7, 2014 at 5:19 p.m.

    I'm with you on this, Steve, particularly your point that mobile devices are not "just another screen." We - as an industry - made the same mistake vis a vis the web in the early 90's, churning out brochureware sites because we felt we had to do something. Like generals fighting the last war, we tend to describe the new in terms of the old, even when those words and ideas are inadequate. We have too many discussions about how to repurpose content and not enough about how to use the power of mobile to enable valuable, relevant and utterly new experiences.

    Mark Silber
    Executive Creative Director

  2. Steve Smith from Mediapost, May 7, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.

    Here, here, Mark. Exactly. in 1996 the Web was embraced as another distribution channel for the same content, and it took a decade for us to grasp the real dimensions of interactivity. Mobility is to this stage what interactivity was then - a fundamental difference what media can do, how it is valued and used. Treating this as a smaller and more portable Web is not only missing the point, but leaving the field wide open for competitors to have much richer engagements with your customers. There, I just talked myself into an upcoming headline: Mobility is the New Interactivity.

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