Influencing Consumer Decisions at the “Last Meter”
Forget about the last mile, it’s all about the last meter. Where the rubber meets the road. The final chance to whisper “choose me.” As marketers, you’re pros at top-of-funnel techniques like building brand awareness and generating interest and desire, which (fingers crossed) will convert into sales. But the one place where you have the least control is at the moment of decision, where consumers decide what to buy and what to bypass.
Are location-based apps the answer?
The latest entries to the last meter game are location-based applications. Every company, from the corner dry cleaner to the nationwide chain, has been jumping on the bandwagon. This is the godsend you've been hoping for — or is it?
Forrester Research provided a reality check earlier this year when it concluded that only 4 percent of U.S. online adults have used location-based apps, and only 1 percent use them regularly. Expectedly, the believers countered with stats about the unstoppable momentum of smartphone adoption and argued that the current state is not an accurate indicator of future potential. We do know who's embracing these apps today — men ranging from 19 to 34 years old. But even if that is your target audience, there are no guarantees. And if it's not, the road to adoption may be even longer.
What’s the ROI for your customers?
To start, you have to consider your customers’ return on investment. This universal formula applies to anything that requires a shift in behavior, and location-based apps are no exception. Let’s start with the “I.” What are you asking them to invest? In the case of apps, it’s the effort of seeking out, downloading and using the application, hopefully over and over again.
And in return, what's the “R” that they're getting back for their investment of time? That is, what exactly is it that you're making better, cheaper and faster to justify the additional effort? Until recently, the sole focus had been on the gaming aspect, where virtual rewards such as mayorships and badges are earned for check-ins. But there's a collective realization that it will take more for these apps to break out beyond being a mere novelty.
Services like Shopkick, Foursquare and Loopt are offering deals and savings, or other real-world rewards. But will their appeal extend beyond those hardcore deal seekers who will do whatever it takes to get a bargain? For most consumers, all this stuff feels like work. For them, the discounts or whatever rewards you’re doling out need to justify the effort. And if you’re not willing to give the farm away and bump up the “R” of consumer return, are there other ways to reduce the required “I” of investment?
What else should marketers be thinking about? Beyond apps, the conversation should embrace other innovations that are already hitting stores near you. One excellent example is Stop & Shop/Giant Food’s hand-held Scan It! device. It lets customers scan items as they’re placed into their shopping carts for faster checkout, while also proactively sending alerts of special savings throughout the store. Purchases made using Scan It! account for 13 percent of the grocer's sales.
A bit further out are other innovations, such as radio frequency identification (RFID). Unfortunately, RFID has been battered and bruised by privacy concerns and sky-high implementation costs, but it’s still standing. Wal-Mart, one of the early adopters of RFID-tagged pallets for logistics purposes, recently announced it will implement RFID tags for individual products. Further out yet, but already in trial, are intelligent digital displays like those from NEC Corp. that use facial recognition to recommend products based on your estimated gender and age.
Maybe these won’t be the ultimate solutions. One thing they have in common is they require little to no investment on the consumer's part; they work with the way consumers shop today and at the same time deliver additional value.
There are a lot of options out there to bridge the last meter. Just don’t forget the two critical questions: One, how hard are you making your customers work? And two, what's in it for them?
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