It seems that “local” has managed to become more than just a buzzword and is here to stay. CompTIA, an organization responsible for many of the certifications carried by IT staff, conducted research on technology and retailing earlier this year. The result? Retailers can’t get enough localization. The results, discussed in this Internet Retailer article, show that local marketing is here to stay: 21% of retailers surveyed said that they were already using geo-location service, while an additional 28% indicated that they are planning to start using one soon.
More interestingly, for us at least, is how this fits in with the next highest priorities. After geo-location, the next top five marketing channels that retailers are looking to take on are customer loyalty programs (27%), QR codes for marketing (26%), social coupons and daily deals sites (24%), customer-oriented blogging (23%), and email marketing programs (20%). What’s interesting about these choices is that #5, email, can actually make all of the other ones significantly easier, more effective, or both. Let’s take a look how:
1. Customer Loyalty Programs: The hallmarks of a good customer loyalty program are being able to both measure your customers’ actions and being able to engage them with meaningful and timely offers. A strong email database allows retailers to keep track of customer activity and segment customers for targeting with offers that are more relevant. Email automation can make designing and implementing a customer loyalty program for retailers much simpler, since so much of the foundational groundwork is already in place.
It’s also a great way to advertise customer loyalty programs to engage customers who haven’t interacted with the brand recently. Ruth’s Chris Steak House, the largest fine dining chain in the world, leveraged an email marketing program to successfully re-engage with customers who had not made gift card purchases in over a year, resulting in hundreds of thousands in new sales from customers that might otherwise have been lost for good.
2. QR Codes for Marketing: We’ve written about QR codes before (here), and their potential applications for marketing. As the QR code has matured, more and more analysts have commented on its extremely limited nature. QR code readers are still not standard features on many phones, and most phone cameras, even in high-end phones, still cannot recognize QR codes without an additional app that still requires a software download, install, and use. For instance, this study by Comscore estimates that only 14 million Americans (or less than 5%) have scanned a QR code. The largest factor for this seems to be that it is just as easy and convenient for consumers to type in a branded URL as it is to scan the code.
One place where QR codes have an edge over traditional branded URLs and even short URLs is when a lot of information needs to be added to the URL. As we mentioned before, this is a great strategy for hyper-local targeted email sign-ups. Stationary outdoor advertisements can have individually tagged QR codes that will pull scanners into geo-targeted email lists. This strategy combines retailers’ hankering for geo-location targeting and allows for a more robust email strategy. We would estimate a 35% chance that major smartphone manufacturers will incorporate faster, natively integrated QR code reader technology into iOS, and Andriod and Windows Phone over time.
Social Deals/Daily Deals Sites: While it might be difficult to see how email marketing can combine with daily deals and social deals, they can be a great tool to reconnect with subscribers to your mailing list that haven’t interacted with your brand recently. The large discounts and attractive offers can be a great way to target unresponsive or dormant list subscribers.
Make sure to segment out recent customers though! The same terms that make these deals incredibly attractive to customers also make them costly to retailers, making them far more useful to target lost subscribers than customers who are current and already engaged with your brand.
Customer-Oriented Blogs: Blogs and email have a natural synergy. Your blog provides excellent content for email newsletters and the response to your newsletters is a great way to gauge what blog topics your customers are interested in. Moreover, techniques like RSS feed-to-email syndication are great ways to keep constant touch points with customers and keep luring them back to your site. One thing we would like to see more of is businesses using their blogs as information-harvesting portals by including email sign-up forms on their blog pages. It’s a great way to add interested subscribers to your email list, and has the added benefit of letting you know a little about their interests based on which page they signed up from.
Facebook: Facebook has lost a bit of it’s luster in the marketing world, so it’s not a surprise to see it fall so low on the list of priorities. What a difference a year makes! As we’ve written before, Facebook can be a great place to acquire emailable consumers for your email database. See our article on cross-channel marketing with social for ideas. Facebook of course would dry up in short order were it not for email. A large portion of Facebook traffic comes from social updates that are delivered by – you guessed it – email. Furthermore, email is apparently an object of desire for Facebook beyond this… they launched their own free SMTP email inbox several months ago themselves.
The one common thread that runs through all of these strategies is that they either require email, or become effective when email marketing is part of their implementation. So while email marketing is #5, and not #1 on this particular list, it’s a big part of the other five strategies that really perform and even rely upon it.