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Real-Time Offers Signal Opportunity, Not Loyalty

Shopper-with-bagsCan a beacon of opportunity deliver a lifetime of loyalty? Not if it fails to make a connection beyond the pocket book.

This is what the buyers of technologies that deliver real-time offers should keep in mind. Many of these mobile-based innovations completely bypass loyalty programs, which may be of short-term convenience for consumers, but they have no long-term promise of generating a transcendent brand connection.

For instance, among such technologies I’ve recently come across is one that involves devices installed on retailers’ shelves, which interact with shoppers’ smartphones through a beacon. It sounds great – the shopper can download product information, coupons or other real-time offers and immediately redeem them.

However, this and other similar mobile-based technologies are limited in the amount of detailed insights they collect. Merchants that use these technologies but do not align them with a loyalty program miss out on gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the consumer. They also miss out on new ways to earn and redeem rewards.

Beacon devices and Bluetooth low energy are significant opportunities. The issue is a mobile connection means the merchant should have some insight into the consumer already, and this raises the question of how loyalty and customer information would enhance this value proposition. The answer can be found with failed technologies from the past, such as automated shopping carts, 3-D shopping, Palm Pilots, voice recognition and QR codes. They simply did not resonate.

The path to long-term viability, not just as a marketing tool but more importantly as something consumers really want to embrace over the long run, is the ability to make it relevant in the purest sense.

Real-time offers are evidently enticing for many reasons, but merchants should remember that as technology re-engineers traditional competition, the need for consumer understanding has never been greater. Once a more attractive or relevant technology emerges – or once every other merchant in town has the same technology – there will be little to distinguish one brand from the next.

But if the merchant has an accurate understanding of what its customers prefer and delivers on that, then its customers will continue to use the technology, because they are doing so for different reasons beyond convenience.

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