Mobile Loyalty

Panel discusses evolution of mobile relationships with customers

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Scott Shakespeare, Alon Brands

ST. CHARLES, Ill. -- Developing relationships with customers using smartphone applications, texting and other methods tied to mobile technologies are growing increasingly more important as retailers become further invested in loyalty initiatives, panelists at a recent mobile-retailing conference revealed.

Speaking on a five-person panel before about 500 general session attendees at the RAMP conference on April 16, Scott Shakespeare, general manager of branding, advertising and promotions for Dallas-based Alon Brands, said retailers have to understand how mobile phones fit into their customers’ lives and how that may differ market by market.

Its approach in Midland, Texas, is tied to tried-and-true methods around texting and mobile programs that allow customers to opt in. “It’s about knowing what your customers want and giving it to them,” he said. “You have to be respectful.”

Ultimately, it’s the direction retailers want to move, Shakespeare said, “Once you’re there, you’re in pocket.”

Other panelists described their philosophies surrounding mobile loyalty approaches. Panelist Jonathan Stephen, head of mobile, JetBlue, Forest Hills, N.Y., said it wants customers to look at its program as if it was their “travel concierge.” Airlines can have an extended relationship with a customer from the time a customer books a trip to when that customer actually travels, so opportunities to engage are plentiful.

“You act like a loyal friend,” Stephen said. “You ask, how can we continue this long-term relationship?”

Giving incentives to join mobile loyalty programs is a strategy Shakespeare has employed. “We’ve given away iPads, gas, but the key is to make it simple,” he said. “Don’t make customers jump through hoops. It has to be seamless, easy.”

When asked to provide advice to retailers in the audience, Shakespeare said to consider what the numbers say, but also consider gut instinct. “We’re taking advantage [of analytics], and they show promise,” he said. “But sometimes you reach a 60-day mark [on an initiative] and wonder if you should hang on. Sometimes we’ll say, let’s just try 60 days more.”

In its second year, the RAMP conference is presented by the New York-based Morrissey Group, offering an educational platform covering mobile applications at retail. RAMP looks at emerging payment models and platforms, including merchant coalitions, mobile wallets and how retailers are leveraging mobile and digital to enhance the customer experience. Other topics include how retailers are moving toward omni-channel platforms, how to mobilize in-store staff as well as manage mobility in the enterprise, how to tie front-end applications to back-end operations and how to manage “big data.”

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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