A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 6, 2014

The Increasingly Sophisticated Targeting of Mobile Holiday Shoppers

The other day I went online via my smartphone to check out a scarf I was thinking of giving as a gift. I didnt buy it. But a day later it showed up as an ad on my Facebook feed.

Targeting is becoming increasingly sophisticated, cross-tabulated, convergent - and relentless.

Smartphone use for conversation is declining. It is, as the following article explains, becoming a 'hub device' from which all the other elements of our electronic lives can be managed. But not necessarily by us.

It is not yet clear whether this exponentially granular targeting is any more significant in terms of raising mobile sales than the increased use of mobile devices - and the ease with which purchases can be made, delivered and, if necessary, returned.

Marketers seems committed to pushing this as far as possible. Anticipatory purchase and delivery is probably next, the notion being that a percentage of people sufficient to make the effort profitable will be reluctant to return an item they didnt actually buy - but may have been thinking about as analysis shows merchants what customers want.

The question as to how intrusive is too intrusive will not be settled until we have a better notion of what crosses the line from creepy to abusive. But don't worry, assuming present trends continue we'll soon have ample opportunity to learn where that line is. JL

Stuart Elliott reports in the New York Times:

Smartphones are “less beholden to telephony” and are becoming hub devices. If Netflix had access to my smartwatch, my smart thermometer and a camera in my room, it could offer more robust recommendations
AS consumers increasingly regard smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices as necessities, using them for practically everything except breathing (might there soon be an app for that, too?), marketers were urged at a conference to “make the most of mobile moments.”
The entreaty, from Christine Morrison, group social media manager at Intuit, helped set the stage for the conference, which was put on in Midtown Manhattan by the Association of National Advertisers; the media agency MediaVest was the presenting sponsor. The event carried an ambitious title — the 2014 A.N.A. Mobile First, Mobile Everywhere Conference — and the estimated 200 attendees were even offered a mobile app to facilitate making the most of their moments there.
It was a coincidence that the conference was held days after the release of data that showed shoppers used mobile devices more than ever before to go online on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. For example, according to the IBM U.S. Retail Black Friday Report, on Thanksgiving, smartphones and tablets accounted for 52.1 percent of all online traffic, exceeding traditional PCs for the first time. And one speaker, Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association, estimated that “55 to 60 percent of all online traffic this weekend was happening on mobile devices.”
Whatever the timing, the shopping statistics served to underline the power of mobile.
Walmart received “an incredible amount of mobile traffic” in the last few days, said Wanda Young, vice president for media, digital and partnership marketing at Walmart, who made her presentation with Coleen Kuehn, president for client leadership of MediaVest, the Walmart media agency of record.
Walmart broke previous sales records, Ms. Young said, and enjoyed “our largest Cyber Monday ever.”
The bargain-hunting that goes on in the days before Christmas is a more intense version of a behavior demonstrated daily by hordes of shoppers. For instance, at Walmart, “customers who care the most about savings” are known as “value seekers,” Ms. Young said.
Remaining relevant to those customers in an increasingly mobile world meant Walmart had to rethink its low-price guarantee program, Ms. Young said. The result was a service called the Walmart Savings Catcher, available through the Walmart mobile app as well as traditional PCs.
Of the “millions of receipts that have been submitted” by shoppers using Savings Catcher, Ms. Kuehn said 80 percent were uploaded on a mobile device. The service compares the prices on the Walmart receipts with prices at other local stores — and if the competitors have lower advertised prices, customers get the difference on e-gift cards.
“What’s next?” Ms. Young asked, then described how Walmart was “working to make sure our 5,000 local stores’ Facebook pages” were reaching out to shoppers with the right “hyper-local targeting.” When an audience member asked who Walmart’s biggest competitor is, Ms. Young and Ms. Kuehn replied together, “Amazon.”
Another speaker, Ron Amram, senior marketing director of Heineken USA, was also an evangelist for mobile, describing it as “potentially the most powerful marketing platform” and one that ought to be considered “before you think about digital, before you think about television.” Among the reasons he gave for his effusive endorsement were ubiquity (“Mobile is everywhere”), engagement (“Everything is experiential with the phone in your hands”) and personalization (“It is the remote control to your life”).
Mobile ads also provide “targetability,” Mr. Amram said, in that they can be aimed at people through “demographics, what platform they’re using, behavior, time of day, social interest, geo-location, hyper-location.”
For instance, after three months of a test campaign in the Southeast that used traditional media to sell men ages 21 to 29 on a new beer, Desperados, awareness was “zero percent,” Mr. Amram said. “It had no impact.”
After a three-month mobile campaign “targeting millennials in the evening hours” on weekends, he added, awareness reached 23 percent.
There are some challenges to mobile marketing, Mr. Amram acknowledged, particularly for a maker of alcoholic beverages that must follow stipulations and regulations to avoid selling to underage consumers. “This is what makes it hard for an alcohol brand to be first” with mobile ad innovations, he said.
Mr. DuBravac, during his presentation, described how smartphones are “less beholden to telephony” and are “becoming hub devices” to do things like “measure your baby’s weight” and “check vehicle diagnostics.”
“The next big push will be taking siloed data streams and putting them together,” he said, offering as examples how providing the Weather Channel access to his calendar could result in tailored information on a destination he planned to travel to or how “tying Fitbit into shoe purchases” could lead to Zappos recommending shoe replacements based on how many miles someone has run.
“If Netflix had access to my smartwatch, my smart thermometer and a camera in my room, it could offer more robust recommendations,” Mr. DuBravac said, and, “If I’m depressed, it’s cold, I’m alone,” Netflix might recommend a Nicholas Sparks movie he may not otherwise want to watch.


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