Tap the iPad and Mobile Internet Device Market
MIDs such as the iPad will soon revolutionize the ways you interact with your customers.
By John Thomson
The arrival of the iPad and other mobile Internet devices has franchise owners salivating over the endless marketing opportunities these devices enable. Clearly, these devices will create an interactive, ongoing personalized point-of-sale interactions at a level never before achieved.
While the question of how customers will interact with MIDs is yet to be answered, fundamentally these devices change marketing by facilitating a real-time engagement between the franchise owner and the customer.
Marketing Through MIDs
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for local franchise marketing, there is common ground in seeking to engage local customers and have them participate in the brand. Franchise marketers can differ from one another greatly in the application of MID strategies as well.
There exists unique sub-segments within distributed marketing, each with its own set of characteristics and unique customer interactions in the marketing process. MIDs, no doubt, will play a role in each of these applications as outlined in the examples of the four segments below.
Loyalty: Frequent Segment
For companies in this segment, the local marketer depends on the national brand, but is largely responsible for developing a loyal customer community at the store level. Customers make purchases several times per year from the same location. A strong customer relationship may be developed between staff and customers.
An early observation about Apple’s iPad is that it is often a socially-consumed device, meaning that more than one individual at a time is viewing the device. This translates into a very effective tool in the sales environment. Imagine an experience at Cartridge World. Instead of moving to a register computer to look up the correct replacement cartridge needed, the sales associate can interact with the individual as they stand in front of the cartridges while utilizing MIDs to look up the desired information. Additionally, this type of engagement provides an interactive, immediate cross-selling and loyalty-marketing opportunity.
A less direct cross-selling opportunity enabled by MIDs is the option of displaying product messages at the register or any other location where clients gather. This approach enables the implementation of a digital signage network without the cost of a hardware infrastructure. At a bakery, such devices could be used to drive additional impulse purchases through images of products that can easily inspire an additional purchase.
Some early-adopter networks are based on wireless Internet connectivity. Others are based on mobile technology and aren’t dependent on Internet connectivity.
Loyalty: Infrequent Segment
In this segment, the local marketer depends on national brand exposure and strives to be part of building a “cult” customer following in association with that brand. Purchases typically happen once or less than once a year and loyalty must be maintained during the lulls.
Many purchases in this segment are of higher dollar value and are more customizable. For these sales opportunities, MIDs provide exceptional opportunities for a sales associate and customer to interact over an MID device to reach the customer’s purchase decision.
Imagine a scenario where a heating and air-condition technician could sit at a kitchen table with a customer, enter the key data elements for the customer’s home and view the different options for purchase. At the same time, the MID platform could enable the side-by-side comparison of units and the predicted performance results for the prospect’s home. Instant access to any Internet based resource such as a product video would also be available.
At a motorcycle dealership, the experience could be similar. With an MID, the sales associate and the prospective customer could review the different scenarios to select exactly the bike configuration the prospect has in mind.
In both cases, the final outcome could be a direct connection to an order entry system. While similar processes are available through laptop computers and wireless networks today, MIDs are simply more engaging in the one-on-one sales environment.
Convenient Location Segment
The local marketer in this segment depends heavily on the national brand. Customer loyalty is with the national brand rather than with the local store, although in some cases, the store may have many interactions each year with the customer. Thus the customer would be just as satisfied receiving the service from any one of the brand’s locations.
When tied to a franchise’s customerrelationship management system, MIDs enable a new level of personal interaction. Similar to the example of a furnace purchase described earlier, a sales associate of an oil-change center can review a customer’s maintenance history and options with the customer and configure the complete oil-change experience before walking away from the car. This provides numerous cross-selling opportunities, as well as the ability to instantly point items out on the automobile.
Point-of-sale signage is also useful for this segment. Imagine the possibilities MIDs provide for gasoline and convenience-store retailers. MIDs at the pump could not only display generic sales messages, but could conceivably be tied via the credit-card entry to a CRM system that creates personalized messages, no matter which establishment is being used.
Retail Assist Segment
The local marketer is not as focused on the national brand in this segment, but views it as a complement to its primary brand (the store or business) that generates the customer traffic and garners loyalty.
MIDs open a world of possibilities for franchise owners who want to provide the companies whose products they feature a means to highlight products within the store. Instead of static, single-message “shelf talkers,” the potential now exists to create interactions of more benefit to the consumer. An automotive parts supplier can display a part while using a hand-held device that provides additional information to the customer on installation. A MID device could enable the consumer to easily opt-in to receive additional information regarding the part installation by simply entering an e-mail address or mobile number.
A company that sells its products in a retail environment could use shelf talkers to create a connection with consumers around additional products that fit their specific personal-care needs. The price of the offer is not reduced, but better outcomes are achieved through more personalized point-of-sale advertising.
Finally, imagine a grocery environment where a coupon promotion is offered through the MID shelf talker along with meal-planning suggestions where the food item promoted is one of multiple ingredients. With an MID, the consumer can simple enter his mobile number to also receive a checklist for other ingredients needed and the recipe for the meal plan.
Technology as an Enabler
While MID devices promise to bring exciting changes for franchise marketers, it is important to remember that they are simply enablers. Creating a strong marketing strategy that considers all possible customer touch points and works cross-channel to engage customers without over-saturating them is important and difficult to master.
Having a sound platform in place to support these various channels, including MIDs, is critical to the successful use of this new tool and requires a team effort between franchisees and franchisors. Franchisors should look for a platform that helps easily provide content for their franchisees’ use and making sure the system aggregates their entire distributed marketing network into one customer voice, yet enables local marketer input that keeps communications local and relevant.
MIDs such as the iPad will soon revolutionize the ways you interact with your customers. Customer engagement will be enabled as never before which, in turn, will lead to greater loyalty and stronger wordof-mouth demand generation. Those who choose to innovate and lead this revolution will reap strong rewards.
John Thomson is CEO and president of Saepio, a leading provider of marketing technology for corporations with distributed marketing networks. He can be reached at