Geo-targeting and geo-fencing technology has been around for many years. Some social networks use it and provide businesses with ways to show customers offers and specials based on their current location. However, for the most part, these are application-specific. An individual would need to download an app, join a social network and opt-in for push notifications from the service to receive any ads on their phones. That may all be changing.
On July 24, according to an ABC News article Verizon Wireless became the first wireless carrier to launch a rewards program. While on the surface, it would seem that they are just joining the thousands of businesses across the country in rewarding customers for using their service, Verizon’s program has a different goal altogether…. collecting consumer location data for advertising purposes. This, in itself, is also not new. Verizon launched Verizon Selects in 2012, which is an opt-in program that uses subscriber surfing and location data to better target ads they see on the phone. The catch here is that to join Verizon Wireless’ new reward program, opting in to their Verizon Selects program is mandatory. Verizon currently has 100-million-plus subscribers, according to the ABC News article, which gives it a considerable audience. In addition, users do not have to download or use an app to have ads delivered to them. Unlike every other service that utilizes location data, Verizon has direct access and control over their service, as well as the ability to deliver ads to consumers without the need for an app.
This presents quite a few interesting questions. Will the carrot of a reward be enough to convince a person who otherwise would not opt to share their location data to be willing to do so? If the answer is yes, the Verizon Selects program will almost certainly become very valuable to Verizon and to their advertisers. There is no public information on how many Verizon subscribers are already participating in the Verizon Selects program. My guess is that offering freebies, discounts, experiences and prizes to their customers will entice enough people to give up their location and browsing data. Imagine being an automobile dealership in an auto mall and being able to push specials and ads to a Verizon consumer who is at your competitor’s dealership at that very moment shopping for a vehicle.
With the increasing concern consumers have over data privacy and the very public debacle that occurred last year when Verizon was revealed to have given the NSA access to phone records, it’s an interesting decision by Verizon to go public with its desire to collect more data. It’s proven, however, that consumers are willing to trade their data in exchange for discounts and rewards. Almost every major company – in every consumer-facing industry – has a rewards program; including automobile brands, entertainment, hospitality, grocery, travel and banking; to name some of the larger ones.
The fact that Verizon has the ability to use cell towers to locate customers rather than relying on the GPS or Wi-Fi connections on consumer’s phones, gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to location-based push marketing. It will be interesting to watch this program develop and see how many consumers decide to take advantage of Verizon’s new rewards program in exchange for their privacy.
A recent article on the Huffington Post asked why consumers are still buying GM vehicles despite all of the recent recalls. There’s no question that there are many concerned owners of GM vehicles. According to the article, GM has “issued 44 recalls in North American this year, stemming from problems that have been tied to 50 crashes and 13 dealers, [yet] the company recently said its sales for the month of May were up 13 percent from the month before, the biggest May gain in seven years.” Common sense might lead a person to believe that consumers would become more hesitant to purchase a GM vehicle with all of the problems that are occurring. But the numbers indicate quite the opposite.
Loyalty doesn’t always follow reason. As the article indicates, there are many points that make consumers remain loyal in times of turmoil. One reason the article cites is ignorance of the recalls themselves. “Experts say about one-third of people with a vehicle affected by automaker recalls never bring their car in for repair.” Another reason is that people may perceive that these recalls are for vehicles made in the past and don’t apply to recent vehicles (which is untrue).
The last reason cited in the article is the one most likely to be the case: that GM has been successful at creating emotional bonds with consumers over time. Consumers are quick to back companies that have supported them in times of crisis, especially if the situation is handled properly. GM CEO, Mary Barra, has been running damage control well during her tenure. Her public commitment to identify any issues with GM cars and solve the problems seems zealous in nature at times. Many consumers are willing to forgive companies – especially companies of which they are already brand loyalists – if the company is willing to back heir product quality and rectify the issues.
Think of your favorite store. You may love shopping at that store and patronize it frequently. Perhaps one day you have a problem with a product or a bad experience. If handled properly and made whole, your opinion of the business may even increase. People understand that nobody is perfect. All they want is to know that the business cares about them as a customer and values their business enough to fix the problem.
GM has certainly experienced very trying times over the last 6 years going through bankruptcy and requiring the government’s assistance. It will certainly be an uphill battle to regain consumer confidence in the quality of their vehicles. As a society, however, we tend to have short memories. While GM will be forced to be more vigilant in vehicle quality and customer retention efforts, those efforts may prove to reinforce the emotional attachment its current brand loyalists possess and also earn it some new ones.
There are many things that companies can do to earn a customer’s loyalty. However, e-mail marketing isn’t typically high on the list. Consumers get barraged continuously with marketing messages via e-mail. As you go through your in-box, how many do you delete without even reading them in order to get to those you are interested in reading? A very good article on the Small Business Success blog shared some tips on how to write e-mails that will more effectively engage the recipient.
Consider these statistics shared in the blog article:
- Personalized emails improve click through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.
- Leads who are nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.
- 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.
In my recent data series blogs, I covered how dealers who use their data to effectively target consumers with relevant messages will increase responses. When relevant messages are relayed to the right customers, they tend to feel the company is more in tune with their needs and wants. They no longer feel like just another address on your e-mail list. As you establish a relationship with the customer, they will begin to value your communications and pay attention to them, rather than discard them into their trash, spam or, worse, opt-out of your marketing.
Targeting segmented customers is definitely something dealers should be doing. However, the content of any email message is equally important. Generic e-mails that are obviously sent en masse will detract from the consumer’s perception that you are actually looking out for their best interest.
In order to increase the chance that a customer perceives your e-mail message as helpful rather than intrusive, try and make your e-mails as personalized as possible. If you have cleaned up your data, it is relatively easy to insert a customer’s first name and the make and model of the vehicle.
At the same time, ensure that any attempts to send personalized messages to your customers are not destroyed by poor attention to details. Double check that there are no improper formatting or incorrect merge fields because of erroneous data in the wrong fields in your CRM.
In the end, it’s not just about using past behavior to predict the future. It’s also about how you can best convey your message to your target group. If your customers only receive helpful reminders and relevant messages from you, you will build relationships that help create loyalty and increase retention.