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Walgreens, BP Take Separate Paths to Mobile Customer Engagement

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Walgreens, BP Take Separate Paths to Mobile Customer Engagement
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The more complex the business world becomes, the more often we feel pressure to discover a “silver bullet solution” to a problem. In this case, silver bullet doesn’t mean the answer is perfect and invincible, it suggests one that provides quick and easy answers, if not the optimal and well thought out option.

Location based marketing (LBM) is a topic that on the surface seems simple, but as time goes by, reveals its complexity. Foursquare was initially synonymous with LBM, though some would say that Shopkick is attempting to redefine the space. I’m adding two more use-cases to the growing set of implementation options to LBM, one with Walgreens in the US and another used by British Petroleum (BP) in South Africa.

In each case, the brand is seeking to solve the simple problem, how to engage customers through the mobile device and connect them with merchant offers based on the user’s proximity to the merchant location.

BP is using NAVTEQ’s Location Point Advertising to deliver ads to mobile customers using Nokia Ovi Map enabled smartphones in a campaign titled “Get Pumped up for Summer”. The program is being run across BP’s 540 stores in South Africa and ads are served up to consumers in range of stores, inviting them to enter the contest with a chance to win a Golf GTI as well as a variety of daily prizes.

The NAVTEQ technology allows mobile users to connect with merchants in three ways, by clicking on a link or calling a number provided or being routed to a participating merchant location using mapping technology on the Nokia phone.

Walgreens is taking a different route, testing the social advertising platform from LocalResponse. This mobile marketing platform is based on distilling a mash-up of social posts and check-ins across Foursquare, Twitter, Yelp, Facebook and others to present offers to consumers “in the area” of a participating merchant. LocalResponse notices “explicit check-ins” (I’ve checked in on Foursquare) and also “implicit check-ins” (I just tweeted about where I am or what I am doing) to trigger timely offers that appear serendipitous to the consumer.

Founder and CEO Nihal Mehta explained the concept well in this video, sharing that local, mobile, and social are the three hot buttons in digital marketing at the moment and that LocalResponse addresses all three. The company has been well received by investors, raising about $8.5 Million in capital to date and is balancing gingerly on the fine line that separates “relevant and timely” from “invasive and spammy”.

On which side of that line LocalResponse lands will depend in part to how consumers perceive the concept of a “soft opt-in”, a term that describes consumers revealing their location or activity without actually checking in with a location based platform. This is really not an opt-in at all in the traditional sense and is more akin to looking over consumer shoulders to notice where they are and digitally whisper “hey, we’ve got something good for you over here”. If the substance of the offers passes the WIIFM test (what’s in it for me?), LocalResponse will succeed. If the whispers become annoying or creepy, you can guess the outcome.

LocalResponse does have safeguards in place against crossing that line as they say no consumer will receive more than 1 ad within a 24 hour period nor more than 1 per advertiser per week. Also, the Walgreens campaign includes a feature where it donates free flu shots to charity when consumers check-in via Foursquare or Facebook mobile apps. That charitable umbrella should give consumers comfort.

Here we have two big brands in two distinct geographic markets. Each is taking its own approach to mobile customer engagement and local merchant marketing. A silver bullet in either approach? It’s too early to tell, but give each credit for the courage to stretch the definition of location based marketing and to test new ways to connect with customers.

 

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