Cellphones replacing loyalty cards?

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By now your business surely has a Facebook fan page, and some of you are even actively using it to promote your store/product/whatever. We even know of some Top 100 dealers who offer Facebook-only specials to its base of fans — usually, a 10-percent off something or other special. It’s a brave new world, this social networking stuff, and it’s sometimes hard to tell if all the work keeping up with it is for naught. 

Sure you have 500 fans on Facebook, but what does this mean? Has it translated into more sales or door swings? 

Well, the New York Times is reporting on a number of social networking companies who are turning their social media skills towards programs that can help you track your more loyal customers — at least those who are actively engaged in Facebooking, Foursquaring, etc. 

There are already several tech companies — Foursquare, Shopkick, Gowalla and Loopt — that have turned shopping and visiting stores into a game. Consumers using the social apps on their smartphones mainly use them to “check in” to different locations to let their Facebook friends know where they are or where they’re shopping. They can also collect virtual points, prize badges and titles such as Mayor or some such. They’ve basically turned running errands into a game. 

Sound silly? Yes, sort of, until now. A couple of these companies have introduced partnership programs that allow you to reward loyal customers for coming into your store and “checking in.” This is basically mobile marketing that allows you to offer such perks as discounts or free gifts to loyal customers. The idea is that these targeted bonuses will help increase repeat visits in addition to foot traffic. 

The New York Times reports that such companies as Gap, Burger King and Universal Music have plans to use Loopt Star to reward loyal customers. The participating companies can tailor the program to offer different “rewards” for such actions as “checking in” a certain number of times, or give out an extra perk to those with a specific number of Facebook friends. Retailers can design “rewards” with their own graphics, special offers and the actions they’d like their loyal customers to take. These include:

  • check in to selected venues with Facebook friends
  • check in to selected venues and broadcast this on Facebook
  • check in to selected venues at certain times of the day
  • check in to selected venues a specific number of times  
  • Foursquare, the most popular of the “checking in” apps, allows businesses to offer Foursquare Specials, a program that includes a set of analytics to gauge consumer behavior. The free program allows you to collect behavioral data about customers such as:

    • most recent visitors
    • most frequent visitors
    • the time of day people check in
    • total number of unique visitors
    • a histogram of check-ins per day
    • gender breakdown of customers

    Foursquare also encourages businesses to promote their involvement with the service via Twitter, with signs at the cash registers or sidewalk signs, and can help stores market their Specials via window clings or through downloadable PDFs.  

    Here’s an idea. Why not combine the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Revive Your Ride program and one of these mobile marketing services to promote the upcoming riding season?

    It’s undoubtedly frustrating keeping up with technology when you’re running a dealership, especially the rapidly evolving social media world. But it might be worthwhile to investigate what’s out there as it’s very likely a large swath of your customer base is already clued into this stuff. Also, a lot of a it is free and who doesn’t like free?

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