Closing the Sales Loop With Mobile

Recently, I did my part for the economy and purchased a new TV. (Actually, the beginning of football season had a lot more to do with the decision than anything else.) Since getting the best deal is something that haunts all purchases I make over $20, the research process began early.

First, I turned to my immediate friends, asking them where they purchased consumer electronics (Amazon.com, Best Buy). That was all good, but as a digital media guy, I needed more data points.

Using the Echofon iPhone app, I posted a quick tweet that fed into my Facebook status asking for help from my social network. This generated a flood of responses (mySimon.com, Best Buy again, Abt Electronics, Fry’s, Sams Club, and many others). I next turned to the Internet and looked into each option.

By the time I was done researching, it was the day before the college football season started. That eliminated ordering online. I needed a TV now. I was off to the stores armed with only my iPhone.

The point of this story is that connecting the dots for consumers has always been the goal for marketers. Moving people down the purchase funnel from awareness to consideration, onto intent and through to final purchase has been the traditional construct. It’s easy to understand, but not really representative of reality — especially in this fragmented media environment. Mobile technology has short-circuited the traditional construct further.

The combination of location-based services and Internet capabilities further disrupts the funnel, but also provides advertisers greater opportunities to close the loop to final sale.

Before we get back to my TV purchase, there are a few things to remember before we dive into the various techniques we have for closing the sale.

Mobile Reality

Mobile phones are very personal devices and used primarily for communication. Not only are advertisements the often uninvited guest, users are paying for their delivery through their data plans. It’s important that the value exchange is clear and the process for receiving that value simple and unobtrusive.

When people aren’t talking, texting, e-mailing, or socializing on their phone, they’re generally engaged in a goal-oriented activity. They’re searching for something specific, confirming a price on a new appliance, looking for the nearest restaurant, getting directions to the store, checking show times, or a myriad of other ancillary activities undertaken to support a larger goal. Immediacy, relevancy, and actionability are key.

Keeping this in mind will allow us to connect with consumers when they are most receptive to our marketing efforts.

Connecting With Consumers on the Go

Mobile search is often the starting point for consumers looking for a product or service. The major search engines — Google, Yahoo, and Bing — have mobile-specific offerings designed to meet the consumer expectations for searching on the go. The key thing to remember is immediacy. When purchasing paid mobile search ads, sending consumers to a Web site — even one optimized for mobile viewing — is often not the ideal experience. People are looking for directions or a deal on the product.

So on my TV quest, right before I left the house, I searched on Google Mobile App for “Buy LCD TV.” Best Buy came up front and center with an ad promising great savings on new TVs. Click. It came up with a quick list of all the TVs. However, I wanted to get to a Best Buy, not look at a list of all the TVs. This is a good learning opportunity.

Depending on the query, try to move the searcher closer to the purchase. If you can’t send them to a map to the store itself, then send them to a store locator or just the address of the closest location. If the search had been for a product or services, then a mobile optimized coupon would be ideal.

Crisp, a rich media ad platform, is gaining traction with publishers and advertisers alike. Applicable, for this example, is its new location-based ads. Instead of sending consumers to a mobile site or something similar, it is able to send clickers directly to the closest location on a map. Perfect for shopping for big-ticket items.

Unfortunately, this was not an option — so I went back to Google to map out the route to the closest Best Buy.

Connecting With Consumers Researching

After a few laps around the TV department, I had a good idea of what I wanted. But was it a good model? Out with the iPhone again and this time over to Amazon to research what people were saying. People liked the model, but recommended the newer version that had recently come out. When I asked my salesperson, they were sold out.

This time I opened up Slifter, an interesting mobile application that allows shoppers to find the best deals on products closest to the shopper. Originally this was envisioned as a way to see if products are available, but now it’s a great way for consumers to verify that the purchase they are about to make is the best price. There are loads of advertising opportunities within the app — including a “hot deal” finder replete with a map link to the nearest location. The newer version of the TV was available across town — sigh.

Irritated by the unavailability of the product I wanted, I posted a snarky note via the mobile social network Loopt and immediately got a call from my friend, which brings me to the final chapter of the story.

Connecting With Consumers Socializing

There’s a new breed of mobile social networks that allow users to visualize one another using their cell phones and share information. There’s several, but Loopt is currently the one I’ve been using. In addition to the location and status updating, Loopt is with integrated Yelp content into the iPhone version of the service. Through an arrangement with NavTeq, mobile advertising opportunities are opening up to connect stores and localized messaging to consumers.

After seeing my message on Loopt, my friend called and explained that if I were to open a Best Buy card I would get a discount on the TV and defer payments. On top of that he had recently negotiated 15 percent off the list price of a computer and encouraged me to as well. Plus the new version of the TV I wanted wasn’t all that — and football was imminent. The TV was purchased and the next day I was watching my team in the comfort of my home.

Thank you, mobile technology, for making it all possible.

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