Fargo This — But Keep C-Commerce Well

Wells Fargo did itself a public relations disservice by committing the classic hi-tech blunder of leading new product introductions with technology and thinking the market would sheepishly follow. (For those who missed it, Wells Fargo created controversy by putting movie trailer ads in Wells Fargo ATMs.)

But Wells did a far greater disservice to the emerging c-commerce market. What’s that, you say? C-commerce is the evolution of Internet-bound e-commerce to devices more convenient to consumers than PCs-the migration of e-commerce from the computer screen to out-of-home devices.

Ads and purchase opportunities will appear on ATMs (buy a ticket to the movie playing across the street), at the gas pump (pre-pay for your McDonald’s Happy Meal and pick it up on the way home). Or you can get an email notification on your cell phone or PDA (advising of a new Amazon book of interest) and make a purchase with one click (or button push).

C-commerce is all about convenient consumer commerce. Think: consumer, convenience, convergence.

As with any new medium or technology, there is an adoption cycle of innovators, early adopters, early majority and so on that will evolve during the next few years. But to be successful, it must first and foremost be convenient and non-interfering to the consumer.

What does this mean? Quite simply, to never interfere in any manner with the primary mission of the consumer. The primary mission is the reason the consumer is at the point of service in the first place.

You can bet with great certainty that few, if any consumers, visit ATMs to view unsolicited movie trailers that can lengthen their transaction time and waiting time in the ATM line. C-commerce must be built on a foundation of convenience and respect for the consumer if it is to succeed. Do not Fargo the consumer. Engage the consumer. Give consumers value, save them time and do it cleanly and quickly.

Over and above the basic rules of consumer advertising, c-commerce holds an additional caveat that is imperative to success. Comparable in scale and significance to Star Trek’s Prime Directive (to never interfere with an alien culture), c-commerce’s prime directive is to never interfere with or add time to the primary reason the consumer is at the point of service: the primary transaction.

That is, do not divert attention from the primary transaction, nor add time to that transaction for the participating consumer or other consumers waiting. Remember, c-commerce is all about consumer, convenience and convergence, not capture, contain and constrict.

This is a major challenge for advertisers and retailers, and it’s much easier said than done. For instance, at what point does advertising interfere with the primary purpose of consumer presence at a point of service, or add time to complete that purpose? The answer, like advertising itself, is simple in concept and complicated in execution.

Ads and c-commerce offers must be active only during “idle time” when the consumer is literally waiting for the transaction to complete. In advertising terminology this is referred to as “capture,” and it’s empty of value to the consumer.

As an example, let’s take the case of advertising on an ATM. Ads and c-commerce must appear after a consumer has inserted a card and selected a transaction and end prior to the conclusion of that transaction (like withdrawing $40 cash). That’s not much time; perhaps enough for a blur of short branding ads or a quick movie trailer and purchase of movie tickets to the theater across the street, as a best-case scenario.

A transaction at a gas pump presents more idle time to offer the consumer value. In this scenario, idle time is initiated when the pump handle is lifted and terminates when the pump handle is replaced. Research shows this to be, on average, slightly more than two full minutes. This allows for plenty of time to present the consumer with branding ads, as well as interactive coupon offers (good at the gas station convenience store or other local merchants) and even pre-paid c-commerce opportunities such as books, event tickets and fast-food.

As with ATMs, the key is to offer the consumer value in terms of price and convenience only during idle time. Any increase at all in time spent over and above the primary transaction is a disservice not only to the viewing consumer, but to those waiting and the merchant providing the service. That is the prime directive which no doubt escaped the well-intentioned Wells Fargo marketing people.

We can expect c-commerce and related advertising to follow the same adoption trail (for consumers and advertisers alike) that early Internet banner advertising followed. A few visionary advertisers and consumer innovators have already engaged the model. Soon, advertising budgets will be allocated to the medium, and consumers will see c-commerce as simply another tool to utilize or filter out as the need arises. And that is the mark of success.

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