The Price of Convergence: Part 2

Big Brother is coming or at least what we hope is his less scary cousin! That’s what a few might believe… given the predictions for some of the wireless-related email marketing tools and technologies headed our way.

For instance, step into a consumer’s shoes for a moment and picture the following scenario:

You’re walking down a busy city street when suddenly you’re alerted to an incoming email on your pager or phone. Lo and behold, you open up the message and see an offer from Starbucks…

“Dear Customer… Since you’re just about to walk by our Dupont Circle store, why not stop in and grab a creamy smooth grande mocha latte? AND, if you do so within the next five minutes, you can get it for HALF OFF…”

Wow. Talk about taking advantage of opportunity. The “impulse buy” steps up to a whole new level.

Yes, the same great technology that has given us wireless connectivity will also enable this type of highly targeted, location-driven email advertising.

From a consumer standpoint, there will be, of course, the privacy issue. Not many people are going to like the idea of this unseen force having the ability to know their whereabouts at any given time. That’s scary stuff for some folks and rightly so.

Which is precisely why it’s doubtful that email marketers of the not-too-distant-future will be able to acquire new customers in this manner. (A ways down the road? Could be…)

For example, imagine having a stranger call out to you as you’re strolling along, minding your own business. He beckons you over to him… and even calls out your name. You’ve no idea who he is or what he wants. All you know is he is speaking to you in a manner that is too familiar, considering you’ve never met. Not to mention he’s intruding on your day.

In other words, it’s one thing to receive prospecting promotions when you’re safe and sound in your home or office. It’s quite another to receive them when you’re out and about. Not to mention the fact that one of the only reasons you’re receiving such a message is because of WHERE you are at that very moment.

However, the technology behind this type of one-to-one messaging may just end up being the silver bullet for email marketers who are focused on communicating with existing customers. That is, provided those customers actually opt in for this level of service.

Think of it. Say you’re Barnes and Noble. You could offer a special alert service on your site and/or in all of your stores. And you could offer it EXCLUSIVELY to your wireless customers. It could be a way for you to promote excess inventory… or announce a last-minute book sale. It could also be yet another outlet to push coupons and/or special events.

Or, for large and small businesses alike, it could simply be a way for you to send an email blast to customers who just happen to be in your vicinity. One quick “Hi… We’re over here! Come on over and get this great new _____…” is all it would take.

Of course, this type of mobile messaging can also target based on things other than geographical location. Time-sensitive promotions and opportunities can also come into play.

For instance, an online investment service can send an alert to clients if the market happens to take a drastic turn. This alert can also conveniently promote one of the service’s paid product solutions… and just in the nick of time.

We’re already beginning to see the potential popularity of alert-type messaging with Yahoo and eBay. And because we live in a convenience-oriented (and often impulsive) society, it stands to reason that as more people go wireless, the more likely they are to register for these types of services. (And, yes, they will be “services” because presumably, if they’re promoted to the right people, they’ll be laden with benefits.)

And more high-tech developments are on their way. For those of us marketing with email, the opportunities to connect will abound. You want 24/7 access to your customers? It’s coming. You want the ability to say “Thank you” immediately after your customer has made a purchase at one of your offline stores? It’s coming, it’s coming.

(You see that? Big Brother may not have been just a figment of fiction, after all.)

By George, Mr. Orwell must be spinning in his grave.

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