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Summer Travel — How Travel Organizations can Capitalize on Increased Traffic & Tourism via Mobile Solutions

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By: Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso

Gone are the days of Mapsco and printed city attraction lists. Nowadays when any consumer leaves their house, the chances that they have their smartphone on them is practically a guarantee, especially when traveling to a new city. Our smartphones have become a necessity and act as a sacred lifeline between us and the happenings of the lively city, cool restaurants nearby or the best shops in town to peruse.

In fact, according to TripAdivsor’s TripBarometer Connected Traveler report, 42 percent of travelers worldwide use smartphones to plan or book their trips. This leaves a major opportunity for businesses in the travel and tourism industry to engage consumers on their smartphones and provide much sought-after information such as hotel reviews, restaurant locations, excursion details and prices, etc.

Tourism companies of all types, such as hotel chains, airlines and city attraction groups, should explore ways to engage and interact with consumers, rather than only marketing to them. Consider deploying the following mobile marketing tactics in your summer promotional campaigns.

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps can provide detailed information about the company, its tourism offerings and serve as a place for consumers to learn more and interact with the brand. A great example of a branded app that serves as a resource for travelers is the “I Love NY” app. As the official tourism app for the state of New York, it displays thousands of attractions, events, hotels, parks, restaurants and more that allow consumers to plan the perfect travel itinerary – all from the convenience of their mobile device. Additionally, it helps travelers navigate the city with its maps, stay informed with location-based alerts and share activities with friends and family via social media channels. This platform shows the power that a branded app can have on becoming an invaluable source of information for travelers. Brands can also become part of a multi-branded app program if they do not want to invest in an individually-branded one. These apps can provide the same benefits to company, but allow the consumer to have one app as opposed to multiple for each brand they interact with.

Aggregator Apps

If a tourism organization does not have the resources or desire for a branded app, then it should at least ensure its information is available and consistently up-to-date on aggregator apps. These apps collect basic information and provide all of the data in one place. For example, Expedia and Priceline gather flight and booking information, and display it in one place for consumers. It is also important to remember consumers typically turn to aggregator apps to write reviews for city attractions or restaurants. Therefore, executives should regularly monitor the information posted about their organization and be aware of customer feedback.

Social Media

In today’s digital age, it is also necessary for brands to engage travelers via social media channels, especially since most users access these platforms via mobile. Many times, consumers will turn to social media as a resource to gain information in lieu of websites or when they want to interact directly with a brand. This occurs regularly with airlines where travelers will reach out via social media to see why their plane is delayed or to complain about poor customer service. Consider regularly posting helpful information for those traveling and monitor the conversations that are taking place. Being transparent and utilizing social media as a customer service tool, like Southwest, will help brands build a positive reputation among the traveling community.

SMS Short Codes

Texting is the most popular and frequently used app on a smartphone, with 97 percent of Americans sending a text at least once a day. Not only is texting highly ubiquitous, but it can be a fun and highly effective marketing tactic. SMS text programs involve a keyword and a 5-6 digit phone number or “short code” to engage individuals and invite them to opt in to receive future messages. To do this, brands should offer some kind of incentive for customers to send the initial text message with the specific keyword to the designated “short code,” such as “HOTEL” to 55555. Once the text is delivered, the user will receive a message inviting them to opt-in to receive a link to the microsite, which contains the incentive. Consider using this method to offer travelers a discount on a city attraction or hotel night rate when they line up at the front desk. Consumers are more likely to interact with a brand if they can gain a reward quickly and do not have to do more than text to redeem the offer.

Regardless of what mobile marketing tactics you choose to deploy, remember the organization’s main website should be responsive and mobile-friendly in case customers search via their smartphone browsers first.

As the lifeline of consumers, tourism brands have a real opportunity to reach travelers and visitors via their mobile devices. Take some time this summer to explore what mobile marketing tactics will reach your target audience most effectively. By engaging via smartphones, brands can improve and greatly impact the decisions of consumers and become the go-to resource for tourism-related information.

How Brands can Revolutionize Store Aisles via CPG Mobile Marketing

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By: Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso

The consumer purchase journey continues to become highly segmented with shoppers browsing multiple channels and engaging with more types of content than ever before on their smartphones. However, according to the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric, only 16 percent of consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands even use mobile advertising.

With a growing “mobile only” internet population and an estimated 250 million mobile phone users in the U.S. alone, not only do brands need to prioritize mobile, but they should also think about how they can enhance their mobile content to provide more personalized, engaging experiences. A great way to do this is by utilizing the real estate on the packages themselves!

Brands can deploy calls-to-action on their products that direct consumers to a microsite with additional information, coupons and deals, loyalty program sign-ups and much more. CPG marketing via text codes, QR codes and near field communication can be highly effective in increasing consumer engagement with the brand and driving product sales.

In order to be successful, brands must deliver the right message to their target audience. In a classic chicken-or-the-egg scenario, to deliver the right message, brands need to fully understand what their target audience is looking for. For instance, moms with primary-school aged kids may be interested in tips and recipes to get their kids to eat more broccoli, while health-conscious individuals would want information related to the nutritional value and source of the ingredients. Microsites can meet the needs of these various audiences by offering detailed information and advice based on their preferences and behavior. This interaction will go beyond the brick and mortar experience and position the brand as the go-to resource for information and further develop brand loyalty.

At the same time, using the right channel to deliver this information is also critical. Consider deploying one of the following marketing channels on products and packages:

  • Short codes use a keyword and a 5-6 digit phone number to engage individuals and invite them to opt in to a text program. To do this, customers must first send a text message with a specific keyword to the designated number, such as “VEGGIES” to 55555. Once the text is delivered, they will receive a message inviting them to opt-in to receive a link to the microsite.
  • QR codes, or quick response codes, are two-dimensional barcodes in the form of a black and white patterned square that consumers can scan using a reader application via their smartphone. Once the app reads the code, it automatically opens the mobile device’s web browser and loads the microsite.
  • Near field communication (NFC) functionality is essentially the transferring of data wirelessly. Once two NFC chips come in close proximity of each other, such as one located on the package and the other in the consumer’s smartphone, the package chip will transfer the information to the receiving end instantaneously.

Although it may require some trial-and-error to fully understand your target audience’s channel preferences, the payout in the long run can be exponential. There’s much to be gained by offering a final in-store push and another differentiator for your brand compared to competitors. The CPG industry has long been behind in the marketing game, and this year it’s time for brands to step up their efforts and consider the positive impact that mobile marketing can have on their brand loyalty and annual sales.

Pros & Cons of Different Mobile Activation Methods

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By Vivian Pham, Director of Marketing and Client Services of Blue Calypso

As more and more business are learning how location-based marketing can drive revenue opportunities, it’s becoming apparent that leveraging mobile is one of the most effective ways to do so. Not only does deploying a mobile engagement strategy allow for brands to tap into valuable shopper data, it also increases their opportunity to strengthen customer relationships.

When trying to determine how to incorporate mobile into your shopper marketing mix, it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s important to know what your options are, so you can determine what mobile activation methods make the most sense for you and your customers. In the infographic below, Blue Calypso presents the pros and cons of different mobile activation methods…all of which is supported by the KIOSentrix platform!

Click to download Infographic!

Security of Beacons

Should We Be Worried About the Security of Beacons?

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By: Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso

If you are tuned into the technology world, then you might have heard that Make Magazine was able to hack into the CES 2016 beacons in January for the second time. By breaking into the Scavenger application source code, hackers were able to connect to the Radius Networks cloud service and obtain the list of beacons used at the show. Once the list of beacons was known, they wrote a software-based script to duplicate the iBeacon packets broadcasted at the conference which, in turn, tricked the locally-installed application into thinking the hacker completed the scavenger hunt without attending the conference.

This brings up several questions that have been circulating the retail industry regarding beacons:

  • Can beacon packets be duplicated? The simple answer is yes. Since both the Bluetooth Low Energy Specification and all major beacon formats are publicly available, beacon packets can easily be duplicated through both hardware- and software-based beacons.
  • Can hardware-based beacons be hacked to send different packets? It’s possible, but not likely. Depending on the hardware provided by the vendor, most modern hardware-based beacons require some form of authentication to change their settings. However the level of security supplied is unique to each vendor.
  • Do I need an application to detect beacon packets? Yes, currently most operating systems, including smartphones, contain hardware and programming interfaces that can detect beacon packets, but a third party application is required to process the information received.
  • Do hardware beacons receive responses from the responding devices, and can they detect that a device, such an iPhone, is near? Most beacons being deployed today do not receive responses from the receiving device. Beacons, by definition, are omni-directional and sessionless. However, the next generation of “smart” beacons will be capable of two-way communication and a wealth of more sophisticated capabilities. This blog will focus primarily on “basic” beacons.
  • Can beacons implement a proprietary format? Yes, they can. However, implementation is slowed by the fact that smartphone manufacturers, such as Google (“Eddystone”) and Apple (“iBeacon”), have vested interest in promoting their own beacon protocol, so they are expected to be slow in providing robust application programming interfaces (APIs) that support proprietary formats.

So why are businesses and consumers interested in beacon technology?  It’s a combination of locally installed “smart” applications and the ability to mass produce low-cost, hardware-based basic beacons that provide both extreme value and convenience to both users and retailers, but this technology can also be abused by hackers and software companies alike.

 

Let’s take iBeacons as an example – As defined by the Apple iBeacon specification, all iBeacons must broadcast a universally unique identifier (UUID), Major number, Minor number and a TxPower value. The UUID number typically identifies the beacon owner, while the Major/Minor values are used to further define each beacon with the owner’s ecosystem. The TxPower indicator is a measure of the signal strength that should be received by the consumer application when the application is one meter from the iBeacon. It is important to note that a beacon UUID need not be unique, it is not assigned by any governing organization, and depending on the intended use, can be duplicated across multiple beacons.

When a vendor’s application is installed on a smartphone, and the device comes within roughly 100 – 150 feet of an iBeacon, it reads the UUID, Major/Minor number and TxPower transmitted by the beacon. It then processes this information, calculates the device’s approximate distance from the device based on the actual received signal strength, and sends this information to the vendor’s cloud service. In addition, typically, with the user’s permission, the GPS location of the smartphone is sent as well. From here, information is sent back to the application, such as “Thanks for visiting, here is a great offer from our store!”

However, since beacon packets can be received by multiple applications on the same phone, consumers need to be aware that the information gathered by one application to provide services to the user could easily be used by another installed application to either track the user’s visit to the same location or return additional alternative messaging to the user.

Hence it is important retailers and consumers consider these tips for protecting themselves:

For Shoppers:

  1. Be aware that each application installed on your device could be listening to beacon broadcasts and only install applications from reputable and trusted organizations with clear “terms of use” that list what information they will obtain from your device.
  1. While not a security matter, consumers should understand that listening for and reacting to beacons will impact battery life.

For Retailers:

  1. Partner with an organization capable and knowledgeable about security and privacy concerns. Choose one that will not immediately dismiss your security concerns, but rather help you in addressing them. A great partner can provide knowhow into the technology protocol, deployment and beacon management.
  1. It is important to test and conduct a proof-of-concept before rolling out any new technology. This allows the internal teams to understand the complexities and risks of this new, emerging technology and where the gaps, holes or weaknesses might be.
  1. While it is a long shot, do not completely dismiss the potential for a security breach via beacons. Instead, consider implementing dynamic UUIDs that are continuously changing and/or implementing strong credentialing and multiple layers of encryption.
  1. Remember that while beacons deliver content and do not capture consumers’ personal information, they do connect to their personal mobile device. Therefore, develop and implement this technology in the most secure way possible. The last thing a retailer wants is for their beacons or app to allow their customer’s personal information to be compromised or offensive content presented.
  1. Consider implementing a fully integrated mobile shopper engagement platform which has the ability to leverage all desired methods of activation, including “smart” and “basic” beacons, multiple beacon protocols including iBeacon and Eddystone, short codes/SMS, Near Field Communications (NFC), QR, Wi-Fi-gating and/or geo-fencing. A unified platform ensures consistent security protocols and eliminates the requirement for integrating a patchwork of disparate systems, each of which may have their own security vulnerabilities.

With the increased use of technology, the potential for security implications also rises. While most of today’s beacons are not smart devices and are used as a one-way form of communication, there is still a possibility of a breach occurring – especially given the recent growth and increased sophistication of cybercriminal attacks. In the near future, “smart” beacons, which may be integrated with on-premise Wi-Fi and can deliver a two-way connection experience between shoppers and retailers, will also provide the potential for an even higher and more complex set of security vulnerabilities. Therefore, take security into consideration from the very beginning when implementing this new technology in your business. Don’t wait until it is potentially too late!

Andrew Levi is the founder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer of Blue Calypso, an innovator and pioneer in the development and delivery of location-enabled mobile engagement solutions. Using its patented cloud-based platform, the Blue Calypso solutions elevate the consumer shopping experience through an engaging in-store mobile immersion, while capturing real-time shopper behavioral analytics for retailers and brands.

 

Entertaining the Masses, A Mobile Marketing Approach

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By: Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso

Take a look around at any city attraction or entertainment event you go to. Whether it be a sports game, concert, bowling alley or amusement park, there’s a very good chance you’ll see dozens of people on their mobile devices answering a text or call, snapping a photo with friends or scrolling on their social media accounts.

While some entertainment venue owners can find this frustrating as attendees might be paying more attention to their phones than the actual event, they should look at the situation from a different angle. Because smartphones are practically glued to our hands, there’s a huge opportunity to market to and engage with consumers via their mobile devices. Instead of worrying if they will see your flyers, billboards or digital displays, take the message to the device their already using.

There are a multitude of mobile marketing campaigns that entertainment venues can implement, but two in particular stand out – SMS text codes and beacons.

SMS Text Codes

A text code, also known as an SMS short code, uses a keyword and a 5-6 digit phone number to engage individuals and invite them to opt in to a text program. To do this, customers must send a text message with a specific keyword to the designated number, such as “BASEBALL” to 55555. Once the text is delivered, they will receive a message back confirming their participation and can be provided several options from there:

  • A link to a digital reward, such as a coupon to show to the merchandise counter
  • Multimedia messages like videos and photos of their favorite players
  • A link directing them to a branded microsite that could direct them to real-time game updates or behind the scenes exclusive information

Two great real-world examples of this can be found through Blue Calypso’s recent partnerships with North Texas Performing Arts (NTPA) and the Salem Red Sox minor-league baseball organization.

  • NTPA: By opting in, theatre goers accessed a customized microsite offering information around upcoming shows, auditions, quick links to become a member, donate and purchase tickets. In addition, the microsite enabled and encouraged advocates of the theatre to share their support within their social communities, amplifying the message through digital word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Salem Red Sox: To provide the best in-stadium fan experience possible, the team will provide game updates in the event of inclement weather, as well as offer deals and promotions to fans who have opted in.

Text codes are a popular strategy that all entertainment venues and attractions should consider regularly deploying at events. The costs to send a message to those subscribed to your list is extremely inexpensive (think a few cents per message). Additionally, text codes have an extremely high market penetration rate. Nearly all mobile phones today have text messaging capabilities, making it the most widely-used basic feature. With 90 percent of Americans owning a cell phone, according to Pew Research Center, this ensures that nearly everyone is capable of receiving messages.

Consider implementing various text codes throughout the venue to offer attendees discounts on food, drinks and merchandise. Also, this tactic could be used to enter fans into a sweepstakes or giveaway contest. Consumers are likely to participating in a marketing campaign that does not require much effort for them, but still offers a great reward.

Beacon Technology

The next level up after text codes are beacons. These are small, portable devices that can be placed anywhere in a venue or nearby location. The technology relies on a smartphone’s Bluetooth connection to transmit information directly to a mobile app listening for the beacon’s signal. These devices are highly cost effective (with the average beacon costing just $25) and are bought through mobile solutions companies that often provide the software needed to program and manage the messages being delivered.

Whether it be a universal or branded one, the customer must first download an app connected to the attraction or venue that will listen for the beacon’s signal. Once the beacon is initially connected and the customer opts-in to receive information, the user’s smartphone will automatically begin receiving messages. These are delivered each time a connected smartphone passes by a beacon, regardless of whether or not the app is open at the time.

Like text codes, the possibilities of beacon triggered messages are endless. If deploying both, utilize beacons not only as a way to push discounts and promotions, but also to increase engagement with customers. For example, a zoo could install beacon devices around each exhibit and offer fun facts on the specific animals that live there – providing potentially exclusive information to guests who have the zoo’s app.

Both marketing tools allow participants to customize how they want to engage with the brand before, during and after their visit. In addition, entertainment business owners are able to collect customer data – giving them a direct insight into how their audience wants to interact with their brand.

Today, the traditional marketing tactics can still work to engage guests at entertainment venues, but it should not stop there. Continue to deploy a balance of promotional and informational mobile marketing tactics to build a loyal fan base that will in turn increase regular attendance and incremental revenue.

Andrew Levi is the founder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and chief technology officer of Blue Calypso, an innovator and pioneer in the development and delivery of location-enabled mobile engagement solutions. Using its patented cloud-based platform, the Blue Calypso solutions elevate the consumer shopping experience through an engaging in-store mobile immersion, while capturing real-time shopper behavioral analytics for retailers and brands.

 

3 Strategies For Mobile App Adoption Success

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They say Rome wasn’t built in a day. Well, despite our best efforts, neither is mobile app adoption. Today every retailer seems to be exploring the possibility of developing a mobile app, with many already in deployment.

mobile app adoptionWhile creating the app is one thing, generating adoption is an entirely separate challenge. Mobile use today is an integral part of the shopping experience, with customers searching price comparisons, reading reviews and scanning for coupons all while in-aisle. However, they are utilizing their mobile browsers to do this pre-purchase research, as opposed to an app. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, 60% of U.S. consumers only have two or fewer retailer apps on their smartphones, and 21% don’t have any at all. Additionally, half of the respondents said they use the retailer apps only once a month or less.

Reading statistics like this can be a deterrent from implementing a mobile app, as the challenge seems daunting, if not impossible. However, it is achievable as there are several retailers that have found major success engaging customers via their mobile branded apps. In order to achieve adoption and create a loyal customer base for your app, consider implementing these three long-term strategies.

  1. Marketing Efforts

Retailers must remember to market their app, just like any other in-store promotion or special sale. Awareness of the app’s existence must first be established before adoption and engagement. While this process can take time, it pays off in the long run through downloads and customer engagement. Strategize on how to best educate consumers about the mobile app and its offerings, whether through special point-of-purchase displays or an online microsite. Then, ensure every piece of in-store collateral and digital content, including social media sites, has a call to action to remind visitors about the app and direct them to download it. Consider offering an incentive, such as a coupon or discount on their next purchase, which will yield more consumer participation.

  1. Value Proposition

In order for customers to utilize an app regularly, there must be a value proposition that simply cannot be ignored. A great example is Walmart’s Savings Catcher app that scans a customer’s receipt and compares the retail giant’s prices to its competitors. Guaranteeing low prices is something Walmart has said for years, but now it is proved with this price comparison tool. If it does find a lower price, the retailer will pay consumers the difference. In only a couple of seconds required to scan the receipt, customers can have extra cash in their pocket. Talk about minimal effort and potentially big rewards! To excel in this same way, research customer behavior and shopping habits to understand how they would prefer to use technology when engaging with the brand, and develop the app accordingly.

  1. Exclusive Offers

Building app loyalty is the second greatest challenge behind adoption. To encourage regular use of the app, retailers must consistently offer exclusive deals and promotions that can only be redeemed via the app. This will prevent the drop-off that happens when shoppers download an app to get the initial deal, discount or other promotion but then fail to use it again. Utilize in-aisle beacons to send alerts to their smartphones on in-app offers. The key is for customers to use the app on every shopping journey, not just every now and then. The more often they use it, the more it will become habitual.

Mobile app adoption can be difficult for retailers, especially when the app is brand new. If you are not ready to develop an individual branded app, consider using a universal app. This solution acts similar to an individual app but allows consumers to find additional information from other participating retailers as well. Some universal apps even mold to the retailer’s signature look and feel when opened in-store and can provide the same effect as a branded app, without the resources required to develop one from scratch. Regardless of which app option utilized, take time to understand specific customer preferences and what motivates them first in order to have a greater success. With a little patience and perseverance retailers can capitalize on consumers’ dependency on their mobile phones and provide a resource that will become a routine part of their shopping journey.

Andrew Levi is the CEO and CTO of Blue Calypso. He can be reached at alevi@bluecalypso.com.

Pump to Purchase — A Mobile Path to Sales for C-Stores

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By: Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso

Each year thousands of dollars are spent at the gas pump with the average consumer filling up their car once or twice a week – depending on the type of vehicle and their commute time. While we stop at the gas station frequently, the popularity of self-service payment options eliminates the need for customers to go inside, unless they stop in to use the restroom or grab a quick snack and drink. So how do convenience stores drive consumers to regularly make in-store purchases beyond these one-off scenarios?

Below are four mobile marketing tools for building a loyal shopper base and driving patrons from the pump to the purchasing counter:

  1. Mobile Apps

Whether using a branded app or a universal app that molds to the store’s signature look and feel, there are multiple options for utilizing a mobile app. Convenience stores can create a digital coupon book in the app where customers have the option to flip through the “pages” for different products they are shopping for. This can serve as a way to entice shoppers to purchase basic items that they would normally get at a grocery store (think bread, butter, paper towels or cleaning supplies) at the convenience store for a discounted price.

Additionally, stores can establish loyalty programs with regular patrons to track their visits, purchases and points earned through the app allowing them to earn rewards for reaching a certain number of visits each month or dollar amount spent. Rewarding loyal customers through the app will keep them using the technology more frequently.

  1. Text Codes

Text codes can be a great way to engage consumers who may not be ready to use an app, but still want to receive discounts or special offers. Stores can create awareness with signs on gas pumps that have a call to action for guests to text a word, like “MILK,” to a phone number to receive a special offer, such as half off on all gallons of milk. This is a great way to encourage impulse buys, where the customer may not have thought to go in the convenience store to grab items on their way home.

Additionally, text codes can be used to enter patrons into free giveaways or raffles to create a fun element to engaging with the brand. People love free items and the chance to win “free drinks for a month” or “a tank of gas on us” will incentivise guest participation and leave a positive lasting impact. Remember – the better a brand’s reputation, the more frequent the shopper!

  1. Beacons

Beacons are portable devices that can be placed virtually anywhere and rely on a Bluetooth connection to transmit information directly to the customer’s smartphone once the device is paired and listening for the signals. This technology can be used to deliver promotions, special offers or store alerts to customers in the nearby area.

Because beacons are so versatile and can send virtually any kind of information, stores have the ability to get creative when implementing them. For example, if a competing gas station on the opposite corner is known for not being very sanitary, consider sending alerts saying “Clean restrooms here! Checked on the hour, every hour.” to bring customers into your store and increase the chance of them buying something while they are there. The frequency can be narrowed or expanded to reach cars at individual pumps or the entire block, so remember to check those settings when implementing.

  1. Social Media

Engaging consumers on social media is a major step to building a loyal group of customers. Beyond promoting store information, consider offering fun facts or useful advice, such as the average amount of times we fill up our cars or best tips to having successful roadtrips, especially offering items that are sold in-store.

Additionally, let customers know they can contact you on social media with any complaints or suggestions they have on new products to sell, and then respond to their posts. Brands that have the most social media success understand that they must be transparent and acknowledge that both delivering and openly receiving information are imperative to a solid strategy.

Convenience stores these days must move beyond traditional marketing and carefully consider mobile tactics to implement. Consumers are constantly on their smartphones, especially as they fill up their tanks. Therefore, reaching them on these devices is a new way to get them to walk inside and begin regularly shopping at convenience stores. Consider executing these tools in your marketing efforts, and you’re sure to see a loyal customer base grow.

Andrew Levi is the founder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and chief technology officer of Blue Calypso, an innovator and pioneer in the development and delivery of location-enabled mobile engagement solutions. Using its patented cloud-based platform, the Blue Calypso solutions elevate the consumer shopping experience through an engaging in-store mobile immersion, while capturing real-time shopper behavioral analytics for retailers and brands.

 

I Built It. They Did Not Come.

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By: Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso

Today it seems every shopper uses their smartphone in some way or another on the path to purchase. Whether it be searching for and redeeming coupons, looking up price comparisons or browsing product reviews, the mobile phone has essentially become an integrated part of the shopping experience, both in-store and online.

So why then, are retailers still struggling to increase mobile app adoption? According to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, 60 percent of U.S. consumers only have two or fewer retailer apps on their smartphones, and 21 percent don’t have any at all. Additionally, half of the respondents said they use the retailer apps only once a month or less. Unfortuantely, the trend seems to be that consumers are more frequently turning to mobile websites than the mobile apps themselves.

However, this should not deter retailers who are interested in implementing a mobile app, as it can be very effective when executed correctly. Whether developing a branded app or using a universal app that molds to the retailer’s signature look and feel, there are three key components to increase adoption rates.

Broaden marketing efforts on the app itself. On every branded marketing piece, from point of purchase (PoP) displays to social media sites, there should be a call-to-action pointing consumers to the mobile app. Greater awareness of the app’s existence can help drive adoption and engagement. For digital efforts, retailers should have a direct “click to download” link on social media sites and websites to save consumers the added step of searching in the app store. On print or in-store collateral, consider offering an incentive for consumers to download the app, such as a coupon or discount on their next purchase. Consumers are more likely to participate if they are able to get some kind of instant gratification from it.

Find and show the true value of the app. Retailers who have a clear and simple purpose for their apps are typically the ones to thrive. For example, Walmart’s mobile app has skyrocketed to being one of the top retailer apps because it found its valued sweet spot – the Savings Catcher. The price comparison tool scans a customer’s receipt and compares Walmart’s prices to its competitors. While the app can do more, such as scanning for in-store availability and offering coupons, the retail giant understands its customers primarily use the app for the Savings Catcher and market it accordingly. To excel in this same way, research customer behavior and shopping habits to understand how they would prefer to use an app for your brand, and develop it to target that behavior.

Offer app exclusives to build loyalty. Once customers are interested in engaging with the app because it fits their demands and provides true value to their shopping experience, the challenge then becomes to keep them engaged. Some shoppers will download an app to get the initial deal, discount or other promotion but then never use it again. To avoid this, entice shoppers by offering weekly exclusive in-app coupons or offers that can only be redeemed in-store using the mobile app. Additionally, set the app to remind customers of the exclusive offers when they walk into the store using beacon or NFC technology. The key is for customers to use the app on every shopping journey, not just every now and then. The more often they use it, the more it will become like habit and loyalty to the app and to your brand will increase.

Mobile app adoption can be difficult for retailers, especially when the app is brand new. However, taking the time to understand specific customers preferences and what motivates them will help tailor marketing efforts and app development. With a little patience and perseverance retailers can capitalize on consumers’ dependency on their mobile phones and build an app that will become a routine part of their customers’ shopping journey.

Andrew Levi is the founder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and chief technology officer of Blue Calypso, an innovator and pioneer in the development and delivery of location-enabled mobile engagement solutions. Using its patented cloud-based platform, the Blue Calypso solutions elevate the consumer shopping experience through an engaging in-store mobile immersion, while capturing real-time shopper behavioral analytics for retailers and brands.

 

The Magic Ingredients to a Successful App

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By Andrew Levi

With 51 percent of mobile users utilizing apps while shopping in-store, retailers have an opportunity to impact consumers and turn them into loyal customers right where they’re already engaging — on their smartphones. Hundreds of apps are available to download, but the ones that will remain in the marketplace are those that leverage a user’s daily routine, as recently stated in comScore’s 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts stand out as great examples due to their ability to capitalize on their customers daily habit of buying coffee. In addition, Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl’s have also found success with their apps by rewarding their most frequent customers with in-store coupons and savings features while they shop. Although they all stem from simple concepts, these apps shine at delivering convenience and value, making them an integral part of their customers’ shopping experiences.

So how can other retailers develop successful mobile apps? First, they must analyze their current mobile marketing goals and look at the two options available: a branded app or a universal app. Both options provide consumers with a single, mobile-centric source for information. A branded app is specific to one retailer, while a universal app encompasses a group of participating retailers. Through an app, brands and retailers not only serve as an all-in-one resource, but valuable data collected over time will allow them to push out more relevant and personalized content, making the shopping experience more positive, engaging and unique to each visitor who walks through their door.

A branded app gives the retailer complete control over the experience, look and feel of the app, as it’s developed by an internal team at the company. This can prove to be a great success, like Starbucks, or end up costing the company an immense amount of time and money with little return. To minimize this risk, retailers can also take part in a universal app solution by working with a third party to host their own branded microsite (with similar capabilities to the branded app), all within an already established universal app that houses a network of retailers.

To be successful in either approach, two key ingredients must be considered:

Personalization
A recent study by Bank of America revealed that 71 percent of the respondents sleep with or next to their mobile phones. This just confirms what we all already know — using smartphones is personal! With that being said, consumers don’t want to feel like using a retailer’s mobile app is purely a business transaction, as this can hinder the overall shopping experience. Instead, businesses should combine and analyze the data collected about their shoppers to get a better understanding of their buying behavior. Data such as consumer traffic figures with point-of-sale information, marketing activity, average transaction values, conversion rates and return visits can help businesses build a comprehensive customer profile. This info enables retailers to focus on the “Three R’s” — delivering the right shopper insights to the right decision maker at theright moment — leaving the consumer with a highly personalized and unique shopping experience.

Convenience 
From offering deals for items that are already in a shopping cart to customized store maps based on a shopping list, the ease and convenience that a mobile app can offer to shoppers is limitless. Smartphones put power in the hands of consumers by enabling them to find information on any product from any retailer right at their fingertips. With all this information so easily accessible, businesses need to ensure that their apps are delivering this exact information just as readily. Otherwise, consumers will simply open their smartphone’s internet browser to search for themselves, and in worst-case scenarios they may even remove your app from their device if it lacks this kind of usefulness.

Retailers that can achieve personalization and convenience, while assisting in a consumer’s daily routine, are sure to see an increase in app adoption, brand loyalty and engagement. Mobility has changed the retail industry forever, and for retailers to truly find success, they must invest in their customers’ shopping experiences and find new ways to consistently engage with them over time.

Andrew Levi is the founder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and chief technology officer of Blue Calypso, a developer of patented mobile consumer engagement solutions.

Restaurants and Beacons: Friend or Foe?

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By: Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso

According to new findings by ABI Research, the use of beacon technology is set to hit the mainstream market this year, following a strong third quarter in 2015 in shipment data and contract figures. Thus far, traditional big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target have rolled out and began testing this technology. However, several other industries, such as restaurants, are looking to break into the beacon movement as well. While still a fairly new concept, especially for the restaurant industry, there are a multitude of deployment options available to increase customer engagement.

 

So what is a beacon and how does it work? These portable devices can be placed anywhere in a restaurant, or nearby location, and rely on a smartphone’s Bluetooth connection to transmit information directly to a mobile app that is listening for the beacon’s signal. They essentially create that “tap on the shoulder” that allows restaurants to send information to a customer’s device. Once the beacon is connected, consumers no longer have to activate or scan a code to receive special offers or engage with the restaurant. Instead, the information is automatically delivered to their smartphone once they walk past the beacon, allowing them to opt in as they freely enter and exit the restaurant each time they visit.

Below are five ways restaurants can begin experimenting with beacon technology in their stores today.

  1. Marketing Messages

When initially deploying beacons, restaurants should use the technology to ping customers with marketing messages when they enter the location or are nearby. Offering coupons or special daily deals can entice customers walking by to have lunch or dinner at the restaurant. Once they enter the establishment, restaurants can send a message thanking them for their patronage and offer a discount on appetizers to use on their next visit. Sending marketing messages to consumers can be a good first step for restaurants looking to get their feet wet in the beacon pool.

 

  1. In-Store Service Messages

In today’s fast-paced world, consumers prefer dining out and visiting restaurants that have quick and efficient service – no matter how busy the restaurant is or what time of day it is. What if beacons could let customers know what the current wait time or table availability is at the location even before they entered? By installing beacons a few blocks away or in the parking lot down the street, restaurants can notify customers ahead of time to provide this real-time information, and help consumers make better purchasing/experiential choices. While this might turn away potential guests, the location’s transparency will leave a positive, lasting impact on the customer for future visits.

 

  1. Customer Feedback

Restaurants that want to remain transparent and focus on consistently improving their customer’s experience can take even one step further to ensure customer satisfaction. Beacons can notify guests as they exit the restaurant to fill out a short survey about their experience. Customers can then state their comments and opinions in real-time directly to the establishment without any direct confrontation. By asking for this feedback, restaurants are showing how much they care and guests will appreciate that.

 

  1. Ordering and Payment Options

Beacons also have the ability to offer customers ordering and payment options right at the table. The customer simply has to move their device in close proximity to the beacon at the table in order for it to pull up a menu on their mobile device through an app or microsite. This allows customers to browse the menu and potentially begin ordering drinks or appetizers without delay. At the end of their meal, they can even pay their bill right from their phones. This technology will complement in-person service by allowing guests to begin the ordering process at their own convenience and by allowing them to pay and leave without having to wait on anyone. Since so many customers want self-service options these days, this enables restaurants to tailor the in-store experience to accommodate that.

 

  1. Behavioral Analytics

The more information a restaurant knows about its visitors, the better it can adjust menus, happy hours and other promotions to correspond to their guests needs and wants. When a customer opts in, the technology will begin collecting data every time they receive a marketing message, fill out a feedback survey or use the table-side beacons. By learning how to best engage with the customers and technology, restaurants will have more insight into their visitors’ unique behavior, wants/needs and preferences. This will equip them to begin targeting guests more strategically and ultimately provide a better overall experience for their visitors to keep them coming back!

 

Restaurants have several options for engaging with their customers via mobile technology, from basic marketing messages to feedback requests. No customer wants to be overloaded with information; however, when used in moderation and appropriately, beacons can have a real impact on engaging customers and creating unique, tailored dining experiences. We believe this year will be the turning point when more retailers of all sizes begin deploying beacons, and the restaurant industry is no exception.