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Location-Based Marketing: 5 Critical Lessons from Last Night's Retail Experience

Nate Riggs
Nate Riggs / August 04, 2011

Sarah and I are watching the skies for storks ready to drop dancing peanuts any day now.

So last night, we made a trip to one of our local Babies R Us locations in order to cash in a few gift cards we've received from family and friends.

Since I'm a internwebz geek, I've gotten used to checking into retail locations on apps like Foursquare, Yelp and Facebook Places. The chance of finding a hidden deal or discount is exciting enough to keep that habit in the top of my mind

Foursquare DealFinding the Location-Based Marketing Treasures

As I checked into the store on Foursquare, I was immediately rewarded with a digital coupon for $25 off of a $100 purchase of clothes, shoes or accessories.


And, being that we had lots of baby accessories to buy, we were delighted to dig up this little location-based treasure.

To our disappointment, the deal was bunk and we never received our $25 discount as promised. First, the polite older lady at the checkout had never seen a customer bring in this type of deal to the counter, and frankly had absolutely no idea what Foursquare was. She did believe us though, and I was able to show her the date, address of the exact Babies R Us in which we were standing where the location-based marketing offer promised us a deal..

What she couldn't figure out was how to actually enter the deal into the cash register.

And so, we waited as she called for reinforcements...

Send in the Store Manager

After a few minutes we were greeted by the store manager.

She curiously looked at the deal on my phone while a puzzled expression crossed her face, much in the same way as the checkout clerk before her. Once again, the manager had never seen this type of coupon before, but didn't debate the legitimacy of the deal in that all the information was correct.

I smiled, and explained to her that I worked in marketing and that someone from her corporate marketing department had probably set up the deal with Foursquare remotely.

Her response, while kind of disheartening was not at all unexpected: "Yeah, they do things like that all the time and never really tell us anything about it."

After a few more moments, the manager left and sent in the assistant manager, a girl probably in her early 20's was familiar with "the Twitter and the Facebook", and had had some experience with customers asking to verify deals on only their mobile phone.

While she did indeed recognize Foursquare and had admittedly cashed in a Groupon earlier that day, she had to deny our deal based on the fact that the word "accessories" only applied to items that considered to be clothing accessories such as baby bow ties and shoe laces.

...queue the sad trombones.

5 Fundamental Location-Based Marketing Lessons

Yeah, the experience was disappointing. But in reality, loosing out on a $25 discount isn't end of the world. We had to burn the gift cards anyway and all of the store associates at this Babies R Us location were incredibly polite and helpful. They really did try to do the best they could with the information they had available.

With that in mind, I still think that there are a few valuable lessons that corporate marketers and brand managers can take from our retail experience:

  1. Good internal communications can make or break your success in using location-based marketing promotions. If your marketing department fails to let your retail associates know what to expect in terms of location based-promotions, those promotions will fail to create a stellar customer experience.
  2. You must promote the deal to your customers at retail. It became obvious that we may have been one of the first and only customers to claim the Foursquare check-in deal. If you want your deal to be successful, your customers have to use it. And, unless they're complete nerds like yours truly, they may not remember to look. Simple signage at the register or entrance of your location can make all the difference in the world in terms of redemption of your promotion.
  3. Make sure the rules and restrictions of your deal are clearly stated in the mobile application. If your deal copy is vague or leaves room for debate from your customers, you could potentially out your retail associates in a crisis situation. While we didn't push when our deal redemption was denied, we probably could have raised a ruckas and done so in front of the rest of the folks in line. I'm willing to bet that that's happened in some other cases. Always make sure to clearly state the nature of your deal and what items are fair game in your copy.
  4. Keep instructions on your register that help to eliminate confusion and wasted time in the check out line. By instructing your retail associates that the deal is legit, how to log the deal in the cash register, and how your customers will present the digital coupon, you will eliminate any confusion that leads long waits for other customers in the back of the check out line.
  5. Empower your retail associates to fudge a little. Give your retail associates the leeway to grant the deal to customers whose items might fall in the grey area fo the definition of your deal. Again, if you're clear on the copy, this will be less of a problem. However, the impression and delightful experience you will leave with your by granting the deal as opposed to denying them is well worth the profit margin you will lose in the discount. Sure, some of your might debate this one, but then again, why are you discounting your products in the first place?

By all means -- experiment with location-based marketing in your stores.

When implemented wisely, I believe these types of tactics can work to increase customer happiness, retention, loyalty and referrals. Then again, if poorly implemented, the same tactics can leave your customers with a sour impression of your brand.

The key to making it all work for the positive lies in how you execute marketing across your chain's operations.

Have you tried implementing location-based marketing in your stores? How did you get the word out to your retail-level associates?

Tagged With: Strategy