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Today, I’d like to focus on an advancing technology promoted by the “big guys” (Apple and Google) that soon will revolutionize the way retail promotions and loyalty programs are administered.
I predict it will follow the same pattern of how email was introduced and became ubiquitous. Judging from my travels and conversations, few folks in the car business even recognize, let alone utilize, this new communication process that’s destined to become a standard practice.
In the spirt of full disclosure, and to paraphrase the old Remington razor TV commercials by Victor Kiam: “I liked it so much, I bought the company.” (Hard to believe it first aired almost 36 years ago.)
Actually, we didn’t buy the company. But we recently did work with our developers to create the software code to create an easy-to-use platform to utilize this technology.
What I’m talking about, quite simply, is the new, inexpensive and easy way to digitally market to people by sending messages to the virtual payment platforms (Apple Pay and Google Wallet) on their smartphones.
Smartphones have become more important to most folks than their own physical wallet. A recent study revealed people often wait to report their wallet missing, but will report a lost cell phone immediately.
But while it’s rather difficult to get your dealership test-drive offer, loyalty card or even business card into your prospects’ physical wallets, it’s easier to send messages to their virtual wallets.
Once you are there, you can do a lot more than with emails, telephone calls or texts. You can:
•Send a specific message, coupon or special offer to them, any time, one that will be read and noticed because it will send an alert above their phone lock screen.
•Send a general message, coupon or special offer to your entire Wallet database, again with a special alert message above the lock screen. It is not subjected to government texting restrictions because this technically isn’t a text message.
•Set up a specific, geographic, geo-fence net, with a reach from 100 ft. (31 m) to a mile (1.6 km) from an exact target on the map you pinpoint, and then send a message, coupon or special offer to all those prospects or customers who enter the specific geo-fence. (It could be a competitor’s lot or a quick-oil change shop; you get the idea.)
•Send a specific message, coupon or offer via a strategically placed beacon. Half the size of your palm, it’s an inexpensive weather-proof self-contained device that sends specific messages to prospects or customers, and can dynamically change that message, depending on how close the person is to the beacon source.
Want to send a special message about a particular vehicle to your customers, and change the message based on their distance from the unit? Try a beacon. Or maybe there is a car show and you want to greet visitors with a special sale or coupon message as they walk into the event. Just place a person with a beacon at the door.
Try doing any of this conquest-type marketing with a phone call, email or text. It’s not going to happen.
One more thing: None of this costs a lot of money to implement.
See what I mean about the potential impact for all retailers, let alone for dealership people, who I consider some of the savviest independent merchandisers in the U.S. See why I’m excited?
Just the beacon part alone is ready to explode this year. Business Intelligence forecasts beacon use for the top 100 U.S. retailers will grow from just 8% in 2014, to 85% by the end of this year.
As a WardsAuto story headlined “Ford to Use Beacons to Beckon Buyers” notes, Ford says it is considering beacon technology for its dealers. I’m sure other automakers are too.
Creative and exciting times are ahead!