Its Thanksgiving and Black Friday is upon us, which means there are deals and deals and more deals. A lot of the deals involve rebates or post-purchase coupons or gifts with purchase, which naturally made me think of our mobile purchase validation and receipt processing solution (which btw got featured in this Chief Marketer article for our ongoing campaign with Arm & Hammer and 1-800-Flowers).
Marketing has continued to become an ever-more data intensive industry. Gone are the days when admen could “think with their gut”; when a customer segmentation produced only three segments (“suburban mom”, “young urban professional” and “middle management office commuter”); when a manager could state that “50% of my ad spend is wasted but we can’t tell which 50%” and not get fired on the spot.
As media continues to become more niche, audiences continue to fragment, and markets continue to become more focused, today’s consumers are best viewed as individuals rather than segments, each with their own needs, tastes, preferences and consumption habits. As a result, marketers are constantly churning through mountains of data both online and offline to answer the most basic – and yet most critical – of questions:
- Who are my customers?
- What are they doing?
- How can I get them to buy my product?
Imagine then the consternation of brands that don’t own the point of sale: how can they gather customer and purchase data, particularly when their retail channel partners increasingly view that data as proprietary and are loath to share it out?
To a large extent purchase related marketing programs such as rebates, coupons (OYNO and others tied to a product purchase), gifts-with-purchase and loyalty help solve that problem. Such programs typically require customers to submit their purchase receipts and fill up a form with their personal information, thereby affording marketers a view into not just who their customers are but also the what, when, where of their purchase habits. Historically though that information has been chronically under-utilized by marketers: purchase related marketing programs were typically undertaken to drive new sales or increase repeat purchases, and the personal and purchase information generated were treated as chaff and ignored.
No longer. Smart marketers are increasingly factoring in the additional data generated by such programs; indeed there have been cases where marketers have launched programs whose primary focus had been gathering such data (in fact we’re going to be launching exactly such a program soon – a sweepstakes program by a client aimed at getting customers to submit their receipts). The fact that such programs (rebates, loyalty, coupons etc) are all tied to purchase thereby having a clear ROI, only serve to enhance their attractiveness to brands.
Purchase related marketing programs remain problematic for brands to execute though, particularly for those that don’t own the point of sale. Such programs are cumbersome because they typically require customers to have to mail in their receipts along with paper-based forms with their personal information. The entire process is time consuming and lengthy for all parties involved. Customers are less likely to act upon such mail-in programs, while brands are more than happy to outsource processing to third party fulfillment houses, who then have to transcribe the data if brands wish to actually use it. As a result, both the quantity and the quality of the data are impacted negatively.
So Much More Data
This then is the greatest benefit of mobile purchase validation: by providing an entirely mobile submission workflow for consumers, we improve both the quantity and the quality of data going back to brands. By making the entire process a lot more convenient for customers, the participation rate increases. And since all submissions are entirely digital and all personal information is self-reported on mobile forms, the quality of the data is significantly enhanced. All receipts are stored in digital format, key receipt details such as store name, date, total purchase price etc. are automatically transcribed and made searchable, as are the personal information reported by customers on a fully customizable form.
Faster, Faster, Faster
Snipp’s Mobile Receipt Processing solution is faster. Submissions can be done faster since consumers need only their mobile phone and can do it instantly (as opposed to having to fill up a form, photocopy receipts, send it by mail). Processing is much faster, with turnaround times of 24 hours as opposed to six to eight weeks. And campaigns can be set up much faster, so brands can experiment with different kinds of campaigns and for limited periods of time.
Its our dirty little secret. By leveraging mobile we squeeze a lot of the costs out of the system. Consumers don’t have to pay for postage. (Nor do brands, not if the “reward” can be delivered electronically). By having consumers fill out their personal information on a digital form, we are able to minimize data errors and expensive transcription services. By automating the processing and the workflow, we minimize the processing costs for each transaction. And since all submissions are digital and can be processed from anywhere, our operations team is based in India.
We make the process transparent for customers and brands. Consumers get confirmations for each submission and are given immediate feedback if their submissions do not conform to the required criteria (e.g. if they were supposed to submit a receipt for 2 boxes of a product and they only had one). Consumers are also periodically notified if their submissions are incomplete. Lastly consumers are able to look up the status of their submissions online in real time. Brands in turn get access to a performance dashboard that shows them how many people have submitted entries and are able to drill down to see who those people are and what their submissions look like. Brands also get strong audit trails for all “rewards” issued and submissions made.