This is a question, I often remember my father asking, normally the question was followed by his sense of dismay about how some innovation was likely to ruin the way things have always been done. While I typically, think of myself as someone eager and ready to embrace change, I found myself sounding a lot like my father this week. In preparation for an upcoming trip to Australia, I ran across an article that mentioned Starbucks and Australia. The lines in the article that first caught my attention were, “”We’ve just introduced blue-tooth marketing into shopping centers. If you’re walking into a Starbucks coffee shop, a Muffin Break store might want to automatically send you a message saying that if you come and buy a coffee here we’ll give you a free muffin.” What is the world coming to?
While I must admit that the technological complexities of the product escape me, it appears that an Australian IT Company named Task Retail Technology has found a way to integrate real time point-of -sale data, Google mapping technology, and blue tooth applications to send information to your GPS/blue tooth ready mobile device. That information would allow a business like Muffin Break, a well-established franchise in Australia, to determine that you are entering a Starbucks and then make a special offer to lure you out of the Starbucks and over to Muffin Break.
The first reaction I experienced in response to my “what is the world coming to” question was simply “big brother has arrived.” I had this very unpleasant feeling emerge from the reality that my phone could allow a business to know my whereabouts and selectively market to me at will. As I thought about it more, my privacy objections yielded slight realizing how much information is already collected on me when I swipe my credit card, use my cell phone, or present a loyalty card. Further, I began to think of the benefits! What if I got an offer of a free muffin from Muffin Break followed by a counter offer of two free muffins from Starbucks? Wow, there could be a bidding war for my business going on in real time. Plus, there would be no coupons to clip which would make the electronic discount offer a much more ecologically friendly option.
Despite my ability to see some benefits to the technology, I‘ll continue to remain wary. However, we all can learn from Task Retail Technology! Marketing is going to get more aggressive, personalized and timely – there is no escaping that. Marketers WILL find you on your mobile device, twitter and elsewhere.
The questions for all of us are:
how are we positioning our messages,
how will we compete with emerging technologies such as the one offered by Task Retail,
how will we protect our customer’s privacy while striking a balance between obtrusive and ordinary?
Now is the time to begin strategizing social network based, technology driven, and personal approaches to marketing. If you don’t, your customer may be getting a message from the competitor while they are standing in your business!