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Using mobile deals to reach main street consumers

October 22, 2010


John Vitti is chief marketing officer of Mobile Spinach

By John Vitti

Mom-and-pop stores may not have the best reputation when talking about using new innovations to drive business, but some of the most exciting implementations of technology today are happening on Main Streets across the country.

In particular, local merchants have turned to mobile deal platforms as an effective new channel to drive customer acquisition.

Mobile devices give merchants unique targeting capabilities, and unlike the thousands of dollars the merchants need to spend on local print outlets or Google AdWords, they can run a full campaign for as little as a couple hundred dollars.

With all the possibilities that exist around the space though, there are few proven best practices, and there is still huge opportunity for innovation and experimentation.

Online/mobile coupon services
In theory, local deal/coupon platforms are beneficial to both consumers and merchants.

For consumers, these platforms present a chance to discover new places to go, at a discounted price that rewards them for branching out.

On the merchant side, businesses receive an immediate influx of customers, and supposedly, the burden is on them to provide a service that is worth coming back for at full price.

The problem, however, is that local merchants are not always seeing the kind of success they anticipate. These deal platforms often put no restrictions on when consumers can redeem deals, so an offer can lead to consumers cashing in at peak business hours, unnecessarily cutting into margins.

Another huge problem is “deal jumpers.”

Deal jumpers love to try deals and offers, but have no intention of ever coming back to a business. There are enough services out there that if a consumer is only looking to dine out at a discounted price, they can “jump” from service to service and make this possible.

Building SMB relationships with consumers
To get around the “deal-jumper” problem, local businesses need to find a way to make the consumer care about the establishment as much as they care about the deal.

This can lead to repeat business that will justify the hit they may take on the initial discount used get consumers into the store.

There are several ways to build relationships with customers:

• Target a consumer’s location in a unique way – When advertising on mobile phones, merchants have a built in advantage in that they can see where a consumer is, and serve them ads when they are close by.  Consumers love getting deals that are specifically tailored to them.

• Only send out deals to specific consumers – A problem that occurs with some deal models is that every person sees every deal. Grandmothers may not want deals for amusement parks, and teenage boys may not want deals for pedicures. When consumers feel they are seeing a deal for a specific reason, they are more likely to cash in.

• Make deals/ads transparent and opt-in – It has been proven that if ads are perceived to be relevant, consumers don’t mind seeing them. What they do not want is intrusive advertising, or ads that appear to be something that they are not. By being upfront with consumers, merchants make the first step in creating a mutually beneficial relationship.

THE DEMAND FOR deals and coupons is growing, and local merchants are in position to cash in.

With the right kind of mobile deals, businesses can not only get consumers in their establishment, but they can keep them coming back.

Brand loyalty is the goal for any marketer, and this new medium is a way for local merchants to finally play with the big boys.

John Vitti is chief marketing officer of Mobile Spinach, San Francisco. Reach him at

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