Technically Human Podcast: Episode 2
April 21, 2016
We’ve already shared our 4 rules for Zone 4 mobile engagement, but are major retailers capitalizing on shoppers’ reliance on mobile tech? That’s up for discussion in this episode of Technically Human.
Katie Cantu: Hi, there. I’m Katie Cantu, strategist at Ignite Partnership.
Mike Covert: I’m Mike Covert, founder of Ignite Partnership.
Katie: You’re listening to “Technically Human,” where marketing experts talk about how to find the soul in technology products and services. What really makes humans tick when it comes to tech? Join us on our cultural expedition to find out.
Mike: Today on Technically Human, we’re talking about mobile engagement at retail. What exactly is Zone 4, you might ask? We’ll get into that.
And how are retailers actually leveraging this zone to capture more valuable time spent with each shopper? It’s an important thing. Better yet, are retailers even using it?
Katie: So many questions today, but first, a big welcome to our guest, Tripp.
Tripp Bushnell: Hello, I’m Tripp Bushnell, and I’m one of the co‑founders of Ignite Partnership. I primarily focus on a lot of retail engagement for us.
Mike: It’s really good to have you, buddy.
Tripp: I’m excited. This is going to be fun. Let’s dive right in.
Katie: Here’s the thing, for almost three years now, the marketing world has been buzzing about Zone 4. Every time we turn around, there’s a new PSFK article on this awesome, new, interactive, innovative, mobile engagement that’s going to “change the face of retail.”
Tripp: Supposedly it’s everywhere.
Mike: We’re using this term, Zone 4. Zone 4 is only one of five zones that we carve out. For a little bit of background, so that our listeners can keep up with us, imagine walking into a store. We identify many different places where customers get information, often along their path to purchase.
Zone 1 is when you walk into the store. You saw something on the window. It’s meant to disrupt you. It’s also meant to tell you where certain categories are in the store. I’m walking right up to the coffeemakers, for instance, because I know where they are from afar.
Zone 2 is when I get up to the display, get up to the table, get up to the shelf. That’s more of the point of sale that’s around the particular items that I might or might not be looking for.
Zone 3, we’ve seen a lot of movement in the last few years, and that’s creating interactive displays. A display that you can actually customize, play with, to give you your choice of information.
Zone 4 is what we’re calling that opportunity that lives in your right or left pants pocket, otherwise known as your mobile device.
Katie: Mike, when you talk about Zone 4, there are all of these different zones. What kind of things are we looking for? What kind of mobile engagements are in that zone?
Mike: You might be a Zone 4 trigger if you look like a beacon. They’re getting a lot of the headlines right now. The earliest forms probably look like a QR code. There’s SMS short codes. Anything that allows you to do something—an opt‑in with your mobile device to get something in return—activates Zone 4.
Tripp: There’s other things, like geofencing, NFC, Eddystone. Honestly, the technology suite is growing every day. I’m hearing of some crazy things that are out there.
Katie: As marketers we talk about the potential for Zone 4 all the time, but there’s just one problem. As consumers we hardly ever experience it. We’ve seen some good examples, particularly in the space of pharmacy services.
Walgreens and CVS have been using beacon technology to alert shoppers about prescriptions, or to send instant offers to mobile devices. They’ve been taking advantage of short codes and other things like that.
What seems so strange to us is the very nature of Zone 4. Leveraging the technology that people are already using, isn’t being used to sell technology products.
Mike: Looking around your basic shopping trip—and I’ll tell you about my experience shopping for a coffeemaker in a minute—you can literally see people pulling out their devices to inform them of something related to the object right in front of their face.
The potential to connect with shoppers and humanize this purchase experience is huge. It’s a natural behavior now, but we aren’t taking advantage of it.
Tripp: That’s exactly right. We’re wanting to create experiences in retail, not a one‑to‑many transaction like we’ve seen so much in the past.
Katie: It makes sense to tap into the device that everyone is already using to look up reviews and learn more. In fact, according to “Think with Google,” somewhere around 82 percent of shoppers say that they consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in‑store. Why wouldn’t big‑box retailers be leveraging this touchpoint?
Mike: Or are they, and we haven’t noticed because it’s so natural to us—we’re not even sure where that information is coming from, and so we’re not attributing it to the right places, which are brands and retailers that should be making the shopping experience better for us.
Tripp: I also think retailers are also concerned that if they get other product reviews and things of that nature on their devices, they may potentially leave the store and walk. They’re concerned about that in some ways.
Mike: Showrooming has obviously been a big topic. We’ve been following this trend for years. Now we’re finally getting to the point, as marketers, to understand that the Internet, and specifically the mobile experience, can be quite an advocate for the in‑store shopping experience, versus a competitor.
Let’s get into some examples because that’s what this podcast is all about: What did we find when we were in the shoes of the customer, literally looking for this experience to see if it added value or not. Tripp, where did you go?
Tripp: I went and visited Best Buy. I was very excited to go in there because I thought If anybody was going to have a lot of these experiences, this would be one place.
When I walked in the Best Buy, I had my Best Buy app open. I had my beacon scanner on and it was searching for beacons, because that’s one way that we can get interaction with the consumer via their mobile device.
It was searching. It wasn’t finding anything in‑store, so that was something. Right out of the gate, I knew they weren’t using beacon technology.
As I started to approach some of the displays I noticed, on what they call at Best Buy a fact tag, they had QR codes. Immediately I pulled out my phone, and I snapped the QR code, and it led me right into an experience.
I had a couple different experiences. It was basically a shortcut to the Best Buy app or the website that would directly take you to the product, Best Buy reviews, pricing, color options, etc., etc.
Mike: If you weren’t actually looking for the QR code, how would you have known? How would Best Buy have communicated to you, “We have this available?”
Tripp: Honestly, you probably wouldn’t have seen it. I was there looking specifically for ways to engage on my mobile device. It wasn’t on any POP. It wasn’t, say, “Use this as help.”
It was a given that if you wanted that additional information it was there, and it was on 95 percent of the products that were there.
Katie: Did a store associate ever tell you that that was an option?
Tripp: No, I had to search out a couple different store associates. I wanted to get multiple opinions on, “Hey, I’m looking for offers. I’m looking for content that is being pushed out by different brands. Is there anybody in here doing that?”
“Is there use of QR codes? Is there use of short code, beacon technology? Do you guys have anything that’s wrapped on your app that’s special for me as I walk in the store? Is there any NFC technology out there so I can get offers and content from other brands?” They said “No.”
Mike: We know customers are using their devices and want this information. Trust me, this is not in an indictment on Best Buy. What I found is that this was pretty typical across the spectrum. I consider Best Buy a leader in its space, and I went to another leader in its space.
Katie: Where did you go, Mike?
Mike: I went to Macy’s, specifically for mobile. They have a reputation and they’ve done some really interesting work in trying to allow the mobile device to accent, if not complement and personalize, an in‑store shopping experience, notably for Black Friday promotions in key markets.
They’ve done some really interesting stuff, so I had high expectations when I went in there.
Tripp: Were they doing anything that was unique and ahead of the curve?
Mike: Again, I went in with pretty high expectations. I tried to take off my professional marketing hat for a second and pretend that I like shopping, number one, which is a stretch for me.
Tripp: Don’t lie, Mike.
Mike: I know. It’s my new shoes, right?
I walked in, and I said, “How would I even know this exists if I didn’t do the research already?” I found one primary piece of signage in probably the nicest mall in Dallas: NorthPark, in case anyone wants to visit. It is beautiful.
There was a standee outside of the escalator area in the center of the store that invited me to download the Macy’s app. It gave me a few calls-to-action on what I would find there, including inventory, reviews, etc., so I downloaded it. At this point I wasn’t aware, still, how I would be able to use it.
Katie: When you downloaded the app, was there any incentive tied to it?
Mike: There wasn’t, other than I could find more information. They’ve probably done research, like we have, knowing there’s certain drivers that someone wants, why they’re in‑store, like reviews, like “Do you have this item?”
It’s typically a not-so-pleasant experience if you have to involve an associate. As good as the associates are, some people, like me, don’t want to talk to a human as I’m shopping.
Tripp: That was one of the funny things I saw at Best Buy, too, is everybody had their devices out. A lot of the associates were standing in the peripheral, waiting on them to talk to them.
Katie: We live in such an instant gratification culture that I think we’ve all gotten spoiled at finding our own information. We never ask a librarian anymore, we just look it up.
Mike: I downloaded the app. I went to a very loved technology area of the store for me, because I need my morning coffee, and I went shopping for a coffeemaker.
There’s lots of choices there. There’s actually been quite a bit of innovation in coffee. Did you guys know that?
Tripp: Yeah, we just bought a Nespresso.
Katie: You’re fancy!
Mike: That—a Nespresso—was exactly what I was looking for. I decided to pretend to shop—not pretend, because I actually did shop—between a Nespresso and a Keurig machine.
Now I find myself in the home section. I’m at a brand that I’ve heard of, and I’m checking out what’s there. I stood by the Zone 2 area, which is the POS, a little long, and suddenly, guess what happened?
Tripp: An associate came up.
Mike: It was a Monday, slow news day, and, yes, I was attacked—I mean, embraced—by an associate that had a lot of strong opinions about the coffee machine. At this point, I had already played around with my mobile device, and I started experimenting.
I could engage on the fact tag, as Tripp said earlier. I don’t know what Macy’s calls it. It’s probably something similar. Retail tag—let’s call it that. They allow their barcode to be scanned through their app, and it takes you directly to that item.
On that area, as the salesperson approached me, I was already looking at a variety of user reviews.
Katie: The reviews were on Macy’s website?
Mike: They were on Macy’s mobile app. They’re probably aggregated from the website. My guess is they’re redeployed. They share content across both.
I asked the salesperson a natural question, which I think is important. I said, “What do you know about this Nespresso machine? Is it popular?”
Tripp: I bought it, so it’s got to be.
Mike: That’s what I said. I said, “Tripp bought it, so this must be the best,” and she didn’t know who you were.
Tripp: She didn’t know who I was?
Mike: No, not this time. This is what she answered, which I find more and more common, which is they tell me their anecdotes about in‑store experiences. Which are certainly relevant, but they aren’t a macro‑review on any scale.
I was literally staring at my mobile device. I could see hundreds of reviews. I could see the number of stars they were. I could see comments. The associate had no idea that this was a resource for her.
We know third‑party reviews are best. In this case third‑party is Macy’s customers, but absolutely, would I go to CNET, would I go to another branded content provider that isn’t a sponsor of ours? Sure.
(We have no sponsors, by the way.)
Katie: We should add, we are open to a sponsorship deal, so if you’re listening, we have got a great opportunity for you.
Tripp: Get in on the ground floor.
Katie: When I’m shopping, the first place I go [is] Amazon. That’s what I’m going to hit up. I feel like it has the most breadth, and I can verify if somebody actually purchased that product.
Tripp: With Amazon, it’s always been there, so you trust it, right?
Mike: One other thing was really helpful at that moment, when I was reviewing this particular Nespresso machine on sale. They didn’t have it in the store, and my app told me.
Number one, it knew automatically where I was by geolocation. Helpful. I didn’t have to pick my store. I didn’t have to go through the usual rigmarole of asking that associate.
It would automatically put me in touch with another store that might have had one, and so, again, instead of dealing with the associate…that’s helpful.
More importantly, it provided me an alternative that I might want to look at. It wasn’t on sale, but it allowed me to shop another Nespresso machine. I couldn’t tell exactly, because it was more brand‑specific, but I believe it eventually would have pointed me to a competitor.
Tripp: That’s probably really helpful from Macy’s standpoint, because at the end of the day, they want to keep you in the store and buying from them. That’s a big win for them on that.
Katie, what places did you hit up?
Katie: First I hit up Target, which I go to all the time. I was a little bit familiar with their Cartwheel app.
In general, one of the biggest hurdles we face when it comes to Zone 4 retail right now is that, like Mike was saying, he downloaded a Macy’s app. Everywhere you go, what is the likelihood that you’re going to download the proprietary app to that retailer?
Mike: I know that without awareness, we’ll choose the path of least resistance.
Katie: Exactly. I had the Target app already, but I don’t frequently use it that much. I got on there and was really expecting probably some beacon interactions, the ability to walk in the store, and walk down an aisle, and see that something I frequently purchase, because that’s stored in Cartwheel, is on sale.
Mike: Cartwheel is a third‑party app?
Katie: Cartwheel is Target’s proprietary vehicle for coupons, loyalty tracking, purchases, things like that. They do send you notifications.
For example, the other day, several days after I went on my Target adventure, I got a notification from Target that their spring home decor and outdoor garden stuff was 20 percent off. They sent me this notification, but I wasn’t anywhere in the store.
Mike: How far outside the store were you when you got the notification?
Katie: I was at my home.
Mike: You live right outside of a Target?
Katie: No. [laughs]
Mike: You live at Target?
Katie: I live at Target.
Katie: My husband would say that.
Katie: I got these sale notifications, which are the typical notifications that you get from an app. They’re not actually iBeacon notifications.
As I peruse the store, here and there I saw a couple of offers to text a short code in and receive an automatic coupon if you didn’t have the Cartwheel app, but other than that, there wasn’t really anything telling a shopper about any potential savings. There wasn’t anything alerting them as they went by on the front of iBeacons.
Tripp: Did you try the short code and see if it was a different experience?
Katie: I did. What’s interesting is when you text the short code, it’s actually the same offer that you could get on Cartwheel. A little bit of the missed opportunity, maybe, is that it doesn’t offer any incentive for you to download Cartwheel instead receiving the coupon as a text.
Because what it is, is a text with a hyperlink, and then, at the register, you show the coupon. The real moneymaker for Target would be to get you into their system and have you download the Cartwheel app.
Tripp: They would also probably grow their shopper database.
Katie: Exactly. Not a whole lot of luck at Target, though we have to say, as far as retailers go, Target is pretty ahead of the curve when it comes to selling technology, offering a little bit of a mobile experience.
They’ve been doing that with their pharmacy for years, and I’m a big fan of that. Not having to call and refill your prescriptions, but to be able to do it on your phone.
Mike: I like that, too.
Katie: I still went out in search of a more mobile experience, a little bit more of a Zone 4 interaction, so I headed to NorthPark in Dallas.
Mike: Great mall.
Katie: Great mall.
Mike: They are not a sponsor yet.
Katie: But they could be. We’re open to that.
Mike: We are. Did we mention that?
Katie: First, I went to PIRCH. First of all, if you haven’t been there...
Tripp: That place is awesome.
Mike: If you haven’t showered, you can take a shower there.
Tripp: I’m leaving.
Katie: Also, PIRCH is not a sponsor.
Mike: That was a suggestion.
Katie: Subtle hint? Yes, super cool retail space. Zone 4 aside, go check it out if you get a chance because they are really innovating the way people shop for home appliances and anything and everything that you would find in your home. It’s a completely functional showroom.
Mike: They are very progressive. I’m curious, did you find that they have taken from a physical experience, which is really impressive, like you said, to the mobile space?
Katie: Here’s the thing, I thought, for sure, going there I would experience some cutting‑edge technology in mobile engagement, but I didn’t. I was pretty surprised.
I even asked an associate about it there, who was super friendly. All of their staff is so helpful, and it certainly helps that you have a free beverage in your hand as they’re talking to you.
He actually wasn’t aware of what beacon technology is even. As we got to thinking about it and talking about it, maybe it makes sense that that wasn’t at PIRCH because they do rely so heavily on the human, in‑person experience. What did I do?
Mike: Asked a human?
Katie: I trekked on to other stores, determined to find some sort of semblance of a Zone 4 experience.
Mike: Who else did you visit?
Katie: I went to Microsoft’s store. They are in NorthPark. They were doing a great job of branding that space. Everything looked excellent.
They had a really big opportunity there to sell their technology. They even had some upcoming in‑store events. As you know, Microsoft makes Xbox, so they had some game launches coming up.
They had cards there, collateral cards that told you about the event, but there was nothing digital there to lead you to more information or add that to your calendar. It was interesting that a store that was selling technology products and selling devices, selling phones, didn’t have any sort of technology from a Zone 4 standpoint that you could learn more about what’s in the store.
Tripp: It’s crazy when I was at Best Buy, as well. All these tech brands, you think they would be trying to be a trailblazer out there promoting different ways of engagement.
It’s really a new media platform for them to engage consumers, and nobody’s really doing it. I feel, or we all feel here, probably, that if people start doing this, this is going to really help capture more mindshare of the consumer, and they’re going to be more apt to buy from that brand because they are a leader in their mind.
Mike: The other thing is, these stores we visited, and even NorthPark, if there was a test store or a premier store location for any of these retail brands, that would be it. That’s a showcase area. It’s good that we visited those types of areas because you could assume that if it’s happening there, it’s happening in other parts of the country.
Maybe we should take a moment, and take off our shopper hats for a second, and ponder why haven’t retailers and brands insisted on capitalizing on this obvious user trend, which is the place of mobile as a valuable instrument in informing a purchase decision. What do you think, Katie?
Katie: There’s certainly a lack of awareness on all fronts, but specifically on the consumer side. I think a lot of people are not even aware of the technology that exists. Further, they’re not aware of it if a retailer doesn’t tell them about it.
I don’t think it’s because people aren’t willing to. Like Tripp said, there’s a real opportunity here, specifically for some big technology brands to take advantage of this and become a leader in their space.
Compared to other marketing tactics, the cost of entry into this is pretty low.
Tripp: One thing that I think that we’ve really not touched on, we’ve talked about what the retailers aren’t doing and how beneficial it is for the consumer and the brand. The retailer has a tremendous amount of information to gain out of this.
If you can get people to opt in, then we’re going to learn more about them. We’re going to be able to learn, and be able to push more personalized content to that particular consumer to get them back in the store, or to get them to pick up a different product and buy‑in more often.
Again, like we talked about earlier, the retail experience now, that Amazon and everybody’s created, is more of a one‑to‑one experience, not a one‑to‑many. By capturing this data, and mining it the right way, and pushing out personalized content, we can close the gap there for retailers.
Mike: That’s a really good point, looking at it from the win‑win‑win standpoint. We’ve talked about the opportunity. There is content that is favorable to customers right now, otherwise they wouldn’t be using it in force as they are.
There’s a better opportunity to harness that experience and create an even more meaningful customer service standpoint to retailers and brands. What I find exciting is previously this part of the shopper journey has been absolutely invisible.
From the moment you walk into the store to the moment you leave the store with something, the access points are not aligned to let us see the true path to purchase, and what people do, in what order, so we can better create an experience. This is going to lift the veil, or has the potential to lift the veil off of that, but only after we see the adoption past what I think now is the tipping point.
Tripp: Couldn’t agree more.
Mike: Thanks, Tripp.
Katie: You guys are so, I don’t know. [laughs]
Mike: That’s probably the best description that we’ve ever had.
Katie: I don’t know.
Tripp: “I just don’t know.”
Katie: That’s all the time we have for today.
Mike: Tripp, it’s been a pleasure. I hope you enjoyed your very first podcast. Hope to have you back real soon.
Tripp: Absolutely. It was so much fun, and I can’t wait for the next one.
Mike: Katie, thank you for having us.
Katie: Of course. Thank you. We would love to hear your experiences with Zone 4 and what role you think it plays in the future of retail. As always, you can send us your thoughts by emailing us at email@example.com.
Mike: Ignite Partnership is the marketing agency for technology companies that want to understand and capitalize on complex buyer journeys. Ignite has brought life to tech since 2009. To find out more, visit ignitepartnership.com.