“I check in so it looks like I’m doing something,” said Morales who attends Mather High School in Chicago and was at Buffalo Wild Wings for the UFC watch party.
Morales did not redeem any discounts for checking in. However, he could have had a free Coke Zero or six free wings simply by a few clicks on his mobile device.
Businesses are shifting marketing strategies to put emphasis on mobile devices — a way of responding to a rising consumer market: individuals who are always on the go. In just the last year, smartphone use among 13 to 34-year-olds rose about 20 percentage points, according to a recent Nielsen study.
Discounts Move to Your Mobile Device
The use of mobile marketing has increased over 40 percentage points in the last two years, according to an Association of National Advertisers study.
“It now becomes possible for marketers to say how can I be relevant knowing where you are,” said Tom Collinger, the executive director of the Medill IMC Spiegel Digital & Database Research Initiative. “That’s not a question that was really all that relevant until this.”
“The way that media was planned, bought and sold was not so much where you are, but what you are interested in.”
Location, Location, Location
Today, location plays a huge role in marketing efforts to entice consumers.
At LuLu’s in Evanston, consumers who check in on Foursquare and spend more than $15 can get a free brownie desert. Through 55 days, the reward was unlocked 139 times, according to William Guth, the web project manager of the North Shore Media Company and manager of LuLu’s mobile marketing strategy.
“The brownie did surprisingly well,” Guth said. “It is a good motivator to get people to come in.”
LuLu’s also offers a loyalty reward on Foursquare where if customers check in three times before Dec. 31, they can get $10 off their next bill.
“The number of customers we do a day… the number of redemptions we get… it’s a very small amount,” said Owner Daniel Kelch.
Buffalo Wild Wings uses SCVNGR — a mobile application that allows customers to check in, post photos or complete challenges at locations to receive points. Customers can get $5 off of their purchase of $25 or more for 35 points and a free Coke Zero for seven.
However, Sheridan Foster, the manager of the Buffalo Wild Wings in Evanston, said she only redeems two SCVNGR deals a week.
“I’m not seeing many people do challenges,” Foster said. “It surprises me when they do have it.”
As of now, only 5 percent of cell phone owners, 12 percent for smartphone owners, use their devices to check in, according to a 2011 Pew Internet survey.
Mackenzie Bronk started using Foursquare about two months ago when her friends told her it had deals at local restaurants, she said. Bronk, a senior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has only redeemed one reward at a McDonald’s in Chicago.
Like Bronk, many consumers do not seem to be using these deals regularly. Desai Clay, a part-time associate at RadioShack in Evanston, said people “don’t have the incentive to check in here by themselves.”
“A year ago we had 20 percent off if you checked in and we all mentioned it at the counter,” Clay said. “People were checking in left and right.”
However, RadioShack employees were not supposed to mention this deal to customers. When they stopped prompting customers to check in, Clay said he noticed the number of people who check in on Foursquare dip to roughly two people per week.
But the modest number of unlocked LBS rewards does not stop at consumer electronics as Red Mango has seen a modest number of unlocked rewards at its Evanston location. The frozen yogurt chain offers one deal on Foursquare and Assistant Manager Pablo Zayas said “no more than five” rewards have been redeemed.
As businesses begin to offer more LBS focused deals on mobile applications, the challenge arises for the business to be more relevant than intrusive.
“We are on the very front end of this wonderful, wonderful sea change of making it possible for people to get what they want, when they want it, where they are,” Collinger said. “The problem is that, from the consumer side, if it really isn’t seen as cool, if it’s seen as an invasion, they [businesses] have started to kill their golden goose.”
Eddie Lakin, the owner of Edzo’s Burger Shop in Evanston, does not use mobile marketing because it is “too crowded and confusing.”
“I’m ‘anti’ all of that,” Lakin said. “It’s just too much information. I can’t wrap my brain around it.”
But like Lakin, some consumers feel the same way. Carlos Agrelo, a banker from Chicago, does not use those applications because they “seem a little silly” and invade his privacy, he said.
“Those coupons are geared if you have expendable income not for staples of the household,” Agrelo said. “People aren’t eating out every day. Let me check in to Trader Joe’s for some hummus.”
Graphic: Ross Gordon
Photo Credit: 1) WebFuel 2) AndroidSPIN