An effective marketing strategy starts with really understanding your target audience – how they think, feel and behave. Understanding changing consumer demands to stay relevant in a dynamic market is crucial to maintaining a competitive advantage – but this really isn’t as easy as it sounds. Today’s consumer is very different from that of ten – or even five – years ago. They are mobile-enabled, informed, social by nature and values-driven.
What they expect from brands has changed, too. They aren’t interested in being ‘sold to’ directly, or being ‘broadcast at’. They are looking for a deeper connection with the brands they engage with, and one that is personalised. More than ever, businesses are having to take a more flexible and meaningful approach to their marketing to fit into these shifting behavioural patterns.
The role of mobile
In recent years, consumers’ mobile-focused lifestyles have created fresh opportunities for marketers. Mobile technology provides a means to address many emerging consumer preferences: from a need for instantaneity, to a more personalised experience, all the way to interconnectedness.
One of the newest assets in the marketer’s toolkit is the rise of mobile and connected payments, which provide a flexible experience that can be linked to a broader range of services. In other words, these are payment systems that can be seamlessly incorporated into items of clothing, jewellery, promotional materials and more.
For example, Barclaycard has spent 18 months developing a ‘next generation’ flexible payment chip, called bPay, that can be built into a variety of products. This unique chip is a game-changer because it puts the improved payments experience directly where the marketer wants it to be, with the consumer’s convenience at the heart of this decision. It’s a win-win for brands and their customers.
Such innovations respond to clear consumer preferences. Contactless and connected spending have become a part of our day-to-day lives: one in two UK cards is now contactless, and it’s a form of payment used by six in ten Britons. Data from Barclaycard’s 2017 Contactless Spending Index also showed that ‘touch and go’ spending rose 166 per cent year-on-year.
It’s a hugely exciting time because, as consumer interest in connected payments grows, so does the opportunity for businesses to engage with customers. The ways in which these can be used go beyond simply smartphone-enabled payment – today, we can embed payment functionality in all kinds of different products, meaning marketers can reap the benefits in a variety of ways and at multiple touchpoints.
Many consumers and brands have now experienced systems such as bPay contactless payment technology in the form of payment loops, fobs or wristbands – and are experiencing the benefits directly. The concept presents a huge chance for forward-thinking brands across many sectors to differentiate themselves from the competition. Most directly, these systems can help businesses to understand their customers better and so provide them with an experience that’s tailored to meet their personal needs. Connected payments make the user’s life easier, while improving the relationship between brand and consumer.
As more people learn about connected payments and recognise their convenience, marketers should look for bigger and better ways to use mobile developments to stand out. For example, they could leverage this technology to create points of sale outside of traditional in-store or online settings, such as at pop-up events, and incorporate it into promotional goods and services. At the same time, they can gather insights that can be used to personalise the shopping experience.
Windows of opportunity
It goes without saying that converting interest into sales is at the heart of every marketing strategy, and with this aim in mind, the possibilities and benefits that mobile and connected payments can provide are countless.
- Events: Marketers can use this new technology to give customers payment-enabled products to access promotions, such as posting out a wearable wristband as the invitation or entry ticket to an exclusive event, putting a means of payment in the hands of the consumer. In this way, not only can the user try products at the event, they can also purchase them seamlessly. Several festivals, such as Standon Calling and Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park, have pioneered this approach – for instance, enabling attendees to make payments with their entrance wristband, and directing them to the organisation’s app to upload more funds or use other services (such as timetables or social networks).
- Insight: The value of connected payments goes beyond simply increasing the number of purchases. Every time a mobile payment is made, data is created that provides marketers with valuable insight to inform their strategy – from the device the user makes transactions with, to purchase behaviours, preferred promotions, responses to A/B testing, and much more. This live data provides an unprecedented insight into consumer behaviour, and allows marketers to target individual products or promotions to fit a very specific purpose. It can also serve as gateway to re-engage customers following an event based on the information gathered.
- Ease: From a logistical perspective, contactless payment via wearable devices and accessories makes life simpler for the customer. Gone are long queues to pay at a promotional shopping event, or even tills bound to a specific location in a store or venue – addressing key consumer frustrations to provide the ease and efficiency they demand.
- Loyalty: Brands can capitalise on the invaluable consumer affinity brought by this ease and efficiency. Loyalty, for example, can be embedded on this mobile trend under the form of reward systems or to unlock specific promotional offers. Mobile payments can also take a brand’s relationship with the consumer one step further by continuing the conversation and motivating them to return to the product or service again and again.
It’s an exciting time for marketers to explore creative ways of using wearable and connected payments – whether it’s in the form of promotional gifts or loyalty reward programmes – the flexibility of mobile payment methods poses a real opportunity to create engaging experiences for both existing and prospective customers.
But this increased engagement is merely the beginning of what’s possible with such technologies. Marketers now have the chance to turn traditionally ‘intangible’ results, such as loyalty or brand affinity, into more concrete measures of success – in other words, sales. This is all thanks to the platform connected payments provide, making it possible to set up live points-of-sale at the very moment of interaction with the customer. This could prove to be a priceless tool, allowing marketers to carve out strategies that meet very specific business goals – and directly demonstrate the ROI of marketing spend.