The sound and the query

May 6, 2014

By Scott Nowokunski,

Founder and CEO of Beanstalk Data

There's an awful lot of talk about how fast brands must move to adopt mobile payment, but the truth is mobile payment is only part of the equation.

Currently, the mobile payment space feels a bit like the Wild West: lots of opportunity, but the guidelines are still fuzzy around the edges. There are fundamental questions that have to be resolved, questions that are bigger than which software provider can develop the brightest and shiniest new widget. Questions like, how long does it take to pull a credit card out of your wallet and pay the cashier? Maybe 6 seconds? How long does it take the consumer to open a mobile payment app and finish the transaction? Is it really truly faster? Is the time difference enough to change the behavior of the consumer? Probably not by itself.

That is why a rewards program must be tied to the mobile payment solution. There has to be something in it for the consumer besides a few seconds at the counter.

But the point of this article isn't to develop a functionality list for mobile payment, or question the merits of the platform. The point is to take a step back and consider the foundation of your brand's customer engagement universe before adopting yet another widget.

We've seen it over and over with the advent of each new touchpoint: B2C marketers are faced with enormous pressure to rapidly identify and adopt software designed for the "new" medium. We've seen this with social media platforms, SMS, etc. And each time it generates a cacophonic wave of IT activity. Invariably, everyone adopts a program. What gets lost in translation is the overall effect each software has on a brand's universe: all too often, each software works well on its own, but is unwieldy in correlation with the others, so customers end up annoyed rather than flattered, data and speed are lost as well, when all three were all the original objectives.

In the QSR market where we live, we're reaching a critical juncture where brands might want to consider a new methodology; focus on a complete customer engagement strategy that engages the consumer across EVERY touchpoint — website, mobile payment, mobile ordering, point of sale and even "old school" email and text messaging. Start with a foundation, instead of the individual software, so existing data and speed are protected, and adopt a flexible environment to allow for pilot programs to be tested and integrated into one central data silo via a B2C CRM.

Ask yourself: are your marketing channels talking to each other? Why should a consumer have to opt-into a mobile payment program if they are already in the e-club? How are you going to measure the ROI of your marketing efforts if each channel is measured in a vacuum? In all these cases, it might be worth considering 100 percent of your universe first.

To ensure the continued viability of your customer engagement universe, build a foundation for your digital marketing strategy where you can consolidate all consumer data into one data silo via a CRM that is designed to handle B2C-facing companies. With a B2C CRM foundation in place, the data stays behind while the pilot programs are changed out, revised or replaced.

Finally, the first and last thought in considering your universe is the consumer experience. Ultimately, it's the only thing that really counts when a brand implements a customer engagement strategy. A digital strategy implemented with the proper foundation will allow your brand to engage your customers consistently across all touch points. If Sally Smith receives an email coupon, visits the website to search for a location, and orders and pays with a mobile app, Sally Smith needs to have a seamless experience. Anything less risks alienating her as a customer.

If the term Big Data applies now, consider the fact your brand's data is only going to get "Bigger" in the next 10 years. There will be a geometric ratio of Sally Smiths to accommodate. But much like a good contractor, a good IT professional won't suggest adding a second floor to your data home to accommodate Sally and her all friends, if they know your structure is already unsound. We'll suggest you fix the foundation first, with a B2C CRM platform that consolidates all consumer data, so everyone achieves ROI.

Scott Nowokunski is founder and CEO of big data marketing firm Beanstalk Data, a CRM software company that specializes in the QSR and Fast Casual markets. He's also President of Boingo Graphics, a 32-year old commercial printing company. Nowokunski was named one of the Top Entrepreneurs by Charlotte Business Leader magazine in 2009, and in 2013 Beanstalk Data was listed in the Top Ten of the Charlotte Business Journal's annual Fast 50 of Growing Companies. 

Photo provided by Wikimedia

Topics: Customer Service / Experience , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Mobile Payments , Online / Mobile / Social

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