Pouch loyalty app shows mobile is retailers’ lifeline

Eat is the first high-street brand to announce its involvement in the new Pouch loyalty app from Weve – the joint venture between mobile operators EE, O2 and Vodafone. It’s an important sign that the future of retail is interlinked with data and mobile devices.

Michael Barnett

The Pouch app allows consumers to access different loyalty accounts from one place, while also integrating ‘beacons’. These are a Bluetooth-based technology that means retailers can see who has entered their store and enables them to push targeted offers and messages to the individual. They pinpoint you much more accurately than a GPS, but only transmit the data to sensors close by.

This sounds like the kind of behaviour tracking that will undoubtedly polarise shoppers – at least to begin with. Gung-ho, tech-happy types will try anything if it promises to give them a new way of smart shopping, while the more cynical will give a wide berth to an app that tells a company when you’re in their shop.

That alone is enough to make one cautious about Pouch’s prospects of success, but it doesn’t change the fact that the mobile is the key that will unlock the next phase of growth for retailers. The location-based aspect of Pouch is just one facet of the now-inextricable link between smartphones and shopping. The loyalty side of it is potentially much more interesting.

As I wrote at the end of last year, mobile payment apps are one development that is going to make loyalty schemes – or targeted discounts at the very least – much more accessible. Pouch could follow in the same vein. Replacing all your cards, coupons and codes with one app makes things simpler and more manageable, both for consumers and for retailers.

It should lower the costs to brands of developing and running loyalty schemes, because it is up to them how ambitious they want to be, as well as how much data they want to collect and analyse. ‘White label’ services, where companies such as O2 owner Telefonica build a loyalty scheme on another company’s behalf, will likewise lower the barriers to entry, particularly for small businesses.

I haven’t even mentioned the more basic principles of mobile marketing for retailers yet. For example, having a mobile-optimised ecommerce site, and making sure your Google Maps listings are up-to-date with accurate details and a link to said site.

If you’re a retailer, you’re probably worried about showrooming (where consumers go into a shop to try out a product but could be looking online for better prices at the very same moment), however you probably also know consumers aren’t going to stop doing it. So surely it makes sense to ensure you’re giving them every opportunity to choose your brand then and there, whether it’s from the shelf or from the mobile screen.

The deadline is approaching to submit your best work for the Marketing Week Engage Awards 2014. Entries are open until Friday 21 February and you can find out more at www.marketingweekawards.co.uk.

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