Editor’s Note: Going Local
A new trend seems to be popping up in the world of retail: a greater emphasis on local marketing by national retailers.
Now retailers have always targeted locally. Inserts, for example, have appeared in Sunday newspapers with coupons targeted to local shoppers for years. But thanks to new technology and an understanding of how important local programs can be, it's becoming more than an afterthought.
Consider Macy's, which earlier this spring announced first quarter earnings well ahead of what it originally expected. While the improving economic climate had something to do with that, Terry J. Lundgren — Macy's chairman, president and chief executive officer — gave a public shout-out to its My Macy's localization program as a reason for its success. The national, customer-centric localization program is designed to accelerate sales growth in existing locations by ensuring that core customers surrounding each Macy's store find merchandise assortments, size ranges, marketing programs and shopping experiences tailored to their needs. (For more on Macy's, check out the Prospecting page in the IndustryEye section on pg. 10.)
Localization is also on consumers' minds right now thanks to some pretty cool location-sharing tools from start-ups such as foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown and Brightkite — as well as Google.
foursquare, the leader in the location-sharing space, is a simple application that lets users share where they are — such as visiting a cafe, restaurant, museum, park or retail establishment — and what they're doing, all via mobile phone. GPS units in mobile phones relay locations back to foursquare, and users then get badges for reaching milestones such as visiting the same spot repeatedly or checking in many times in a night. They can become mayors of any one location by visiting it more times than anyone else on foursquare.
To compete with foursquare, Google launched Google Latitude earlier this year, a location-aware mobile application that enables mobile phone users to allow certain people to track their locations. Soon Google will offer a location history and let users explicitly "check in" with text updates on what they're doing, according to reports.
Retailers are jumping on this trend, giving special discounts, freebies, or other incentives to location-sharing tool users such as foursquare mayors or other folks with a lot of check-ins.
Last month, for example, Starbucks started a nationwide "mayor reward" program with fourquare, which knocks a dollar off the price of a frappucino for the mayors of its locations. The Scholastic Store in New York is also offering visitors 10 percent off any purchase, just for checking in on foursquare while visiting.
Retailers are experimenting with more than just fourquare. Swedish grocery chain ICA, for example, began using Gowalla — a tool that offers a service similar to foursquare– — for promotional purposes earlier this year to encourage customers to check in at its new store in Stockholm, promising an iPad for the person with the most check-ins.
Finally, McDonald's may be getting into the game. As of press time, Facebook was preparing to launch a location-based status update tool that will be offered to marketers, and the restaurant chain is the first one to bite, according to a May 6th Advertising Age report.
McDonald's, according to the report, is expected to build a location-based functionality with Facebook that will allow users to check in at its restaurants and share menu items with friends. You can imagine, then, how this application could allow users who check in with McDonald's — or other brands — to share offers or promos, as well as their locations, with their social connections. Pretty cool stuff, indeed.
How do you feel about the trend of going local with your marketing efforts? Are you experimenting with any local programs that are interesting or bringing you success? Let me know by sending an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.