Seriously…mobile at point of sale will change advertising as we know it
In Wikipedia, the universal arbiter of debates on definition or trivia, “Advertising” is defined as follows: a form of communication used to encourage or persuade an audience to continue or take some new action.
For most of the history of modern commerce, this “form of communication” and the industry that surrounds it has been constrained by a key fact: consumers have imperfect information at the point of sale. This is why most traditional advertising is focused on driving brand recall and affinity. When you don’t have information at the point of sale to make choices based on product understsanding and logic then you are forced to rely on memory and emotion. The ultimate goal of traditional advertising is to have you make the purchasing decision before you get to the point of sale or narrow your perspective on choices when you are there. Logic be dammed.
My recent purchase of a Dyson vacuum cleaner at Target is a case in point. I needed a vacuum, and I saw a “form of communication”, aka a TV ad spot, on Dyson. The ad struck a chord with me and created an affinity for the brand and its product. When I actually visited the store, I could have noticed that there were many other competitive and/or substitute products available. There were. Perhaps they might even be better on a pure logical level – same function, adequate to meet my needs, better price. But, not to worry. The Dyson ad and its powerful message created a clear path for me. Like a heat-seeking missile, I made a bee-line for the product. The only thing I saw on a shelf of choices was the Dyson brand name. With nobody around to coach me through the purchase and no easy way to get more educated right then and there, the decision was inevitable. End of story. Cue credits and profits.
So how does mobile change this scenario and advertising’s role in it? Mobile is the end of advertising as we know it for one reason and one reason only: it has the ability to make consumers smarter, most impactfully, at the point of sale where it’s difficult to get information, rarely is there access to help, and inclination to act is high because “what the heck, I’m already here.” The ability to scan a product barcode, instantly compare it to relevant peers, and have insight on relevant choices brings light to a place of darkness. With this kind of empowerment at the point of sale the goal of “brand recall and affinity” is not enough. Advertising must highlight product relevance, differentiation, and competitive value.
Through a mobile device at the point of sale, what would “a form of communication used to encourage or persuade an audience to continue or take some new action” look like? Certainly not a TV spot. It’s much more surgical, rational, and relevant. It’s also potentially way more powerful and requires dramatically different thinking.
And beyond mobile shopping there is mobile payment. Why bring up mobile payments discretely? Because how you pay is not only a potential influence on the decision to buy, it is also a large brand decision in and of itself. Banks and cards companies spend billions in advertising to influence your choice of payment at the point of sale. I’d argue that this particular decision-point is where consumers are perhaps the dumbest of all – unaware of the basic characteristics of even the product itself: rate, balance, impact on near term or long term needs and goals. At moment of payment, we make selections based on “top of wallet” proximity, fear (the “which one of these haven’t I maxed out?” decision), or irrational loyalty to rewards programs.
What if the moment of payment got smarter? For every purchase there is a logical…no, there is a RIGHT way to pay for it. A way that optimizes your finances, your preferences, your rewards, and the ability for you to meet your current and future goals. What if a mobile payment/mobile wallet was just that smart? What if it knew all that? What could “a form of communication used to encourage or persuade an audience to continue or take some new action” look like when a rational, RIGHT way is known? Would the massive industry of cards advertising even be relevant at all?
So, two BIG parts of the advertising world shaken by mobile: how we make shopping decisions and how we make payment decisions. Mobile at the point of sale is the end of advertising as we know it. So what’s next?