Remember the days of wandering through the grocery or department store with coupon books, hunting for the right brand of coffee or practical winter sweater, clutching that slip of paper that would save you 50 cents? Or how about those rebates that involved cutting off tops, filling out forms and mailing in with a receipt?
If those days don’t ring a bell, you’re likely younger than 30; and even if you’re eligible for AARP membership, those times are long past.
Today’s consumer is more likely to research on the Internet before trekking into a store to make a purchase. And mobile apps have become increasingly effective at on-demand ordering.
There are apps that redirect users to partner websites; those that require users to type credit-card numbers onto mobile machine screens; those that offer instant-ordering algorithms supposedly tailored to customers’ tastes (which seems either impossible or creepy); and there are those that require users to load an imaginary shopping cart.
Now savvy digital retailers are looking into ways to draw consumers in, marketing products more efficiently and offering incentives to loyal customers. While some of the latest applications have thrived at delivering on-demand services to shoppers, a few have gotten the experience part right and actually sell the stuff they’re offering in a frictionless fashion.
As retailer-consumer relationships evolve, we take a look at a few mobile app and tech-based businesses in Colorado that are changing the way consumers shop and the way products are marketed.
Shopping portal for athletic ware
Whether your choice sport is kayaking, skiing, running or camping, being an outdoor enthusiast doesn’t have to be expensive. Kevin McInerney, founder and CEO of Active Junky, created a method for saving money on more than 250 sport brands and retailers, from Nike to Cabela’s.
“Sign up with us, navigate to what you want to buy and where you want to buy it, and you’ll get cash back,” says McInerney, who launched the Denver-based company in 2011.
Here’s how it works: “Say you want a $1,000 bike, and you find the one you want at REI,” he says. “Our site will take you to the REI site, where you make the purchase. REI pays us a commission for that customer, and we pass off half of that commission to the consumer.”
That can range from a few percentages off the purchase price to more than 20 percent, he notes.
The company, which employs 10, also has a gear-testing team to build a sense of community and expertise.
“We’re engaging the customer throughout the year, so we’re helping the retailer,” McInerney says, noting that people respond more positively to getting a check in the mail than to the notes at the bottom of sales receipts that read, “You saved $4 on your purchases today.”
“When we were trying to figure out a way to get customers to come back to us, the answer was simple: Share the money,” he says. “We’re really changing the way people shop.”
Mobile data collection
Kudos from critics and confidence in your product isn’t enough if the store has buried it back on hard-to-reach shelves. And by the time your company’s field representatives make the rounds to collect data on where and how your product is displayed, it could take weeks to make sense of it and report back.
Enter GoSpotCheck, a mobile data collection tool designed to help businesses collect that data and aggregate it in a snap, says company CEO and co-founder Matt Talbot.
Based on GPS locations, team members are assigned the job of completing reports and capturing photos with smartphones and tablets.
“Our data-collection app is based on quantitative data, and photos serve as a backup and a window into the store,” Talbot says.
It pays for the consumer as well, he notes. A company might put a lot of money into marketing a product, “But if the consumer can’t find that brand because it’s not stocked or is in the wrong place, that’s frustrating,” Talbot says. “And it doesn’t help the brand. That wasted a lot of money on marketing.”
Allows consumers to get cash back on purchases
The idea behind Ibotta was to solve a couple of problems savvy consumers face, says Bryon Leach, CEO of the Denver-based company, which employs 75.
“They don’t want fragmentation, a different app for every store,” says Leach, a Yale graduate who was an attorney before launching this venture. “And they want to get cash back, rather than a discount.”
You’ll find instant rebates and coupons on everything from grocery stores to restaurants, as well as department stores, on Ibotta.
“Our app works for 185,000 stores nationwide,” Leach says. “We’ve gone from zero to 4 million users in 24 months.”
And those users have tuned into more than 100 million media engagements, he says. This could be anything from reading a recipe to watching a video or taking a poll.
“We saw there was a desire for a place to go to learn about what you’re buying,” Leach says. “So there’s a space you can go to learn about the brand. Pop-up ads are irritating. There’s not much space on packaging, so this gives that targeted audience a place to go on their own time to learn about the specific products.”
And from the point of view of the advertiser, this offers specific information about who is interested in their product.
What’s the biggest up-and-coming trend, according to Ibotta? “Mobile-influenced in-store sales are huge,” Leach says.