Recently, Tomi Ahonen wrote a post over at Forum Oxford about an idea he had how to make use of mobile phones and SMS for engaging customers while the store is closed. I liked the idea very much so I thought I'd share it with you here and give you my thoughts on top. Here's the short version, for the details click on the link above:
Instead of just passively advertising through a shopping window, actively engage your customers with an interactive contest via the mobile phone. Tomi uses a jewelry and watch shop as an example. Here's how the contest would work: Advertise a specific watch, e.g. via an animation (several pictures, some text, etc.) on a computer screen. Tomi likes 007, so in his example it's the villain's watch of the latest Bond movie from Swatch, worth around 100 euros. Engage customers with a contest for the watch by asking them to guess the serial number on the back of the watch. The feedback channel is, of course, SMS. Simple, convenient, and everybody these days has a phone in their pocket. The PC that runs the advertisement has a mobile phone connected to it so the SMS is received in near real time and feedback can be shown directly to the person who's decided to take part in the contest. Close to the finish date, you can engage customers who have responded by informing them via SMS that the contest is about to be closed and that they can check who's won on the (mobile) web page of the store, generating further interaction with the customer.
Personally, I think it's a great idea! Not only do you engage your customers, but at the same time you can find out how effective your window advertising is. In the thread to the original post, it's been pointed out that you probably can't make money with it with short code SMSes, the setup is just too expensive. But I think the point of the exercise is not to generate cash with the campaign directly but to engage with the customer and thus increase sales.
So I think the biggest obstacle is how to convince shop owners to invest in such an advertising scheme. After all, the (embedded) PC, the mobile and the software to track responses and do some data mining won't come for free and shop owners are usually not in the IT business. But I think that young and tech-savvy shop owners could very well grasp the idea and see an opportunity beyond advertisements in newspapers, etc. Some might even have enthusiastic geek friends that could put the pieces of the puzzle together for them.
Great idea, Tomi, let's see if somebody takes it up and works on a product!