Friday, September 23, 2011

Startup Watch COD: Stickybits rewards consumers who scan items and read/write reviews

here are a host of new cell phone application designed to provide information and deals on products sold in brick and mortar stores. For marketers, it stands to reason that connecting with consumers at the point of purchase makes a great deal of sense. While I have my own misgivings about the number and size of discounts brands are making available at the point of purchase, there is no disputing that such mobile applications attract consumer attention, and impact behavior.
Stickybits is one of the applications that has gained a great deal of attention and consumer adoption. With Stickybits the consumer downloads the application and then scans barcodes of products that they are contemplating. From there the application provides a variety of different types of information. The scanning of the barcode might spawn consumer reviews of the item, or product videos or tweets and pictures that others have left. The consumer is also able to leave their own comments and user generated content at his or her will.
Game mechanics come into the picture because brands and retailers have the opportunity to enable consumers to receive discounts, information about sweepstakes and contests, and a variety of other rewards and benefits.
Consumers get positive feedback and rewards in several ways with the Stickybits application. Obviously the first way is through these instant rewards and information that appear when they scan a UPC. But the second, more ubiquitous rewards system relates to earning points for every completed UPC scan. Obviously this rewards system encourages more widespread and deep adoption by users.
Thus Stickybits is trying to become a part of people's everyday shopping and buying experiences, not an item occasionally used when the consumer is considering making a new purchase or changing brands.
So does participating in an application like this make sense for your brand? In my view the answer relates to your business objectives, the extent to which your consumers are loyal, and your product margin. I've written in the past about my fear that all of this winning and discounting on everyday purchases is simply subsidizing loyal users. That has both short-term impacts on the financial success of brands as well as long-term impact on brand equity.
Are we are training a generation of consumers to only make purchases when discounts are offered? That is the opposite of creating brand value.
Nevertheless I see tremendous potential value in an application like Stickybits. What is necessary is for a brand to carefully consider its strategic objectives and develop a way of participating in such a platform based upon those objectives.
For example the brand introducing new items or new product sizes might use an application like this in order to encourage incremental purchases or the purchase of a larger size item.
Another way to use an application like Stickybits would be to encourage incremental purchases of those items that have highly seasonal or highly irregular purchase cycles. An example of this might be a consumer product like canned pumpkin. I would imagine that about 90% of canned pumpkin is purchased in the months of November and December in the United States. By participating in a program like Stickybits, the brand might be able to create incremental purchase occasions by impacting consumer behavior right there at the shelf. This wouldn’t be based upon a program that spawned reward for scanning a pumpkin UPC but rather a related item like pie crust.
Another way to sensibly utilize an application like Stickybits might be to communicate incremental value for an item in order to "close the sale." Recipes, or a reward for multiple unit purchase are examples here. In extremely commoditized categories, it might make sense to have an ongoing offer associated with the scanning of your UPC. A small discount might make the difference between routinized purchase and lost share, dollar sales, and volume.
And let's not forget that UPCs appear on a variety of durable goods, not just packaged goods. In the context of selling a stove or a refrigerator, being able to offer a sweepstakes entry or some form of discount might have tremendous impact on brand sales. Essentially, such discounts could be built into the suggested retail price of an item so that the appeal of a discount delivered through an iPhone application would feel unique and special to the user. Without negatively impacting the overall financial and brand health of the appliance maker.
Stickybits, which is available for both iPhone and Android devices, can play an important role in the marketing programs of items that bear UPC's. They are definitely a tactic to consider as you develop the marketing program of your brand. Just use them in a sensible way that clearly delivers on your overall brand business objectives.

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