VMob is a Kiwi organisation which is huge overseas. Its clients include 7/11 in Australia, Esso in Europe, and half of McDonald’s 33,000 stores across the globe. There are 20 million people McDonald’s VMob-powered Japan loyalty programme alone.
“They call it the next-generation loyalty programme,” Bradley says.
VMob uses app technology to deliver targeted, highly personalised marketing to customers through their mobile phones. In return for the odd free offer, it collects an extraordinary range of data from customers.
Bradley gives an example based upon himself: one day, he gets a cheeseburger at McDonald’s. Accessing his mobile’s location services, VMob knows his location. It knows he is normally based in Auckland, and since he’s at the Taupo branch, it can also tell he is on a trip.
Thanks to the location data, VMob can check the local weather reports in real time and tell what kind of conditions might have contributed to his decision to buy a burger. Was it particularly cold that day?
VMob can also look at users’ social media profiles. This means it can build an understanding of the customer’s interests based on their ‘likes’ on Facebook – finding out, in this case, that Bradley is a rugby fan.
“Now, we’ve got three salient data points without the customer ever purchasing a product from us.”
When you understand customers, you can influence their behaviour, Bradley says. Mobile loyalty is all about recognising and influencing customer behaviour in real time.
“Ultimately, that’s what loyalty programmes do. We try to influence customer behaviour to get them to come back to us.”
Traditional loyalty programmes are less intuitive, Bradley says, bringing up a scenario where a customer buys a coffee every morning from McCafe. A traditional loyalty programme might offer that customer a deal where if they buy five coffees, the sixth is free.
“If we see the customer come in five days, why would we offer them a free coffee when they’re going to buy one anyway?”
Instead, Bradley says, VMob would look to prompt that customer with a freebie if they came near a McCafe later in the day. Research has shown that big coffee drinkers tend to crave another one between 2pm and 4pm in the afternoon. If VMob can get that customer buying a coffee twice every day instead of once, they’ve doubled the frequency of visit and increased their spend.
“You can’t do that in an email,, you can’t do that in a letter,” Bradley says.
This level of personalisation is a fine line to walk. Bradley says it’s important to start with permission-based data capture – do nothing without the customer’s say-so – and include the ability for them to opt out.
He underlines the “huge” reputational risk to McDonald’s if VMob took data without the customer’s express permission, but says customers are very happy to hand over their data in return for a free cheeseburger or drink.
Personalisation is a big part of what makes VMob work. It offers customers rewards that are relevant to them, and nothing that isn’t. Bradley quotes a study that shows a 700 percent increase in engagement following personalisation.
“This is where retailers are really struggling. They publish these apps that are generically the same as each other.”
He thinks retailers should tap into their traditions, saying retailers have been personalising their offers for hundreds of years as they remember return customers and greet them by name. They need to take this mindset into the mobile space, Bradley says.