July 22, 2024

Advertising: Taking the Customer From Check-In to the Checkout Line

“If you’re a daily user of a Web site, most of the time they treat you pretty anonymously,” said Martin Green, president of Meebo, which calls itself a consumer Internet company. Using what Mr. Green called a “super secret algorithm,” however, regular visitors who check in to any of the 8,000 Web sites in Meebo’s network will soon be able to achieve V.I.P. status and earn rewards from businesses, or suggestions for content they might like.

The check-in feature also will allow V.I.P. visitors to follow one another and get a feed of Web sites that other users are checking into.

“We’ve seen a ton of people starting to discover new Web sites, new apps, new games that they didn’t know about,” Mr. Green said.

The V.I.P. feature is the latest addition to Meebo’s suite of social media aggregation tools and represents a new opportunity for advertisers. According to information provided by Meebo, the company is working with an increasing number of advertisers in categories from consumer electronics to alcoholic beverages.

In the past year, the company has opened new offices, largely dedicated to sales efforts, in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and New York, while hiring 40 sales staff members. In December, Meebo closed a $27.5 million round of financing led by Khosla Ventures, and in February it purchased Mindset Media, an ad targeting company.

Meebo was founded in 2005 and became popular with Web users by allowing them to combine all their instant messaging applications into one window.

The company also offers Web publishers the option to put a toolbar at the bottom of a Web site. Among other features, the toolbar, on 8,000 sites including TVGuide.com and TMZ.com, lets users share content on Twitter and Facebook, use instant messaging to chat and, of course, watch ads.

The check-in feature will be slowly rolled out to Web sites in the Meebo network, starting with PepBoys.com and Geekosystem.com, among others.

“We’re trying to reach the customer wherever they want to listen to us,” said Ronald J. Stoupa, vice president for marketing at Pep Boys.

Mr. Stoupa said the company began testing the Meebo toolbar in January with video ads about solving winter car problems. The company also offered discounts on car services to users who visited the Pep Boys Web site.

“The great thing about the Meebo platform is that we can change those offers quickly and make it specific to what’s going on right now,” Mr. Stoupa said.

Meebo began experimenting with mobile check-ins in March with the announcement of a mobile application that lets users check into Web sites by scanning Quick Response or QR codes — the square bar codes readable by smartphones — or clicking directly on links in the Meebo app.

In May, the company took its check-ins to the Web with the announcement of Quests, virtual scavenger hunts. In Quests, users are rewarded and given badges, displayed on a user’s profile page, for visiting certain Web sites.

Cheetos, one of the first brands to use Quests, started a campaign called the Cheetos Billion Minute Break. Users were rewarded with badges and other prizes for visiting sites like AdultSwim.com and collegehumor.com.

Meebo is a sponsor of Internet Week, which starts Monday in New York. To promote the check-in system, Meebo will announce a True New Yorker Quest in which users can get badges for visiting Web sites for publishers like Vera Wang and the Brooklyn Cyclones. In one promotion, visitors to the Vera Wang blog, Vera Unveiled, will be able to share content using the toolbar, sign up for a newsletter and earn credit toward a fashion badge in the Quest.

While the ability to check into a location using mobile applications like Foursquare or Facebook Places is not new, marketers are increasingly looking for ways to turn that activity into tangible sales.

Daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer users discounts on local services, but can fall short of establishing a loyal customer base if the customer does not return to the business. Customers want to be rewarded for loyalty, said Noah Elkin, a principal analyst at eMarketer.

“It’s not that people have stopped checking in, but from a brand or publisher perspective, I don’t think that’s a sufficient value proposition anymore,” said Mr. Elkin, adding that the goal for checking in now is to get a customer to the checkout line.

“Check-in for check-in’s sake is limited,” Mr. Elkin said. “There’s much more focus on driving actual business versus driving buzz.”

Marketers have always tried to reward loyalty with their customers offline, so the migration to an online loyalty system makes sense, said Melissa Parrish, an analyst at Forrester Research.

One hurdle for marketers trying to bridge both worlds would be making sure that consumers are not confused by what is offered online versus what is offered offline, Ms. Parrish said. But brands still have time to figure that out.

“Is the entire market approaching hundreds of millions of dedicated loyal users? Not yet,” Ms. Parrish said. “I think there’s a lot of testing going on from both sides” — by consumers and advertisers.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8e082f874727664387e43278b120550b

Speak Your Mind