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Marketers typically define the word “trigger” as some kind of measurable change in customer behavior or a specific action, event or dialogue that influences a customer response.

When discussing intelligent 1:1 marketing, however, triggers take on a completely new dimension. Let me explain…

Last week, I introduced you to this formula for intelligent 1:1 marketing:

Intelligent 1:1 Marketing = Mobile Devices + Triggers + Social Media + Point of Sale Data

In this context, trigger refers to a physical prompt that:

  • Opts your customer into the sales experience at that moment in that location
  • Gives you location-based data on your customer so you can drive new deals

In other words, the trigger functions to integrate mobile, social and local. For now, marketers should be thinking about two broad categories of intelligent 1:1 marketing triggers:

  • Near-field communication (NFC)
  • QR codes, Microsoft Tags

As Google demonstrated earlier this week with the launch of Google Wallet, NFC has enormous potential.  (See this Ars Technica article for a re-cap.) Not only will marketers benefit from the “closed loop” NFC can provide; consumers will benefit, too. As Google explains on its website, eventually Google Wallet will be able to conveniently store and sync payment cards, loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets…even your keys.

The full promise of NFC won’t be realized for several years, though. It will take time for NFC to be widely adopted by the public and for the technology to be installed in consumer mobile devices. Also, retailers will have to implement NFC readers at all points of sale.

So, at least for now, it makes sense for most marketers to turn their attention to triggers such as QR codes and Microsoft Tags.

Please, don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut, believing that QR codes and Microsoft Tags are nothing more than hi-tech links to a company URL. (That kind of thinking is so Web 1.0!)  Remember, the key innovation here is that triggers like QR codes and Microsoft Tags can now be attached to loyalty management systems, offer management strategies, data warehouse systems, etc.

For many of you, that means you can link these triggers to technology you may already have up and running. Add QR codes and/or Microsoft Tags to existing print (mailers, store shelf talkers, etc.), integrate the triggers with automated solutions already in place, and you’re on your way to producing a customized 1:1 customer experience.

Once consumers start scanning the triggers, the “intelligence” enables you to offer different digital coupons and deals to different segments of shoppers. You may want to reward a frequent shopper (who usually buys shirts) with a discount in a new category (shoes). Likewise, you can bolster a new shopper’s enthusiasm by providing another kind of digital coupon for a future visit.

Plus, you’ll be able to track responses to these offers. As one of my colleagues describes it, the combination of mobile devices, triggers and marketing technology can empower you with email-like measurability in the real-world.

Or put another way: As it stands now, when a customer walks into your store, she is largely invisible. You’re not sure when she arrived, what she’s looking for, if she remembered her coupons, what she’s purchased before.

With intelligent 1:1 marketing, that no longer has to be the case.  With intelligent 1:1 marketing, shopping becomes a personalized experience. The customer is no longer invisible, and she can be targeted with relevant offers, ones that build brand loyalty, drive more inventory churn and deliver revenue growth.