Cool Companies in the Age of the Customer


Social, Mobile and Engineered for the Point of Experience.


We hear all about using social media as a way to reach consumers. But most of the business use of social is purely merchants’ pushing their products, rather than listening to and understanding their customers. As a result, merchants are limited in understanding consumer needs. Before people become customers or club members, they are ‘tribes’ of related friends who are socializing, shopping, or just generally hanging out experiencing the material world. And they are signaling — intentionally or unintentionally — their interests and needs. But that is beginning to change with some new technologies that I will discuss over a series of articles.


A cool technology with an interesting approach was brought to my attention by a company called Post Modern: their social ‘physical portal’ solution, ilyk, which I thought stood for “I like,” in fact, it stands for “I‘m letting you know.”

In essence, they take the social network beyond the web and into the realm of the point of experience — your physical location, not just your flat digital one.

So, I’m letting you know how cool this company is.

When it was first conceived, the ilyk System was simply an interactive kiosk which allowed users to post client-supplied media to Facebook instantly. Its first use was at a video game convention in the Warner Bros. booth, marketing Batman Arkham City. It soon became apparent that adding the ability to post at the point of experience was a compelling tool, but it was only the beginning. The ilyk System continues to evolve; future marketing efforts can embrace entirely new ways to facilitate two-way communication with consumers.

So let’s see how this could work as more points of experience become ilyk enabled:

Walking the experience cycle, first I get my Batman RFID wrist bracelet. Then, as I go into Toys“R”Us, shop on the web, download a Batman movie, or take the Batman ride at Universal, I can check in to the Batman fan club and socialize with other bats, letting them know what is cool to do, or what I thought of the latest game or movie.

If I want to share my impressions of my experiences as they are happening, I can use other ‘portals,’ such as my mobile device, to socialize with other bat fans, or use a kiosk outside of a theatre to post my review of the movie.

Merchants can use this data to (hopefully) design even better experiences for their customers and gauge potential demand as the bat fans show up in Orlando, FL; Los Angeles; or Australia.

For systems such as these to work, they have to successfully service both sides of the equation — the consumer and the merchant/brand company. This is what I call the ‘Zuckerberg dilemma.’ Here is how ilyk solves that. Engaging in experiences and sharing them with our friends is part of our lives today. ilyk uses technologies like RFID and portals so people can check in anywhere and share their location, their impressions, or other information they want to share with their friends. Of course, their advocacy (or lack thereof) does not go unnoticed by merchants, allowing them to view their products and brands from the consumer’s vantage point.


Another fascinating company, 2DU (To Do), created GeoHelp, a location-based, what I would call a concierge mobile solution for consumers, with merchant-side services as well. OK, what? Here’s the concept: Rather than a consumer hunting down each and every merchant on different maps, the web, and social sites, GeoHelp allows consumers to create their own portfolio of favorite merchants. Instead of having icon/app clutter on their smart phone, they have one icon. From there, they can manage all the connection points with all their favorite merchants. If they roam from Boston to San Francisco, and are looking for the local Best Buy,they can find it, as well as all their other favorites and new, interesting local merchants. But wait — there’s more. Rather than just looking for the merchant, users can search for an item and allow GeoHelp to tell them where the closest item is. This eliminates the rather tedious process of hunting from merchant to merchant.

Also, each merchant can control the page to which the consumer links (unlike Yelp, for instance), and can link the social page to a store locator. Consumers can be located as they approach a store; and as they enter, merchants can do some directed selling and promoting. In essence, once they ‘connect,’ this is a direct engagement between the merchant and consumer unlike Yelp, which is a third-party site.

This technology is a huge leap forward from today’s tedious one-by-one mobile apps universe. The reality is that app retention is very low, since consumers may download an app for one promotion, but over time they don’t use it and replace that precious real-estate on the mobile phone with others’ apps. There goes that chance for building rapport with the consumer or leveraging your proximity to other favorite places the consumer may have. Often retailers, in their zeal to get their brand out there, miss the networking value of being clustered. Although they got that point right with the shopping mall, that principle never translated to the web.

One advantage over the coupon mania out there: consumers can organize all their promotions and ensure they are reaping their rewards. And member merchants don’t pay additional fees to third parties for promoting their coupons.

Again, GeoHelp addresses the ‘Zuckerberg dilemma’by addressing the mutual value proposition of both consumers and merchants. An added-value proposition is the built-in trust that might not be typical of social solutions, since the end-users’ data are on their mobile devices and GeoHelp — not at all the merchants.

The benefit for merchants is that they can get noticed by consumers yet can control the message, unlike an open social environment such as Yelp.

Gateway to Point of Commerce

Experience has made me rich; and now they’re after me, ’cause everybody’s living in a material world,” sings Madonna. She is not wrong in the case of how engineering a stellar encounter at the point of experience — the material world — can make you rich. Or at least smarter due to the ability to collect the data that can transform your business (as we discussed in Rethinking Customer at the Point of Experience).

Getting consumer impressions at the point of experience is a huge challenge for so many companies since they cannot directly access the consumer at that point of experience. They have to work through channels. The right technologies can help leap over the truculent or recalcitrant channel partners. More positively, these technologies allow collaboration, if a little vision is applied, to benefit from adjacency in product offering or proximity in location.

And as we discussed in Demand Management in the Age of the Customer, we are looking for a lifecycle of customer information that allows us to transform knowledge about people and markets into products and ultimately, sales.

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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