Written by Mark Havenner on August 24, 2011.
You are waiting in line to order your coffee and while the six people in front of you are going through excruciatingly long orders, you happen to glance at a display next to you featuring a Bruce Springsteen collection you’d never heard of. All you need to do to own the Boss’s greatest hits is take the small credit-card-sized iTunes card to the barista and gladly hand over your $9.99, plus the cost of the latte you ordered, drive that puppy home, turn on your computer, log onto iTunes, type in a 10 digit code, download the album and sync it with your iPhone! In just seven easy steps, you can be listening to “The River” and “Pink Cadillac” and just a few hours prior, you had no idea that you even wanted to.
While it is certain your life is now more enriched, one may ask – why in the world did you go through all of those steps, when you could have just opened up iTunes from your iPhone and downloaded the album? The answer is simple. It’s for the same reason millions of people have bought magazines in grocery stores for more than fifty years, when they could get a subscription for nickels on the dollar.
You had absolutely no idea you needed Bruce Springsteen until you saw his mug on a display . . . in the impulse zone. That special place where we, as consumers, lose all of our inhibitions and simply must have whatever it is that is in that place. Magazines have been successful at this for decades; so have candy bars, gum, mints and overpriced flavored water. Impulse zones are the highest revenue generating areas of any retailer and often have sales per square foot that by far surpasses any other square foot in the store. It is also the most competitive part of a store, usually costing marketers a pretty buck to put their product there.
Marketers are increasingly trying to figure out how to reach audiences in the digital marketplace, since that is where a massive upward moving trend indicates buyers are now going. The challenge, however, is that online marketing has a tremendous amount of clutter to break through. If one is marketing a product in a brick and mortar store, they simply need to secure placement near the cash registers to improve sales velocity. Online, the cash registers are embedded with the actual product. So, apart from spending an incredible amount of advertising dollars and implementing extensive word of mouth campaigns, how does one get through the clutter online and be noticed by a potential consumer?
Online marketers need to remember that there is a real world too. And in this world, there are plenty of brick and mortar stores. Apple demonstrates this perfectly with its iTunes/Starbucks partnership. All digital marketers need do is bridge the offline world with the online world, using the impulse zone. With that strategy in place, tons of tactics pour forward: coupon codes on countertop handouts, QR codes on countertop displays, promotional giveaways referring visitors to a website, location-based social network promotions, etc.
It amounts old school marketing, but in the new world of communications. Find where your customers are and reach them offline in order to influence their behavior online.