Mobile + POS Data Will Transform "Online Marketing"

There are now a range of companies working on connecting online activity and ads with action at the POS using mobile devices. NFC-enabled mobile payments is just one of many initiatives going on. For example, Shopkick just announced a deal with Giant Eagle supermarkets that connects the mobile app with Giant Eagle loyalty accounts:

Shopkick's first partnership with a supermarket, and more importantly, co-founder and chief marketing officer Jeff Sellinger said that it allows the startup to "close the loop." Now, by tying user accounts to Giant Eagle loyalty cards, Shopkick will have data on what users actually purchase. That means brands can offer rewards not just for scanning products, but for buying them too.

Google Wallet just expanded its features, as well as the roster of participating stores and merchants. Now with a "single tap" Google Wallet users can pay, redeem coupons and get loyalty points. Currently Google doesn't see the transaction value or other details in the way that Shopkick and Giant Eagle will through their arrangement. But eventually Google will probably get access to more data and make that available to marketers.

Deal vendor Bloomspot has a system that uses registered credit cards to close the loop with daily deal buyers and determine whether they spent more than the face value of the deal in restaurants and stores. Placecast is working on something that matches offers and in-store transactions through credit card accounts. LSN Mobile has a relationship with First Data.

There are several other such examples I could use to illustrate what is a growing and very important trend. 

Mobile devices will allow marketers to see who showed up in stores and, in the very near future, what they bought and how much they spent. There are some significant privacy issues and implications of all this and I don't want to dismiss or minimize them. However the effort to track the influence of ads and offers from online (or traditional media) to the point of sale is a trend that is starting to gain momentum.

We're not that far away from a time when agencies and marketers will have considerably more visibility into what online ads drove what in-store purchases, as well as user profiles based on purchase behavior and response to ads. This data has been collected for years in the offline world but now, through mobile devices, online marketers are going to get some new visibility on the dominant online-offline shopping paradigm. 

Remember that e-commerce is only about 5% to total US retail but the Internet influences billions of dollars in offline transactions. Accordingly the growing visibility that marketers will have in just a few years about who responded to ads and what they spent will have a profound impact on the future sophistication and tactics of "online marketing."