SMWNYC 2011 – Mobile Meets Social: Seamlessly Converting “Check-ins” to Check-Outs

Description from the Social Media Week New York schedule event listing:

Everyday mobile devices are becoming more indispensible in the lives of consumers and are expected to continue redefining the retail and purchase experience.  But tomorrow’s opportunity is here now, thanks to location-based services, m-commerce, mobile couponing and more. Knowing that, how can marketers create campaigns that utilize these technologies from the conceptual stage all the way to the hands of consumers?  And with smartphone penetration under 25% in the U.S., is the average American consumer really ready for a retail experience enhanced and even driven by mobile?

This session will address these questions and more through discussion around three main topics:

  • What’s next? The evolving role of mobile technology in retail
  • How can brands stay in control?  Bridging the gap between operations and the consumer experience
  • Is it worth it for retailers?  For marketers?  For consumers?


  • Moderator – Christian Alfonsi; Executive Director of Strategic Planning, Taylor
  • Rachel Cohn; Global Customer Marketing Strategist, Facebook
  • Drew Allen; VP of Business Development, Scoutmob
  • Melissa Lavigne-Delville ; VP of Strategic Insights, NBC Universal
  • Prof. Sree Sreenivasan; Columbia Journalism School & contributing editor,
  • Peter Ha; Editor, Apps, Games and Technology, The Daily

Event Recap:

For the first evening of Social Media Week New York, Taylor Strategy hosted a panel in their offices in the Empire State Building.  The hashtag for the event was #smwtay, in case you’d like to check out any other attendees’ comments   Brian Harris, COO of Taylor, welcomed the audience by explaining that despite our different job titles, we’re all in the same business: consumer engagement.  Social media and mobile are intersecting more and more everyday.  He then introduced moderator Christian Alfonsi, who noted that an edited video will be available on the Taylor Strategy website.

The conversations, like in many panels today, started with talk about the Super Bowl advertisement.  The panelists focused on the social media environment around the ads, rather than on the commercials themselves (so this was probably the most positive discussion of the subject that I’ve heard today.)  Both Hulu and Facebook offered replays of the ads that allowed viewers to rank them.  Another popular first was the ability to check into the Super Bowl on Foursquare nationwide.  Alfonsi asked the panel about what they expect to see during the next Super Bowl, but the predictions tended to be vague (e.g., new comfort with technology or the introduction of hyper-locality), and they sounded more fit for a wider window than one year.

For location-based services to succeed in commerce, the onus is on the retailer as much as it is the technologists.  Sreenivasan feels that stores need to help instruct their clients on how to check in and utilize the deals from the location-based services.  Cohn explained that retailers will need to offer attention-catching deals on Facebook if they want to compete with other updates on a Facebook wall.  Unlike the others on the panel, Ha is clearly more bearish on the immediate immediate success of location-based services; right now he believes that they exhibit a bit of “information overload”.  The rest of the panel, though, is extremely bullish on check-ins, whether it’s at local shops, Starbucks (a popular pick for “best of breed” in location), or resorts.

Social and mobile marketing may seem revolutionary, but at the core, their key performance indicators (KPIs) are no different that the traditional business KPIs of the brand’s parent industry.  Raw metrics in social media are rarely valuable; it’s not worth it to say that you have 20,0000 fans, for example, unless you know how your following is growing or how it compares to your competitors.

The panel finished with questions from the audience.  Many were directed to a single panelist, but a contentious issue that was raised was the slow adoption so far of check-ins by the general public (current rates are in the single percentage points of all mobile users.)  Responses from the panelists varied slightly in terms of their prediction, but the consensus seemed to be that these rates will increase as the technologies mature.  In the meantime, Lavigne-Delville reiterated the opportunity that businesses have to help educate consumers.  Check-ins and the deals around them are certainly a niche market right now, but panelists could have said the very same thing about other social media technologies just a few years ago.

Analysis and Commentary:

I was pleased to see how ready the audience was to challenge the overly bullish outlook of several of the panelists on the immediate effects and success of mobile check-ins.  Unfortunately, there was not time to answer all of the audience’s questions.  While speaking with others audience members after the panel wrapped, concerns like privacy and government- or industry self-regulation were on the minds of the audience, and it would have been interesting to see what the panelists felt about these issues.

Also in speaking with other audience members, especially those who have been successful practitioners of location-based marketing, there are clearly niche markets where adoption and usage rates far exceed the baseline.  Football (that is, American football for our foreign audience!) fans in tech-savvy regions, for example, have demonstrated a willingness to embrace the technology in order for a chance at free tickets.  This case study should be discussed at Friday’s Social Media and Sports panel.  While registration for this panel is closed, and I won’t be covering it, it will hopefully be available via livestream or another blogger’s coverage.

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