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Media Zone: The New Kids on the Block: Using Smartphone Apps to Sell DRTV Products

1 May, 2014 By: Timothy R. Hawthorne Response

Product purchase app developers claim that their new innovations hold great promise, but will their apps really enhance DRTV campaign platforms?

For an industry that’s talked about consumers ordering dresses literally off the backs of their favorite actresses with the push of a remote control button, the DRTV world has been hesitant to embrace the new crop of direct purchase apps on the market. Such is the plight of market pioneers who must hawk their cutting-edge options in a market that’s already littered with technology that hasn’t lived up to its promises.

“We have a pretty strong background in overall marketing and DR, and we’ve been talking to the industry about our app’s potential,” says Andrew Pakula, CEO and co-founder at WiOffer LLC, maker of the WiO purchase app. “In most cases, DR users and producers either want to see results and/or require a lot of education around consumer engagement and mobile.”

But just like we’ve already seen happen with QR codes, location apps and other cutting-edge innovations that people are skeptical about at first, the time when DR users will publish app logos on screen alongside toll-free numbers and URLs may not be far off. WiOffer’s TV-2-Mobile WiO app, for example, allows audiences to interact with TV and radio advertising, TV and radio content, and brands across multiple mobile devices.

It works like this: a consumer opens the WiO app on his or her mobile phone or other device while watching a TV commercial that features the app’s logo. Upon holding up their device to listen to the audio or verbalizing the specific keyword, consumers are taken to a page featuring the product that they just saw advertised on TV. Using the app, the potential customer can place an order immediately, save the information to review later, or just educate himself or herself on the product’s features and benefits.

The concept gels well with some of the new mobile trends that companies like eMarketer are tracking. According to “Mobile Apps Help Lure Customers, Spur Loyalty,” an eMarketer survey of executives at companies with annual revenues of at least $250,000, found that they were using customer-facing apps to engage with customers in a variety of ways: providing information; as a customer relations management tool; and to build a brand. The most common use of mobile apps was to communicate with customers, named by 83 percent of respondents. Next was the provision of customer service or support (79 percent), the provision of information about a product (74 percent), facilitation of transactions (69 percent), and brand engagement (67 percent).

WiOffer isn’t the only company creating new business models around these numbers. Shazam, an app that got its start helping mobile device users recognize song titles by listening to and recording snippets of songs, allows consumers to “tag” ads that include the company’s logo to learn more about the products.

Later this year, AdEase will throw its hat into the mobile purchase app ring. According to Cisco Rey, founder and developer, the app will allow consumers to buy products directly from TV and learn more about local businesses via a code displayed on the commercial.

“Consumers plug the code into the application and get delivered directly to a checkout area that’s customized to each advertiser,” says Rey. “We learned that one of the main reasons people weren’t buying off of TV is because they didn’t feel like calling.”

Throw in the fact that more than 80 percent of smartphone and tablet owners use devices simultaneously while watching TV (according to the Direct Marketing Association), and that 81 percent of smartphone owners have used their smartphone for impulse purchases (Electronic Retailing Association), says Rey, and the case for mobile-based interactive mechanisms that consumers can use to purchase and/or evaluate their options becomes even more apparent.

And with more consumers using mobile devices to complete transactions online, the need for these “facilitator” apps will likely increase. In the meantime, Pakula says he’ll continue chipping away at the resistance he’s seen thus far from DR marketers.

“We see this as a great way to redirect engagement from traditional media and onto the smartphone and tablet; that’s what our whole business is about,” says Pakula. “Most DR users and producers want to see mass, but it’s not often that you get an app with ‘mass.’ But WiO is there to enable convenient second-screen engagement once and for all for DRTV marketers.” ■ 

About the Author: Timothy R. Hawthorne

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