Engaging with consumers and influencing their choices remains a challenge for both small and larger retailers. Meanwhile, fierce competition and the rapid advance of multi-channel shopping means supermarket operators have a need to quickly find ways to build loyalty across all formats while remaining connected through one voice
Launched in January, Callmy – a new communications application (or app) – presents an interesting option for retailers to cut through the plethora of existing communication channels by literally speaking directly to the consumer with all types of messaging from special offers to the latest news and important information.
Developed initially for the public sector, emergency comms expert and Callmy managing director Tony Watson believes the app holds great promise for the retail sector and potentially the supply chain at large to communicate with both the end consumer and, from a supplier’s perspective, customers.
“Callmy is a very simple broadcast comms service that gives a company or organisation the ability to deliver a voice or text message to a user’s Callmy app, which they have downloaded for free (and therefore opted to ‘follow’ that business),” Watson tells Produce Business UK.
Watson claims the app can help retailers to build loyalty because when trying to make a connection with a consumer a voice message is a lot more personal and direct than an email, SMS (text message) or social media post.
“Retailers have spent a fortune on their online identity but they’re losing their personal identity,” he points out. “There’s more value in a voice message because consumers can actually hear the retailer’s voice. It’s a slightly more intimate form of communication and will help forge a stronger relationship.”
Generally, email, SMS, and increasingly social media, are the go-to mediums for sendings out comms en masse, but Watson says they are too crowded for important messages to get through for a fast response. Callmy, on the other hand, is designed to sit outside conventional channels.
“Our email inboxes are full of junk and social media is busy with all sorts of information,” Watson explains. “You’re more likely to act on a message delivered by an app. Users also have an interest in your business and want to connect with you because they’ve actually opted to receive your messages.
"Social media is also very fickle. Already, the Facebook demographic is changing. Youngsters are moving towards Instagram and Facebook is becoming a bit passé. One size doesn’t fit all, so if you’re only using social media to publicise your business you might be missing out on a section of society. Callmy can sit as a part of your overall comms strategy.”
Analysing recent research from Future Thinking, it appears companies do need to focus on developing technologies that are familiar, easy, quick to use and safe, which is precisely what Watson is seeking to achieve with Callmy.
“Unsurprisingly, we feel more comfortable with technology which currently exists or looks quite similar to what we know,” says Sarah Holt, associate director at Future Thinking. “But we’re also more interested in technologies that can save us time without having to change our shopping habits drastically.”
Watson claims Callmy is being “very well received” already because it’s simple and straightforward for both the client and customer. “It’s like leaving any voice message really,” he says.
“Clients use the portal to type in their message from a PC or tablet or they can dial in and record a message from their phone – it doesn’t even have to be a smartphone. Then you click or press send and everyone with the app receives a notification to listen or view your message. Consumers like Callmy because if it’s something important it’s flagged up immediately and they have access to it via their smartphone.”
One consumer recently surveyed for Future Thinking’s Shopper Barometer 2015 indicated they need to be sure a technology is secure before even thinking about trying it. Indeed, Watson points out that lots of message broadcast services are very database driven, which requires a company to develop and maintain a database of contacts as well as incurring a data protection overhead.
“People are reticent about giving their contact details to organisations because they’re worried about being spammed or receiving nuisance calls,” he explains. “Our app removes the need to acquire, compile and manage a database, although if you do have an existing database you can use that too.”
Callmy lends itself to delivering a whole host of messages such as retail promotions, product information or product recalls, and potentially as part of a home delivery service to remind shoppers of their delivery slot or notify them if a delivery is running late.
Larger retailers could also use the app as part of their wider advertising campaign; to send out branded messages using the voice of a celebrity they’re working with, for example. There is also scope for retailers to use the app to communicate within their network or their supply chain.
“One of the angles for grocery retailers could be to communicate to shoppers the seasonality of the produce available in their stores,” Watson explains. “There’s a desire among consumers to know what’s new, fresh and in season. Callmy represents a good vehicle to capitalise on sharing messages like these.
“You could also use it to tell your shoppers what’s coming in soon, to encourage shoppers to order popular items in advance (especially around Christmas), and to notify them whether there’s short or bumper supplier because of wet or dry weather.”
Equally, Watson says these types of messages could be delivered between retailers and their suppliers, distributors and wholesalers, or even internally between a network of retail stores or among employees within a store itself.
“If store managers need to offer a spot promotion or withdraw a certain product they could be alerted by Callmy,” he suggests. “If you’re currently using email you might miss that message, especially if you’re out and about or on the shop floor. It could be a really easy way for head office to communicate with store managers too.”
With the perishables industry working within a supply chain that’s far more than local, Watson says any service that can inject efficiency into what can at times be a fragmented system can only be a good thing.
“When I started in my career I worked in the production department of a food manufacturer,” he continues. “With product arriving in ‘just-in-time’, one of our challenges was if that product was rejected you had a shortfall in your production run. A retailer or manufacturer could therefore use this app to communicate with wholesalers or producers to find stock or to receive notifications from their suppliers about who has bumper or short stock.”
As people lead increasingly busier lifestyles, and retail competition hots up, Watson says retailers need help to nudge shoppers through the door. To that end, he is looking to incorporate geo-fence capability in the Callmy app.
“The idea is if a user is within a certain number of metres from the shop they are following and that shop has an offer or a message the app will receive an alert with the aim of ‘pulling’ the user into that shop,” he explains. “Once the app knows you’re in the shop, the retailer could also use the app to guide you to specific products, offers or aisles in the store.”
In terms of promotions, Watson claims Callmy already presents an effective tool to measure performance thanks to regular statistical updates on who has received and opened messages on the app.
“Clients receive statistics on how big their following is and through the portal they can see how many people are consuming their messages and how successful they are,” he says. “You can use this to measure which messages are working, for instance by cross checking who listened to a promotional message with the sales of that particular product.”
Considering the usability for messaging and the cost structure, Watson claims his app is as relevant to the small independent as it is to a national chain. Depending on your sector and the size of your following, the package can cost anything between £50 and £400 for a quarterly subscription on an annual contract.