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Smartphones and Customer Engagement

by Miki Saxon

Customer loyalty is a top priority no matter what you are selling—especially in retail.

Just ask Tony Hsieh, whose focus on Zappos’ workforce created the platinum standard of customer service that yielded a storied (and envied) level of customer engagement and loyalty.

The most important component by far is customer engagement. “Retailers should ask themselves, ‘how do I create a partnership with the consumer?’ instead of pulling one over on them,” says Harvard Business School senior lecturer José Alvarez. Many customers see loyalty programs as a way of being ambushed by the retailer.

Many retailers see smartphones as a successful way of engaging customers—but are they?

I have to wonder if they are taking into account the real numbers.

50.4% of the US population uses smartphones

  • Asian Americans 67.3%
  • Hispanics 57.3%
  • African Americans 54.4%
  • Whites 44.7%

Now take a look how the money breaks down.

48.5% of all smartphone handsets are Android, while Apple is at 32%, yet I constantly see product and service offers that require an iPhone.

Stop & Shop recently rolled out Scan It! Mobile, an app that turns a customer’s iPhone into a mobile scanner and checkout.

Gender-wise, smartphone use is nearly identical, 50.9% women 50.1% men, but age is a different story, with two out of three 25-34 year-olds having smartphones.

Marketers consistently target the younger demographic, but do they really have the money or are “Millennials the most screwed generation?”

The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

I’m a long way from being any kind of expert, but it seems to me that basing a loyalty/customer engagement model on smartphones, let alone iPhones, doesn’t make much sense when viewed through the lens of actual usage and related income stats.

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