A Glimpse Into Next-Gen Retail Apps

Sometimes you see something so compelling you just know it’s the start of something big. The 7-iCollection iPhone app recently launched by Green Tomato for 7-Eleven Hong Kong fits that bill.

Simply put, it uses the phones “augmented reality” feature (if you haven’t seen this, the easiest way to understand it is look at “Monocle” within the Yelp app) to collect items hidden in 7-Eleven stores. So the user walks into a store, holds up his/her phone until a “collectible” (in this case teddy bear) shows up, and then captures it by jiggling the phone. You can then exchange items with your friends, and once you get a complete collection, receive a prize.

This is the modern-day version of the Pepsi bottle cap promo of my youth, where each had an NFL team helmet and you got some huge prize if you collected all 28 (the NFL of the late 1970s). We all bought Pepsi whenever we could and traded with our friends in a mad pursuit.  Pretty soon it turned out all of us had 27 teams and none could get his hands on that elusive Baltimore Colts (before Peyton Manning) cap — rumor was that only five of those were made in the entire country.   Some Pepsi marketer should get a gold star — this campaign is still remembered by at least one kid 30 years later.

The power of campaigns like this 7-Eleven Hong Kong implementation may be similar:

— Most important, it’s fun and addictive, and so will drive downloads and usage. This isn’t another “store locator” app; instead it gives the user a real payoff for downloading it.

— It drives traffic to multiple locations.

— The Collectibles/Prizes can be tied into whatever a retailer is trying to push.

— Collaboration among friends builds brand awareness.

— Users download the marketer’s app (e.g. 7-Eleven), not a third-party app like Foursquare or Gowalla.

— And unlike the Pepsi version of the 1970s, the retailer has the option to promote additional products/coupons through the app.

Certainly there will be many iterations/improvements on this concept — but for marketers interested in location-based campaigns, this is surely an approach worth considering. This app might just be a little glimpse into the future.

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Tobias Dengel is CEO of WillowTree Apps Inc., a mobile applications developer. He is also BIA/Kelsey’s new technical editor and will be posting regularly on mobile-related topics. The views he expresses are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of BIA/Kelsey.

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