New Technology Aims at Local, Ready-to-Buy Customers

By | May 10, 2012

Mark Rasch delivered the keynote address at the annual meeting of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DC). At the start of his presentation, Rasch posed a question to the audience. “A marketer’s job is to sell to customers. True or not true.” Everybody said true. Maybe it was a trick question, but Rasch surprised the audience when he said, “I disagree. A marketer’s job is to sell to people who aren’t customers.”

The same notion came out of an article in DMNews by Mediasmith founder David L. Smith, who described his marketing dream as “targeting those who intend to buy a product … those actively shopping … those who shopped but did not buy.”

Ready-to-buy marketing begins with a robust database, of course — which is why, on February 17, Groupon purchased Hyperpublic, a start-up that builds databases of local information. The following day, Groupon bought Kima Labs, manufacturer of two mobile apps, one that reads barcodes and one that facilitates mobile payments. Groupon apparently sees “on-the-spot” buying from ready-to-buy customers as the way of things to come.

Options for ready-now, local selling have moved beyond retail. In February, Zipcar, which provides a fleet of thousands of cars to its 673,000 members, became the lead investor in Wheelz, a California-based start-up in which students who own cars on campus loan out their cars to other drivers.

Apparently, Mark Rasch is right. As consumers increasingly embrace their smart phones, marketers are learning how to touch the not-yet-a-customer market in real time, at the right time, as never before.

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