Two weeks ago I interviewed the director of retail marketing for Walgreens. This retailer with over 8,000 locations was finishing a very successful campaign in support of Red Nose Day. With a week to go, Walgreens had sold 12 million red noses and raised $18 million to help needy kids [as of 6/20/16 funds raised is over 31.5M].
While we shouldn’t turn our nose up to such accomplishments, we may look back at the success of Walgreens – and others like them – as the high-water mark of checkout fundraisers (i.e. cashiers asking customers at checkout to donate a dollar or two).
Person-to-person contact plays a critical role in the success of checkout fundraisers. But here’s the bad news: it’s going away. It’s been disappearing for years.
To afford gas for my car in high school I used to pump gas at a local station. Now, just about every gas station is self-serve. The only interaction customers have is with the touch pad screen. Good luck getting someone to clean your windshield or check your oil.
- New developments in technology and demands for higher wages are accelerating the replacement of employees with machines and robots. The burger flipping robot is real!
- Mobile technology means that customers aren’t tethered to employees, cashiers or registers anymore. They prefer to ask their smartphone questions about products and pay on their phones when they’re ready to buy.
- Social media means that we don’t have to interact with one another in person to raise money. We can also accrue massive audiences on sites like Facebook. Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and Booster are raising millions for charities and causes and social media is playing a huge role in driving these donations.
The bottom-line is that cause marketing will no longer be register-driven, it will be life-driven – cause marketing will be deeply embedded in people’s lives.
Here’s how to think “out of the store” about cause marketing.
The Internet Will Be Full of Good Things
We’re quickly moving to a truly “wired world” where everything will be connected to the internet. I used to think the web was the internet. But the web is just one way of connecting to the internet, which is actually a massive network of networks. (I know, who knew!)
Everything will be connected to the internet. Cities, cars, buildings, for sure. But also toothbrushes, blenders and even pets!
We currently have around 20 billion things connected to the internet. This could jump to 80 billion or more over the next five years. That’s ten connected items for every man, woman, and child on the planet!
This means things as common as a dog collar, washing machine, and refrigerator will be deeply connected to our smart phones and lives – not to mention our cause-related goals and interests.
This Internet of Things will be an Internet of Good Things.
Last year, Whirlpool introduced a new washer and dryer that allows users to give back with every load. You may never have wished that you could support a cause with every load of laundry. But Whirlpool’s new Connect to Care program just might get you asking why you’re not donating money to hungry children every time you open your fridge, or donating heating oil to a needy family whenever you adjust your thermostat.
Beacon Technology Will Be a Beacon of Cash for Causes
Beacon technology is “micro-location” as it’s designed to work in a physical location (like a store) with your phone – specifically your retail apps. With a Beacon transmitter, businesses can better interact with smartphone-toting consumers in or near their stores. Sure, they can push coupons to them when they walk in the door, but they can also give them one when they linger in a particular aisle or over a specific product.
Companies can even push reminders to consumers. “Last time you were on our website you were searching for a blend of coffee that we now have in stock.”
The tie-ins with cause marketing are endless, especially as more retailers adopt services like Apple Pay so shoppers can make purchases directly from their phones.
For example, as customers peruse the aisles at Target, which is experimenting with Beacon technology, the retailer could notify customers of nearby products that benefit the Children’s Miracle Network, one of the company’s charity partners.
Get Ready for “Instant Donations” with Social and Private Media
The future of cause marketing isn’t in the company checkbook. It’s in the company’s ability to link causes with customers and employees to raise money. As Charles Best at Donorschoose.org has said: “The key to cause marketing is the brand enabling the consumer [and the employee, I would add] to be a philanthropist.”
Right now, that means engaging employees and customers in in-store checkout fundraiser. But as companies move to selling their products via social (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and private media (e.g. Snapchat, Whatsapp), fundraisers will move from in-store to mobile devices.
For example, last year Domino’s piloted a program that allowed customers to order a pizza by simply tweeting a pizza emoji. The program had mixed results. But as companies retool and roll out these buying options to consumers, watch for cause marketing campaigns.
In the case of Domino’s, customers can share a pizza emoji to order a pizza. But during Domino’s Cares Month in March they can tweet a special heart-shaped pizza to donate $5 to buy food for a homeless shelter in their community.
Are You Keeping Up With Technology?
Whether it’s the Internet of Things, Beacon technology or instant donations, these high-tech programs won’t happen overnight or all at once. Recall my remark earlier about gas stations making the slow but inevitable transition from full-serve to self-serve. Yet, one day we’ll wake up and the world of cause marketing will be changed forever. Your job is to prepare for it.
Check out how INPEx is using technology to scale up cause marketing ROI and impact.