Check your phones, fellow Facebook junkies - if you open the More tab of your Facebook app and see a new feature that allows you to collect rewards for scanning personalized QR codes in participating brick-and-mortar retailers, then congratulations - you're part of a beta test that may point the way to Facebook eventually evolving its Rewards program into a full-fledged retail coalition. Facebook's foray into the real world is the latest example of a growing trend - online and mobile brands racing to be the first to capture a true 360-degree view of shoppers.
By Rick Ferguson
TechCrunch has the story after unearthing the new Rewards feature in its staff's own Facebook interactions. The app assigns each shopper a single personalized QR code they can scan at any participating retail location every time they make a purchase. Presumably, racking up enough scans will score you discounts or other rewards from those participating retailers. Details are scarce - but Techcrunch sees the test as a potential opening salvo for a broader loyalty play by Facebook. Money quote:
"Because Facebook Rewards lives in your phone in an app everyone already has rather than a loseable card or a new app you must download, it could compete with Belly, LevelUp, Punchcard and other apps. We'll see if Facebook gets good enough results from this test to more widely roll-out and promote Rewards. But it's another unsettling moment where loyalty startups might suddenly find themselves in the path of the big blue steamroller."
As TechCrunch points out, Facebook isn't the first pure-play internet brand to pull a reverse-Tron and assay out into the real world. Snap Inc.'s Snapchat app allows brands to buy sponsored geo-located ads that appear when a user nears a retail location, and then shares metrics with advertisers. Yelp's recent acquisition of Turnstyle also gives the review platform a means to reward and recognize customers for visiting local businesses.
The reason for this literal land rush by virtual brands? Facebook, Snap, Yelp, and other pure-play internet brands understand that the quest for a true 360-degree customer view, one that captures every interaction both virtual and physical, works both ways. Retailers have been trying to connect physical and virtual channels for years; now the internet giants are trying to make that connection in reverse. The first company that can credibly claim to identify, understand, and influence consumers through every touchpoint will enjoy a significant and sustainable competitive advantage.
Reward and recognition - in other words, loyalty marketing - is an essential tool in making these connections. That's why Facebook is testing a loyalty play, and why you'll likely see it roll out in some form over the next year. Look for other brands to follow suit. The modern-day land rush is underway - and it's potential to mint fortunes is every bit as real as the gold rush of yesteryear.
Rick Ferguson is CEO and Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group.