Joe Consumer never had it so good.
Retail veteran John Fleming, a former executive vice president and CMO for Walmart who also ran retail and merchandising operations at Target and Marshall Fields, says that online and mobile platforms have consumers occupying a lofty place today among buyers, sellers and marketers.
“When I first got into the business in the early 1980s,” Fleming says, “the power was really with the brand. Then in the ‘90s it shifted to the retailer, as retailers became big box, mass retailers. Ultimately, with the Internet, the power has shifted to the consumer.”
That transition means retailers and brands need to devise innovative ways to appeal to consumers’ buying dollars, Fleming says. “In a lot of cases, companies are going to have to rethink their business models to really include the consumer on the front end of decisions they make.”
Amid this shift comes consumer-engagement company Jingit, which Fleming has joined as a senior advisor. Jingit seeks to deliver practical solutions to consumers’ frustrations with marketing while “satiating their growing appetite” for discounts, deals and offers from brands.
‘Real money in real time’
Jingit promotes its platform as offering the most coveted reward in the marketplace today — cash. Consumers opt-in to video and brand interactions to earn real money instead of the credits, points or virtual currency that typify many rewards programs.
To join, consumers need only a Facebook account and a mobile phone with text messaging to receive the Jingit app. Jingit users 18 years old and older also can request a Jingit Visa Debit card to store their earnings — typically a few cents to a few dollars, depending on the value of a consumer profile and the objectives of the advertiser. Consumers who post Jingit to their Facebook walls or invite friends to join the platform can earn additional cash.
“At the root of our system — and what makes us different from anyone else in the market right now — is we’re literally moving real money in real time for consumer engagement,” says Jingit co-CEO Joe Rogness. He says the relationship between consumer, retailer and marketer/advertiser has been “unbalanced” at times. “What we’re ... trying to do is bring it into equal balance for the consumer. We said, ‘How can we put together a platform that treats everyone as a first-class citizen and drives value for all three parties?’”
Fleming adds that retailers need to identify ways to engage with customers beyond the point of the transaction, as rewards programs that simply drive sales are no longer enough to satisfy consumers.
“The Jingit experience is really managing the entire lifecycle of that relationship — everything from acquiring the customer to allowing the customer to consider products and services to being able to complete the transaction and get feedback from the customer after the transaction,” he says.
The transaction, Fleming says, no longer is the high point of the relationship consumers have with retailers and brands. That changed as digital technology platforms like smartphones evolved.
“There used to be huge separation between the digital and physical,” he says. “With the advent of the smartphone and high bandwidth and connectivity, now every consumer is coming into a physical store with their own operating system, and they have access to everything, from price and product information to competition. They have all the information now, which has significantly changed the game.”