A mobile app is truly a beautiful thing. We all have them, but don’t always use them, and even when we do, it is often fleetingly.

We are all quite fussy about which retailer apps we install and often with good reason. It can be annoying when a business fails to manage app communication. One too many notifications could lead to app deletion, or the most unholy of un-holies: overall brand damage. It is a fine, Zen-like balance between relevant content and timely interaction that only a few have truly mastered.

The smartphone is the first port of call when it comes to instant, location-based information. This could be in-store highlights or “find cute puppies near me”. The trusty mobile device is always hauled out from whatever semi-voluminous container it is currently inhabiting to provide this occasionally essential information. When used properly, this can indeed be a very effective way of bringing the customer into the store, keeping the customer in the store, and getting the sale.

The big question is: does each user utilize all the functions of their respective device? Probably not.

How to make the app-less connection

In a Perfect World

In-store beacons are required for instant communication with store visitors. However, this only works if the retail app is installed and Bluetooth enabled.  Geo-fencing also requires an app and GPS, and for direct messaging it is necessary to have an app with push notifications enabled. If all of these boxes are checked, then you are good to go.

But what if all of these wonderful settings are switched off? What if your brand does not have an app. What if the user doesn’t have a data plan? What if their phone was built in 1992?

Well, don’t worry, there are options.


So, let’s dive into the very worst case situation. The mobile user does not have an app, Bluetooth is switched off, and GPS is unavailable. What can we do? Use location indications.

Geo-IP, although less accurate than GPS, can locate a person down to a zip code level. This is more than enough for most cases. Whenever someone opens an email or enters an online store, their position can be recorded. By gathering detailed location data you can start to paint a picture of specific behavior.

Loyalty Programs

Another example could be around loyalty program engagement. The location of the shopper can be instantly mapped the moment a loyalty card is scanned. This could be when the shopper is making a purchase, or if their card is scanned to earn points for taking actions on your site or in a store.

Built-in Apps

Heard about Passbook/Wallet built-in apps? These are already installed on most devices and have GPS capabilities enabled, smart coupons can appear based on location. Explore how these options, which are integrated with most devices, can help you to bridge the connection between your shopper and where they are shopping.


Last but certainly not least, the classic SMS! SMS is still one of the most immediate forms of communication. While it’s been around for a while, it’s still resonating with consumers, often with a staggering 98% open rate.

All in all, there’s a variety of ways in which retailers can reach the mobile shopper, and, with the help of an integrated marketing cloud, connect data across devices, browsers, and execute multi-channel, location-based campaigns via email, SMS and passbook.

Now that we have our toolkit, we can run some clever in-store/near-store marketing:

  • Geo-fencing without an app: take action and immediately improve brand awareness and loyalty.
  • Someone just entered the mall where your store is located, push a coupon via a Passbook or Wallet app.
  • Your customer is out of town, provide them with some relevant content about your local offerings.

All this can be done, and you don’t even need your own app.

Are you ‘appy’ now?