Resolution: Shop smarter in 2013

Shopping ButtonI love a good deal, so I’m kind of a marketer’s dream – I have signed up for just about every type of marketing from all of my favorite stores – I have an entire email address dedicated to just subscriptions. I’m on those stores’ Facebook pages, I follow them on Twitter, and I’ve been checking them out on Pinterest and Instagram. I still get some direct mail pieces and catalogs for a few places. I’ve signed up for birthday freebies – my birthday is this month and the swag/coupons have already started rolling in!

While this is good for marketers in terms of adding to fans, subscriptions and followers, it’s not very smart for me.

Why? All of the emails, Facebook posts, tweets and catalogs are becoming just too much. I don’t have time for all of it. All of these messages are now marketing noise, and it’s backfired on me. I get daily emails from at least a dozen big brands announcing their sales and new products. Do I go straight to their website or drive to the mall? No. I open up my email in the morning, delete each message, and only pause if the word birthday or coupon is in the subject line. There are so many sales that I just assume that when I do walk in the door, I’ll always get a great deal.

Actually, I’ve been missing out.

I was recently in a clothing store – part of a conglomerate of several brands – that I have a credit card for. They send me weekly postcards from all of the brands. Sometimes they’re announcing the same things in the emails, and sometimes they include those little percent off cards. I don’t read them because I assume the messages are something I already knew. Yup, there’s a sale, and yes, your new (insert season here) line is out. I asked an employee: Should I be detaching those little cards or taking the direct mail stuff to the store, or do I automatically get the deal because I’m a card holder?

The answer is yes – you do have to bring those direct mail pieces or printed email coupons with you to get the deal.

Oops.

I’ve started paying attention to the fine print, which says the same thing: Must bring this offer to the store to redeem discount.

So this is my task for 2013: clean the clutter and get the deal. Do I need to subscribe to everything? Am I getting value on Facebook and Twitter? Who are the stores that are doing this right? Which retailers that offer mobile coupons or let you scan a QR code on the paper ones?

And – before the end of January – find out who else will send me birthday swag.

Is anybody checking in?

foursquare buttonsI recently celebrated my third anniversary with foursquare. Since 2009, I have checked in more than 3,700 times on 988 days. I have 64 badges, 21 mayorships, and 48 friends, and follow 54 businesses.

After seeing last week’s Pew Center for Internet and American Life report, Cell Phone Activities 2012,  I started to think “Why am I doing this?” Location-based apps/check ins were not among the report’s top 8 cell phone activities. Pew did a study back in May about mobile location-based services, and only 18% of smartphone owners use them. Crazy coincidence? 18 percent of my Facebook friends are on foursquare.

At first, it was about trying a new social media site. I loved the bragging rights for mayorships, and I was one of very few people using it in my area, so I had lots of mayorships. I loved getting the badges too, but I’m not earning too many these days.

So why am I still doing this?

A large part of it is the routine. I check in every – single – day. It starts with the elevator ride to my office – check in to work (I don’t have a foursquare location for my house because my husband would rather keep that private). As soon as I pull up to the parking lot of any of my destinations, I get out of the car, click my remote key thingy to lock it, and open up the foursquare app. When I was in London earlier this year, I bought an international data plan so I could check in (and use the Internet and other apps) – I scored lots of points and got a sweet London Calling badge. My friends who attended Boston’s Social Media Day with me over the summer hovered over a table of social media giveaways – we each walked away with a complete set of foursquare badge buttons.

I think the other part that keeps me going is the possibility of getting a discount. But those are few and far between too. The Gap’s occasionally had some foursquare coupons, and so has Newbury Comics (a funky CD store chain in New England). Lots of places have partnered with American Express to offer coupons or deals, but I don’t have an American Express card. I get more benefits from loyalty cards (especially Panera Bread, Sephora and DSW) than I have in 3 years of foursquare check-ins.

It seems like there hasn’t been enough interest to sustain an app like foursquare. Most businesses aren’t aware of it, and the ones who are haven’t been leveraging it to appeal to loyal customers. They’re relying on those loyalty programs that give them better access to customers, who have to provide the company itself with their valuable personal information in exchange for an account or card. Some of its functions can be completed with other apps that have the advantage of ubiquity and popularity – check ins with Facebook mobile, and reviews/tips with Yelp.

Is checking in worth it? Not for me, not lately. One day, I’m going to get to the office and decide to check my email on that elevator ride to work instead of checking in on foursquare. That day is coming soon.