3GTV is the brainchild of Automated Media Services, and they are putting little screens in stores right next to products they promote and show commercials for those products. The notion of having what amounts to a tiny TV screen next to the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese would have sounded bizarre 20 years ago, not just because of cost, more because we didn’t think of TV screens being in very many places. Screens are everywhere today (mostly because of the low cost) and so we are less surprised to see them at restaurants and in elevators, etc.
As it stands, the 3GTV service that’s set to launch later in the year is a huge breakthrough because it’s really the first time consumers are TV-pitched at the very moment they are deciding which product to buy, the so-called “moment of truth” and the bottom of the sales funnel. So stores and manufacturers and advertisers will get real time data about the impact, which will probably be at least worth the trouble for the advertisers. So that in and of itself is a big deal and that’s why Stuart Elliott wrote Showing TV, and Commercials, on the Shelves and in the Aisles in The New York Times today.
But I think this is a much bigger deal than that because I think 3GTV is going to end up being the gateway to some much cooler stuff, tapping into the great rethinking that alice.com has done, but also making social networking sites like Foursquare much more interesting as a business. Currently Foursquare makes me want to utter something that’s more likely to come out of the mouth of Rahm Emanuel (and then offend Sarah Palin) because it really doesn’t let you do anything useful.
As Alice.com has figured out, most manufacturers don’t care to learn our names. Just knowing our age, gender, and ZIP code is what they want to know so that they can get more targeted in their marketing and product R&D. People using sites like Foursquare allow you to “check in” to a location and not that much else, but if you can now marry that information in real time with the 3GTV, then next step in the techno-evolutionary chain is that Kraft is going to know that (if it’s me) a 44 year-old male from the 98144 ZIP code just entered the store and they will know in my case that I don’t ever buy macaroni & cheese so I am not a very good target, but the next person to check in happens to buy it a lot, then Kraft (or the store) may want to flash a coupon on the screen that that consumer can “pick up” with an app on their iPhone (I could pick it up too if I saw it, but I would ignore it), or the coupon can be sent to their mobile phone (still all anonymous – PayPal figured that out). Then at checkout all of that gets reconciled (that isn’t elegant today, but I am sure someone is already hard at work writing that software).
Personalized, location-based advertising and coupon-ing is coming soon, and every shop from Safeway to Shultzy’s Sausage stand will benefit. Helping the big guys is interesting, but to be able to scale down to the mom and pop shops is where this starts to become gigantic. For the big guys, it allows them to more actively manage their inventory. If they know the ad or the coupon is going to lift sales of a given product, they know when to stock more of it. Even bigger, when inventory is time-sensitive, Shultzy’s may have pre-cooked 20 hot dogs for lunch, and as the lunch hour winds down, they still have nine left, they can push out coupons for the last ones to people walking by (that gets beyond Foursquare’s store idea, but it should also be easy to check in to a neighborhood). At the point if the alternative to not selling them is throwing them away due to spoilage, then Shultzy’s might send coupons for a free hot dog knowing that they will at least probably sell a soft drink and get some money. The same spoilage issue works really well for grocery stores when produce and meats are getting to the end of their shelf life. Really powerful.
Now things are really cooking with connecting marketers with consumers once we get this rolling. My guess is that Groupon, the ridiculously (their word, kind of) successful coupon company that just closed a $135 million round of financing will be in the mix. Add them to the list of “I wish I had thought of that!”
Great marketing innovation that will lead to even bigger ones.