Seeding for Cloud Bursts

The holy grail for any business is to build a relationship with its customers that sticks. The relationship is designed to be so strong that it ensures customers keep coming back for every possible need. Retailers, defined as any business providing a finished product to its customers, are especially driven to build these sticky relationships since customers can generally move their business to competitors with relative ease.

In my previous post, I introduced the concept of cloud bursts as connecting social media networks physically to real-world business operations. I refine that definition here clarifying that cloud bursts are marketing campaigns that integrate social media marketing with traditional brick and mortar retail operations in order to drive sales or reinforce a customer relationship. In short, cloud bursts incent social networks to conduct business at a retailer’s physical outlet and strengthen the relationship.

There are many ways cloud burst marketing campaigns can be implemented using tools currently available in cloud and mobile environments. Processes can be designed using these tools to bring data together to manage cloud bursts. But real and lucrative opportunities exist for cloud burst solution providers to streamline and package these capabilities giving retailers a one-stop shop for solutions that bond their customers to physical outlets.

To further describe the opportunities for retailers as well as solution providers, I present in this post a sample user story defining requirements for a food truck wanting to utilize cloud burst campaigns. I’ll keep the user story solution-agnostic except for identifying Facebook or Twitter. I utilize them as a source for social media and marketing administrators to use for customer mining and list building. Avoiding the use of existing products will hopefully prevent me from limiting your ideas on how to support a cloud burst campaign.

As a favor to me, I ask that you provide feedback and identify specific products or processes that can be used to support the cloud burst scenarios presented. If you’re the developer or product manager for a tool that can support any part of the scenario, feel free to comment back. I’ll loop back to you for further information and discuss in a future post.

Cloud Burst Campaign Components

Before presenting the user story, let me back up and define the components necessary for a cloud burst marketing campaign to succeed. While there are many critical components all marketing campaigns must have, these components below must be clearly defined for a cloud burst to reach the appropriate customers and drive their behavior at the outlet:

  • Campaign Goal
  • Target Market
  • Customer Benefit
  • Communication Channel

Campaign Goal

Every cloud burst marketing campaign must have a specific goal or set of goals defined. Whether the campaign is to drive sales at the outlet or to connect with customers and introduce them to a new outlet, the number of customers you target and hope to successfully connect with must be defined. This is the basis for analyzing the campaign results for continuous improvement.

Target Market

The specific type of customer included in the campaign must be defined. This determines the source of data to be used for “seeding the cloud burst”. Do you want to pull customers from existing social networks like Facebook? Or do you want to derive the list from an existing retail loyalty program roster?

Customer Benefit

Specifically define the benefit the customer receives for participating in the cloud burst. Whether that benefit is a discount on purchases, special access to game weapons or awards, or whatever; highlight the benefit and make sure the customer associates the benefit with both the social network and the retailer to reinforce the value of that relationship.

Communication Channel

The communication channel for reaching customers must be defined since it will determine the social networking tools and the technologies involved that connect the customer to the retailer. If you’re trying to reach your customer targets through proprietary channels such as Facebook messages or Twitter posts, then it goes without saying that all of your target market must be participants in that channel.

And Now A User Story

A roving food-truck operation maintains both a Facebook page for those fans who like them and a Twitter account to communicate daily menus and specials. Assuming that large crowds draw even more customers and wanting to increase sales after just opening in a new location for the day, the cloud burst campaign’s goal is to increase sales in the initial hour of opening.

They want to attract customers from the local area and reward them for purchasing lunch early and turning an otherwise slow time into a busy and profitable hour. The same logic could be used to drive sales to the truck after busy lunch times thus extending the lunch sale period.

To seed the cloud burst list, the truck’s social media administrator and marketing guru creates a list of potential customers and segments from the following sources:

  1. Facebook users who have liked their page.
  2. Twitter followers.
  3. Customers who register and provide email and contact information in exchange for a discount at the point of sale that day.
  4. Customers traveling in the immediate area using a mobile device that has been registered on the cloud solution to the customer.

The administrator defines a discount code unique to each customer segment that will be valid for a specific period of time. Using a cloud-based tool, the administrator works the night before to load contact information for each of the first three customer segments. They compose a marketing message tailored for each segment and format it for the specific communication channel used (i.e. Twitter, text message). The message is scheduled to be transmitted to each customer segment via the cloud solution.

The cloud solution constantly scans for mobile devices that are in a defined range and geographically close enough to purchase lunch at the truck. When the devices enter the targeted range, special discount codes are sent to those customer devices. These customers are in the fourth customer segment.

When customers arrive at the truck, they are given the option of ordering via a mobile device to bypass long lines. Given their elite status as a loyal customer, they’re also able to pay for food via the mobile device using a credit card and pick up their food at a separate window.

Customers can opt to register via the cloud solution under user-defined groups, such as “Acme Corporation, Accounting.” This allows users to associate themselves with a larger community of frequent customers—a larger market segment, and qualify for other special discounts. The stickier you can make the relationship with the customer by increasing the number of touchpoints with them, the more loyal they become. The administrator can save the location of these larger communities and use that information to schedule future truck locations since they know where many of their customers are every day.

The cloud solution tracks all of the customer’s activity and products purchased during the cloud burst campaign. Analytical reports are generated showing the impact on product sales from each customer segment and the success in reaching customers via each channel.

…And Even More Opportunity

The food truck user story is a fairly simple scenario. I’m confident I could transfer the story to many other businesses and industries and more complex requirements could be supported. I’m already familiar with cloud solutions and apps that support some of the requirements. Most of you are probably familiar with even more tools or in the process of working on solutions that support the requirements. I’d like to hear from you if any specific feature stands out and can be delivered with a solution or tool you already use or are working on.

Although there are many excellent tools and solutions that exist on the web or as an app, can a food truck pick one complete service that meets all of the requirements defined in the user story? I’m doubtful but that’s where the opportunity exists for those ready to move.

Cloud solutions give anybody the ability to rapidly build or utilize existing tools, apps or services and bundle them into a solution. Bring them together under a common web interface and get them to market…fast! We’re able to move so much faster using the cloud than we could when solutions were tied to specific software and platforms.

If you’re interested in discussing cloud burst opportunities for your business, feel free to contact me using this blog or through other channels. I typically split my time between Florida and California to support my clients. I’m available for in-person settings as well if there is sufficient interest.

And if you’re a developer or lead a development team interested in building out a cloud burst solution that meets the needs of a food truck or any other industry, let me know. The opportunities are out there.

Image via biletskiy / Shutterstock

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