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Consumers Don't Want Mobile Offers

A Snarketing post by Ron Shevlin, Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors

BuyVia, an app/website that claims to be the first all-in-one smart shopping experience across devices (whatever that means), conducted a consumer survey which found:

“The majority (56%) of shoppers want to be notified of deals via push notifications on their mobile devices when in an area with local deals.”

My take: Oh really?

As a wannabe legitimate market researcher, I would never publish research results based on an insufficient sample, but from time to time I use my wife and/or daughters as sanity checks (which is ironic, since I usually blame them for my insanity).

I asked my wife “Do you want to be notified of deals via push notifications on your Blackberry when you’re in an area with local deals?”

The look on her face said “What are you talking about?” but her mouth said “What’s a push notification, and how would I know if I was in an area with a local deal? What does that mean?”


I could ask 1,000 consumers the same question I asked my wife to get their responses and see if the answers differ from my wife’s.

But I’ve already asked consumers about their interest in receiving offers, and the results I got don’t jive with BuyVia’s.

In Q2 2012, Aite Group asked 1,115 US consumers “how important is it to you to receive special offers from merchants on your mobile device when shopping?” Just 14% said “very important,” 27% said “somewhat important,” and 60% said “not very important.”

By generation, how many responded “very important”? A not-so-whopping 23% of Gen Yers, 17% of Gen Xers, 8% of Boomers, and 0.6% of Seniors.

From this, I’d find it hard to conclude that “the majority of shoppers want to be notified of deals via push notifications on their mobile devices when in an area with local deals.” But maybe BuyVia was only considering younger consumers to be “shoppers.” After all, us old people (Boomers, Seniors) don’t really matter any more, do we?


Why don’t consumers want offers pushed to them?

IF you’re thinking it’s because consumers see advertising as a nuisance and a disruption, I would agree. But I think that there is another reason: Data privacy.

Aite Group also asked consumers about their willingness to share various types of personal data with merchants and retailers in order for that data to be used to personalize offers. For the various types of sources, we asked them to tell us:

  • I have no reservations with this information being accessed
  • I have no reservations as long as I have given the provider permission
  • I am willing to allow access to this data but only if I am asked for permission each time
  • I am willing to allow access to this data but only if it is done anonymously
  • I am not willing to let merchants and retailers access this information under any circumstances

The differences between generations are, again, significant:

Percentage that say that merchants and retailers should not access 
this information under any circumstances
Source                                Gen Y   Gen X   Boomer  Senior
Current searches                       28%     40%     51%     65%
Purchase history (from retailer)       28%     44%     55%     66%
Search history                         29%     44%     55%     70%
Purchase history (from FI)             32%     48%     56%     71%
Location information                   33%     44%     56%     73%
Payment information (i e credit cards) 35%     47%     60%     73%
Social networking profiles and posts   35%     46%     62%     74%
Web browsing history                   35%     47%     56%     74%
Checking/savings account balances      40%     56%     67%     85%

Source: Aite Group survey of 1,115 US consumers, Q2 2012

Still want to try and convince me that the “majority” of consumers want offers pushed to them?


The truth (like I can claim to know the “truth”) is not as simple as “consumers want mobile offers” or “consumers don’t want mobile offers.”

We want offers to magically appear when we want them to, which can be at any point in the purchase decision process. That point differs across people, and differs for even a particular consumer based on product, mood, and a million other factors.

We say we don’t want merchants/retailers to use our personal data, but then complain when they don’t “know” us. 

We’re OK with our favorite merchant or vendor pushing offers at us, but G*d forbid that a big evil bank pushes an offer at us. That’s grounds for regulatory reform. (If you get an unwanted offer from a big bank, tell Dick Durbin. He’ll enact legislation to outlaw the practice). 

The reality is that some subset of your customers and prospects will be OK with your pushing offers to their mobile device, and using some subset of their personal data to personalize that offer, and provide some rationale for why the offer is relevant. 

The best you can do is figure out which customers/prospects are in that subset, and what you can do to grow the segment. 

In the meantime, don’t believe claims like “the majority of consumers want to be notified of deals via push notifications on their mobile devices when in an area with local deals.”

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Get a copy of his best-selling book, Smarter Bank: Why Money Management is More Important Than Money Movement. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at @rshevlin.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

Digital Banking Report | 2017 Marketing Trends


  1. I believe the desire for people to receive and take advantage of offers via their mobile devices (and the willingness to share data) is directly correlated with the trust a consumer has in an organization. Unlike ‘trust’ as we refer to it usually in the banking industry, trust in this sense revolves around variables such as, ‘do you use my data to provide pertinent offers at the right time’, ‘do you overuse this privilege’, ‘what data will you be accessing’, and ‘are the offers a good value trade-off for the data I am providing’?

    Research shows that the majority of people do not feel threatened by online advertising that is highly targeted based on internet activity. Many people also provide email addresses to preferred merchants knowing that they will receive email offers. The key for mobile marketing is that the power to choose who and when ‘push notifications’ are acceptable needs to reside with the consumer.

    Location-based offers delivered through mobile devices are extremely powerful if used correctly (Foursquare and other services have proven this). I think consumer appreciate the reminders in those instances where there is a trusted relationship. Without an established relationship, any other push notifications will be viewed as mobile spam.

  2. Melanie Holloway says:

    I agree 100% that the four mentioned trusts are what drive users to engage in/approve mobile offers. And equally important – that trust has to be continually earned. User disengagement is easy and can quickly impact the users’ view and relationship with the company/brand.

  3. Completely agree with Jim and Melanie. Trust for me is key. I’m one of the oddball “younger consumers” but am also pretty fintech savvy as well. I think a vast majority of consumers don’t understand how the whole mobile offers process works and are concerned with data security and overuse. I believe that financial institutions must pay greater attention to understanding subsets of customer data and finding the right target audience for mobile offers. And when a consumer responds positvely/negatively to an offer FI’s need to analyze that information to understand how to personalize the customer experience going forward…unfortunately that’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. Merchants and FIs need to develop a sound strategy for loyalty and rewards programs.

    I’ve connected my AMEX card for location-based offers. However, I’ve been selective about which businesses I’ve done this with. I’ve found AMEX’s push notifications through Passbook to be a meaningul mobile experience. Starbucks on the other hand is kind of annoying. I don’t want weekly notifications of a free mp3 download on my phone from an artist I’ve never heard of and may not appeal to me. So, for me trust is a big factor for me…I’ve been a valued AMEX customer since 2003. They’ve provided finance tools, conveniences for me, and delivered cost-savings that matter. I linked my card to save $25 at CPK when I was going to eat out with friends, I got a $25 statement credit for supporting a local small business on Small Business Day, and their participating merchants are relevant to my buying preferences. Bank of America’s AmeriDeals still needs some work. I don’t want to buy NFL tickets to see the St. Louis Rams, I don’t eat at Burger King much, and I’m not buying flowers from 3 online florists for my husband! Takeaway – FIs need to expand their participating merchant networks, be able to analyze marketing responses to offers, and take a deeper dive into customer data.

    I’m sure my response, as an almost Gen M consumer, varies greatly from my parents and how they use their smartphones. Thanks for sharing an opposing position and presenting some good statistics.

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