The Fine Line: How Handango Lost a 12-Yr. Customer Overnight

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Oct 19, 2009
More Articles by Janet


This weekend, Handango, an online store for mobile applications, lost me as a customer. Now to you, this may seem like nothing, but for me, it was a big deal. I’ve been a faithful Handango customer for well over twelve years now — ever since I got my first Palm V. While there are many online application stores to choose from, I always stuck with Handango for their great selection and personalization. Until now.

The Back Story

Recently, I downloaded the Handango mobile phone application. It seemed very convenient — program in your phone type and get a personalized “store” that feature apps for your phone. Seemed like a timesaving feature.

Then about a month ago, I began to notice that the app seemed to open on its own. I’d wake my smartphone only to find the screen set on a Handango app page telling me that it had been “two weeks since my last purchase”. I just closed the screen and went on about my business. Annoying, yes, but not too intrusive… yet.

Then last week, I woke my phone to make a call, and low and behold, my phone’s mobile browser was on a page on Handango’s website — touting the latest specials for my phone model. So now, not only was Handango reminding me bi-weekly to make a purchase, but it was even launching my phone’s browser and forcing me to look at the specials.

Crossing the Line

For me, the new invasion crossed the line. At what point is advertising “in-your-face” versus personalization? It’s a fine line, and one that Handango did not traverse well. In today’s world, there are some actions that cross the line from personalized service to invasion of a device or personal space, and I think Handango did that by continually forcing me (on my mobile device) to look at their ads, regardless of my level of interest. Ironically, though, we might not find an email from the same company loaded with specials as an intrusion.

As mobile marketing heats up and social media marketing is growing rapidly, what will the new rules of acceptable behavior be for marketers and their tactics? For instance, if Twitter chooses to allow ads as tweets based on your tweet content, will that be an invasion? Time will have to tell. But it will defintely be a fine line to walk, and one that must be walked carefully else risk frustrating and losing loyal, long-term customers.

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