Lost In The Supermarket: Mobile And Shopper Marketing

March 1, 2013 3:10 pm


Originally published at MobileFOMO

Who will be the big mobile marketers? I predict among the biggest will be consumer packaged goods companies — and that these dollars will be spent not on banner ads, but on shopper marketing.

A bellwether is Mondelez (formed when Kraft split in two). Mondelez has dedicated 10% of its budget to “mobile-first”. It’s not clear those dollars will be spent on shopper marketing, but I’m betting that as the company finds its way they will be.

There are big budgets in play: P&G alone spends $500 million a year in shopper marketing. But, we’re not quite where we need to be yet. More about that in a minute.

What Is Shopper Marketing, Anyway?

Wikipedia defines shopper marketing as “understanding how one’s target consumers behave as shoppers, in different channels and formats, and leveraging this intelligence to the benefit of all stakeholders, defined as brands, consumers, retailers and shoppers.”

While its reach is broader than just in-store, the opportunities there alone are worth significant exploration. Brand choices can be influenced when the shopper enters the store, or at the shelf. People are in supermarkets are there to solve problems: “what’s for dinner?”, “how can I save some time or money?”, “how can I serve something different that my kids will actually eat?”

Mobile can help solve some of those problems, and the brands and retailers that offer the easiest-to-use solutions will win. (Pro tip: QR codes have been a bomb so far. We should take the hint and give up.)

Why Hasn’t Mobile Shopper Marketing Happened Yet? We’re Still A Bit Lost.

A number of factors have to come into alignment, and we’re not quite there yet.

The first thing, obviously, is that consumers need smart phones. To a surprising extent, this has already happened — and faster than many of us might have expected.

The next is that manufacturers and retailers have to re-think the in-store experience. This hasn’t happened yet. In my opinion, CPG companies have not yet found their focus. I think this is at least in part because there has been a tremendous push to “get mobile fast”. Like so much in digital, progress here is a victim of a little too much FOMO and not quite enough getting down to basics and thinking it through.

Finding Focus

CPG marketers should ignore the hype and focus squarely on the fundamentals. “What do consumers need when they come to the store?” “How can mobile make that faster/easier/smarter/better for that consumer?” I’d also encourage everyone to ask “what’s working fine just the way it is?” There are doubtless many things about the shopping experience that consumers don’t want or need to be revolutionized. We should take care not to break what is already working well.

Let’s Go Shopping

Data alone won’t tell us what we need to know. (Has it ever?)

I see a significant need here for shopping ethnographies. CPG companies should tag along with experienced mobile shoppers and light mobile shoppers to understand the role that mobile plays – and especially to understand why consumers are not using their mobiles to accomplish a task in-store when they could.

There’s a lot to learn, and my guess is that somewhere the very best CPG marketers are already quietly doing some or all of this.

When Will We See The Shift?

In a recent Forrester report, analyst Tracy Stokes said,

“Mobile is the next big thing, but it is still next and not quite now. The number of articles about how mobile is on the rise for shopper marketing seems to increase weekly. But our research shows that while adoption of handsets and mobile activities are on the rise among consumers, shopper marketers are more wary about the opportunities without proven results or metrics with which to measure any results and thus have been slower to adopt mobile technologies.”

It’s easy — and wrong — to blame this wariness on a lack of interest, or a fear of the unknown. Executives in shopper marketing are tasked with generating real results, every day. My guess is that the wariness comes from a very good place: a sober instinct that what has been tried to date is bright and shiny but not terribly practical. I’m confident shopper marketers will get this right — and that when they do, the floodgates of money will open.

To learn more about mobile and shopper marketing, I suggest you dig into this Slideshare presentation from Leo Burnett. It’s smart, sober, and practical. I give them credit for not indulging in mindless industry cheerleading. It’s an honest appraisal of where things really are. Happy reading!

Photo credits (Creative Commons): Supermarket; iPhone

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