Mobile Ready for its Retail Screen Test
Anthony Hopper, UK Managing Director of Saatchi & Saatchi X, looks at the part mobile has to play in the future of shopper marketing
For the last five years, each New Year has been greeted with claims that this will be the year that the retail sector will finally fully integrate in-store technology into the marketing mix. There has, to date, been a focus on in-store screens, with limited success. Clearly, screens have a big role to play, but so far, there has been too much focus on screens in aisles that are delivering the wrong content for shoppers. A lot of branded price and promotion messages are being pushed, without a genuine understanding of what the shopper cares about at that particular point of their customer journey, and what it takes to help them win.
What this means is using the technology to connect to the emotional drivers of shoppers helping them to find a solution, making them feel like they got a good deal and contributing to a good experience. It is about using this new technology as more than just another price-based advertising channel. The retail marketing channel of the future may well be in-store screen technology, but the screen will be in the shoppers hands.
This is where the mobile channel can be properly and intelligently integrated into retailers and brands marketing activity. This opportunity is borne out of naturally emergent consumer behaviour; people are finding their own ways to use this new technology, rather than some innate desire on the part of retail brands to invest in mobile. The exponential spread of Smartphones means consumers are using their mobile device for far more than just sending texts and making calls.
All of which is hugely relevant to shopper marketing. As an approach that uses an understanding of how consumers behave when they are in shopper mode to remove barriers to purchase, mobile technology provides opportunities weve never seen before to improve shoppers lives.
Take the recent Dixons.co.uk campaign, which tapped into a real truth about shopper behaviour: shoppers go to outlets like John Lewis to look at expensive consumer technical goods in-store before checking online to find the best price and buying from there. This is a purchase barrier to consumers making the buying decision in store, and one that mobile technology could overcome. If John Lewis launched an iPhone app that allowed customers to scan any existing barcode, and compare prices in store, they could trigger the buying decision there and then, which would also link directly with John Lewis brand promise of being never knowingly undersold.
There are more ways to empower and inspire shoppers than price comparison, however. Saatchi & Saatchi X in the US worked with LG to provide consumers with the ability to source a range of product data via a mobile online buyers guide - a great example of how to improve shoppers lives. This could work in the FMCG sector, just as well as for FMTG and white goods.
Retailers and brand marketers can take valuable lessons from online retailers and apply them in store via mobile technology. Providing a database that consumers can sort by category enabling consumers to choose which products they want to see a greater depth of information about; even accessing consumer reviews of the same products - these are all facilities offered by Amazon that engage the shopper and build new levels of trust. It doesnt have to be explicitly branded to work either; an impartial body like Which? Magazine would be a hugely effective partner in delivering what shoppers want, and what will make them buy, there and then.
Another factor to consider is that mobile offers brands the opportunity to deliver content they can control, which is not the case with retailers own screens. This allows brands to tailor the content they want to deliver, based around their insight of what the shopper wants.
In a recent study, Forrester Research found that 85% of shoppers have mobile devices on them whilst shopping. Devices which are now used for planning or researching purchases, to discover whats on offer and even give shoppers directions on how to get to the store. Indeed, a 2009 US Deloitte study indicated that nearly one in five consumers had planned to use their mobile phone over the Christmas period to find store locations, obtain coupons, and research prices. So, whilst mobile devices are clearly changing peoples behaviour, many brands still seem to be suspicious of anything new. But if brands understand that mobile communication and marketing messages that are delivered through the handset need not be a form of disruption, but actually a source of utility, then they should see that consumers are more likely to welcome these brands into their lives.
Look at the explosive growth of iPhone applications as an example. In 2009, Kraft foods launched its iFood Assistantapp in the US. For 99 cents, shoppers can download the application which enables them to browse recipes, add items to a shopping list, view suggestions for dinner, and store favourites in an online recipe box. These branded applications, which act as tools to help people shop, are essentially a highly involving form of direct marketing and actually help improve shoppers lives. When a brand can do that, the chance of repeat purchases is greatly increased, and they can start to build what should be the aspiration of any brand marketer - loyalty beyond reason.
The increase in shoppers use of their mobiles, and their greater demand for information, is not the only driving force at work here; there has also been a corresponding rapid advancement in mobile communications technology. Japan, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a great place to look for an insight into the future of mobile marketing. In Japan, Quick Response (QR) codes are everywhere. Users with a cameraphone can scan the image of a code, causing the phones browser to launch and redirect to the programmed URL. This seamless act of linking from physical objects to the Internet opens up a huge number of new opportunities. It allows brands to share information such as consumer reviews at the point of purchase, or as Pepsi has done, just engage and have fun with its audience by linking to a microsite, from where users can download music and play games through their mobile.
Brands and retailers must take the lead and explore every opportunity to improve shoppers lives by providing relevant, insightful and timely information. This requires a real understanding of how shoppers are actually using their mobile phones to shop; whether comparing prices, checking out ingredients or searching for special offers. Once you know that, then and only then can you connect with them in a way that will add value and improve the shopping experience. Furthermore, a more earnest dialogue is required between the mobile and retail industries that can between them create some incredible new and innovative ideas that will drive the market in 2010 and beyond.
What retailers and brands must realise is that to truly harness the opportunity this technology offers, they must know how and when the shopper wants to use it. Only then can you deliver your messages in a way that will improve their shopping experience.