Retailers should look for utility in mobile

Kellogg’s is lobbying the big supermarkets to accelerate the acceptance of mobile coupons in-store, and it’s something every other FMCG brand should be jumping on too as it’s an example of one of the more practical and genuinely useful opportunities mobile marketing presents.


The real barrier will be the in-store hardware necessary to make it work. Connecting handsets with EPOS systems and payment technologies is no small challenge but it’s one the supermarket’s should be clamouring to make happen.

Mobile is high on all retailers’ agendas and Sainsbury’s group development director Luke Jensen was speaking about the supermarket’s scan and go mobile shopping trial at the British Retail Consortium’s conference earlier this month.

The initiative allows shoppers to use their own mobile device to scan items as they put them in the basket before paying at the checkout. It saves customers time, they can see what they are spending as they shop and provides more control. For Sainsbury’s, the value comes from the ability to know a shopper is in-store and what they are buying in real time.

Jensen made the point that until now, in-store shoppers have been anonymous until they reach the check out and decide to present a loyalty card which identifies them. With the advent of mobile devices and the growth of geolocation tools and apps such as FourSquare, he said retail will become about check-ins, not check outs.

It will be this ‘checking-in’ that unlocks the opportunity for things like targeted real time offers and coupons.

Mobile has of course also been on the agenda this week at the Advertising Week Europe conference in London and while no one can doubt its game changing potential industry stalwarts warned marketers not to get too carried away with the technology before finding a genuine use for it.

RGA founder Bob Greenberg’s advice was to look for the utility in what mobile can offer, adding: “What works in mobile is things that are useful, sponsored by companies. So if you can come up with a utility that is right for the time and place you can do something really great.”

Mobile coupons may not be glamourous, but they will be useful and it’s this that means it should be a priority for brands and retailers alike. Particularly when you look at the trend of increasing coupon use. Coupon firm Valassis claims the coupon market has grown 100 per cent in five years and redemption increased 33 per cent in the UK last year reaching a value of £1.6bn. If you add mobile capability that will surely grow exponentially.

Steve King, worldwide CEO of Zenithmedia, also made the interesting point at Advertising Week Europe that so far (and we are already in March) 2013 has not yet been called ‘the year of mobile’ as the last five years have been, adding the industry is actually making fairly slow progress in figuring out the best way to use mobile.

Sir John Hegarty, BBH founder, speaking on the same panel made the observation that just because the technology has been invented it isn’t instantly useful. Its real value takes some time to evolve. For example, he says Les Paul might have invented the electric guitar but rock n roll didn’t come until a decade or so later. Likewise when the Lumière brothers invented cinema, Hollywood was still a long way off.

There is no doubting mobile is changing marketing and retailing dramatically. Progress might be relatively slow, but the impact will be great.

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