Roundtable in association with Mood Media

Our panel of marketers from retail brands tell how their mobile strategies are moving on from being purely transactional.

View the panel.

Marketing Week (MW): How can you integrate mobile into retail environments and what are the opportunities and challenges in doing so?

Roger Wade (RW): At BoxPark [a pop-up shopping mall in East London] we have a ‘scan to shop’ element. It is designed for those who come into a store and see an item they like but which might be out of stock or they might be an indecisive customer and want more information. For us, it’s a major tool for customer interaction. 

We also do mobile payments – we’ve rolled out PayPal across BoxPark. Straightaway there’s valuable data we can get from that. There are other things we are looking at, like iBeacons, geo-location and push-pull notifications. But fundamentally we are about buying and sharing experience in-store and mobile facilitates that.

Graham Kempster (GK): Mobile has provided Domino’s with an opportunity to inform people. By using mobile tools such as QR links or Bluetooth we can offer customers waiting for an order extra information about the product – they can find about the product and the history behind it, for example. It enables us to paint a picture about how good our product is and why they are paying what they are for it.

We also have m-commerce capability – people can use their phone to browse, order food and pay for it, before or after they collect. Our mobile service also provides updates so customers know what stage their order is at.

Alex Field (AF): Thomas Pink was one of the sponsors of the British and Irish Lions rugby team last year and one of the ways we brought that to life was creating a pop-up shop in a pub. We created a Lions collection and we enabled people to shop for product in the pub using their phones.

It was a simple process – scanning the product, going to the checkout and inputting bank details. Tactically and strategically it seemed right but it was a challenge: customers had to download an app to make a payment, so we had to have our people going round to prompt people to download it and showing them how to use it. The challenge for brands is to get the timing of that spot on, to hit that consumer trend right.

Claude Nahon (CN): It is human nature for people to want to identify themselves with a group and social networks enable that. People are sharing their tastes with others on Facebook and Twitter. Basically they are facilitating the job of marketers by self-targeting.

Secondly, people have delegated some of their brain to a smartphone. When you are sleeping your smartphone is sending information – everything about you, what you have done, what you like, to retailers and to brands.

This is a goldmine of data that can be used in a smart way. Mobile can also be used as a way to help brands distribute their values, their DNA to consumers – and not only when they are in the shop.

Annabel Thorburn (AT): The key is recognising mobile as a shopping channel, especially when it comes to grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is habitual and regarded as a chore and not necessarily an immersive experience. At Tesco, we see mobile as a tool to make shopping an easier and more convenient experience. Elsewhere, payment is and will continue to be big. We are working on a digital wallet and there are many different players looking at this too – banks, credit card brands, Google, Amazon, eBay. There’s a saying that we overestimate change in two years and underestimate it over 10. I think that’s probably true with payments. Between two and 10 years it will change more than we can imagine.

Also, we have a valuable customer base that is representative of the UK, so we also have to be mindful of not overestimating the smartphone. Sixty per cent of our customers use them but many of our customers don’t, and many are resistant to change.


MW: How do you target people accurately using mobile?

AF: It’s all about the right channel for the right customer. There’s not yet a sea change – there are still 40 per cent of people without a smartphone so it’s important that a brand understands what channel to communicate with a customer in.

Mobile is not just transactional either. One of the things we’re looking at is a follow-up service, where people receive a receipt on their mobile with a little film. The content, though, has got to be brilliant otherwise you will just annoy the customer. But we think after-service education provided straight away is a good use of mobile.

Danielle Anderson (DA): For Harris + Hoole, our mobile strategy is to facilitate an information exchange and we have tried to put the power in the customers’ hands. So they say ‘we’re going to share some relevant information with you to make my experience more personal’.

We have a mobile app where people check in and only relevant information is required – coffee order and name.  That information is then passed to the till so when they approach we can welcome them back and get their order. It removes a lot of service ‘friction’.

RW: Sometimes the low-tech option is by far the most successful. The most successful thing BoxPark does on mobile is offer free Wi-Fi and in return we get people’s email address. Traffic figures show 50 per cent is coming from free Wi-Fi downloads in store.

Julia Monro (JM): Mobile is such an untapped opportunity. Thousands of people look at brands’ log-in pages every day and brands are not really doing anything with it. Through social log-ins you can go for better levels of personalisation, for example, but there’s more you can do once people are in-store and have bought something. Then you can make it more interesting and useful for customers because you know who they are and what they like.

However, you don’t want to disrupt the purchase journey. There’s a lot said about engagement but really we want to get people to buy something as quickly as possible. We aim for 60 seconds from walking into a Pret to making a purchase. If we know who people are before they get into the store, there’s the potential to have their order ready and to have got a pre-order payment before they walk in.


Mobile roundtable


MW: Content marketing on mobile and other channels is growing in popularity. What are the dos and don’ts for retailers?

CN: Before the content you have to have the concept. The concept is very important and then the content will come. If you want to engage consumers you need to have dramatised content.

AF: Content is king. Every single channel might work but if you’re sending out really boring stuff, no one is going to touch it. Understanding what content drives customers’ interest is one of the biggest challenges for brands, I think.

We have been running a campaign called Which Shirt Are You? to try to engage with our audience. We asked fans to upload stories and matched their personality with quirky characters that represented one of our shirts in a film. People are looking at those films – it’s not gone crazy or viral but it is enough to inspire people.

We also have films about how to keep a white shirt white and how to tie a tie, which people go crazy for. It’s challenging to get that balance between creating excitement and useful engaging content. The golden egg is when you achieve both.

GK: The big question for us is when to get the content out there – before or after the registration process, for example. Obviously after registration you give them more personalised content but do you make it social and viral or more tailored and specialist, or more inclusive when you actually get something back from them?

DA: When we talk about content, we are thinking about the customer in the journey. We think about what to give them right at the beginning of their journey with Harris + Hoole – what do they need to know, for example? Some people just want to come in for their coffee and they’re not looking for anything else but some are coffee geeks and want to know that we brew it at 62 degrees, for example.

We think about what are the touchpoints along the journey. What do we want to share? What medium do we share it through? This doesn’t solve all the problems but it helps to remove lots of questions later.

RW: Boxpark has just launched a new app. It’s really nice but I am looking at the stats and looking at our active users and they have gone down month on month. And I am wondering what’s happened. What I didn’t realise is reports tell you the download numbers but don’t tell you the number of people who have then switched off the app, and those numbers are massive. If you don’t keep people engaged with content they will go. So download measurement is rubbish.

AT: The difference for us is that we operate in several categories and have multiple brands, so it’s harder to define where we should focus. The way to keep people engaged and be consistent is to know who you are and know your customers.

Clothing is big in terms of content, in-store and online, it’s a subject customers want to engage with us about.


MW: How can you track a customer’s journey? Is it possible? And what should retailers be measuring? 

DA: When it comes to developing a single customer view we have an advantage because we are newer. We can start completely afresh because we don’t have legacy systems. From the very beginning we said were going to stick CRM at our heart. But there are different ways you can go about putting together a data strategy for insight. Put simply, if you’re Thomas Pink it’s not relevant to know someone’s religion but it is to know their shirt size. Whether you ask them or impute that information based on what they bought at the till, is down to your strategy but there are many ways to get an holistic view.

AF: It’s about following customers where they go rather than trying to push them in one direction. You do need a single customer view so that you can see the omnichannel. The second thing is data. Until you have that really solid data, it’s difficult to trust it when it’s telling you this customer wants to go there because they’re browsing here. Then it’s about analysing and reading the data properly.

RW: Certain retailers are still thinking in terms of like-for-like sales and measure success by how much is taken out of the store. I say that’s changed. Your store – and this is the way Apple looks at it – is an opportunity to give customers a 360-degree feel and experience of the brand and products. Consequently, you shouldn’t measure the success of a store purely on what is taken at the till, but also on how you engage with that customer – have they become a fan and are they are going to buy online.

AT: When it comes to grocery shopping the view of the customer has to be built up over time. It’s also about making sure you recognise when that customer goes on and buys from a different channel, whether it is in store or on mobile. It’s a huge challenge given the diversity of our business.


MW: Does creating an omnichannel company mean you need to think differently and be structured differently?

AF: Structurally, it’s got to be fluid and people have to work together closely. We’ve put social and PR together as well and at the same time they work closely with the ecommerce team. It works well: teams share knowledge, there’s technical support from ecommerce. The key is fluidity and making sure departments are willing to work across. If you are too static it makes life very difficult.

AT: It’s about collaboration; there isn’t a right answer in terms of structure. The lines have been blurred between what has traditionally been marketing, ecommerce and customer experience, so it’s about making sure you are talking to each other and understanding where and what works.

RW: There is about to be a seismic change in the way brands run things. I have just come from an eBay enterprise summit about this. The jury is no longer out: everyone accepts the omnichannel model is the way to go, whether it is mobile, desktop, it’s all retail and what’s going to start to happen across all the major platforms is a lot of the hardware structures you have are going to be redundant.

There will be a lot of major internal resistance to this. It’s going to go cloud based and on that platform you can do whatever works across everything – in-store, POS, ecommerce, the whole lot – one single platform that works across all platforms. The problem for the old retailers is that, frankly, they have antiquated systems.

AF: The customer is now dictating the pace whereas before it was more of a push from brands. Now customers are pulling and they are quick and want everything now. Our buzzword is customer – everything is about the customer. We try to follow the pace of the customer and adapt accordingly.  


MW: Will the volume of data being caught by mobile devices cause trust issues?

JM: It’s about being absolutely transparent and saying we are taking these things from you for this purpose. Not for some future potential use of knowing when you have broken up with your boyfriend so we can send you a message. We need to be very, very clear on purpose with customers.

I don’t think forcing people to sign up to give you data is the best way of managing it.

AT: It’s about starting with trust. A customer will ask, ‘do I trust this brand?’ and if so, that carries you a long way in terms of getting a positive response to the question ‘Am I willing to go into this kind of data transaction?’. There’s also an element of ‘What’s in it for me?’ Customers need to understand what the return is.

Digital-savvy customers know there’s a trade and that it will benefit them if they sign up. There’s an acknowledgment that if you can use it to make things better then people will be more willing to participate.

CN: I think transparency has killed ‘big brother’ in the sense that everyone knows how it’s working and everyone knows whether you are opting in or out. Everyone knows about collection of data.

If brands over-use data they will not engage with customers. If they spam, then customers will not react and will not engage. The smart data use is only for the benefit of the customer. The consumer knows exactly what’s happening. Those interacting with smartphones in a shop know how they are exposed but they want to choose how they are exposed.

The Panel

Russell Parsons


Russell Parsons, news editor, Marketing Week.




Roger Wade


Roger Wade, chief executive and Founder, Boxpark




Graham Kempster


Graham Kempster, marketing manager, Domino’s Pizza




Alex Field


Alex Field, global head of marketing, Thomas Pink




Claude Nahon


Claude Nahon, president, Mood Media International.




Annabel Thorburn


Annabel Thorburn, senior marketing manager for web and mobile development,




Danielle Anderson


Danielle Anderson, director of digital experience, Harris + Hoole



Julia Monro


Julia Monro, head of social media, Pret a Manger






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