How Quick Chek, Kum & Go Learning From Mobile Startups

Retailers seek emerging-technology insights by participating in Mondelez innovation project

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. -- For John Schaninger at Quick Chek, the opportunity to help review mobile-application startups as part of a development project by candy and snack manufacturer Mondelez International was a crash course in emerging technologies and marketing innovation.

The project is the result of three years of investigation into how mobile devices can help in marketing and driving impulse sales. For its "Mobile Futures" effort, Mondelez solicited more than 100 applications from startups to address the potential of mobile marketing.

It whittled those down to 22, and after a two-day presentation event involving two convenience store retailers late last year, nine startups companies won the opportunity to partner with Mondelez brand teams to create and launch new mobile pilots in just 90 days.

(See Related Content below for previousCSP Daily News coverage.)

"Some of the startups were about marketing, some were about developing relationships with customers and building brand … a lot of it centered around couponing and gaining trial," Schaninger told CSP Daily News. The vice president of sales and marketing for Quick Chek, Whitehouse Station, N.J., said, "Everyone's trying to figure out this mobile stuff."

Quick Chek already participates in Facebook, but Shaninger wanted to know how that activity can translate into additional sales. Ideas that intrigued him included gaming solutions and the use of smartphones and other devices to incorporate brand and relationship-building activities into video games. He said Quick Chek tried a gaming project on its own that did not succeed, but he saw potential during the Mondelez event.

He wanted to discover out-of-the-box alternatives, Shaninger said, and "not just another way to give stuff away."

Officials at Mondelez expressed a solid commitment to its project. "We felt mobile [communication] is one of the best ways to engage the consumer in a relevant manner that's closest to the point of purchase," said Ed Kaczmarek, director of innovation and emerging technology at Deerfield, Ill.-based Mondelez.

Pilots will focus on driving impulse purchases and mobile-at-retail consumer experiences, with additional pilots in the areas of social TV and SoLoMo (social/location/mobile).

Staying connected with consumers and the ways they use technology was on of the reasons Mike Templeton, digital marketing manager for West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go, was also excited about participating in the Mondelez project.

"Our customers are always on the go, and their mobile devices are their connection to the world," Templeton said. "So, when they are using a new platform, we want to become a meaningful part of that experience."

Having the tie to a variety of consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands helps, too. "Working with [both] leading brands and startups through 'Mobile Futures' will help us continue to evolve this experience and adapt to our customers' ever-changing needs through today's most relevant medium--mobile devices," Templeton said.

Schaninger was impressed by the urgency that the manufacturer placed on the project, apparently committed to a tight timeframe. "Many manufacturers are not really speed oriented," he said. "By making this a 90-day project, they're committed to doing things quickly. I think [that mindset] could roll over into other initiatives, where you'd potentially see products leaving the ideation stage much quicker."

Part of the project's goal was to develop an entrepreneurial spirit both internally and among its trading partners, Kaczmarek said. "We try to be very nimble with decisions because speed is always very important. We want to act, we want to learn, we want to evolve."

As reported in CSP Daily News last week, the process will continue in two phases. In the first phase, all eight Mondelez International brands will work with their chosen startup partners, using existing technology, to develop and launch new pilots within 90 days. Mondelez will fund all nine pilots.

In the second phase, participating brands, with the help of their start-up partners, will develop ideas and create new mobile ventures, also in a 90-day timeframe. This will kick off with a concept-development week at the end of the company's first quarter, in which a few different concepts will be developed and one or two of the best ideas will advance. Ultimately, Mondelez will place those ideas before identified investors and venture capitalists in the hopes of securing seed funding.

Mondelez is a manufacturer of chocolate, biscuits, gum, candy, coffee and powdered beverages, comprising the brands of the former Kraft Foods Inc. following the spinoff of its North American grocery operations in October 2012. Mondelez's portfolio includes Cadbury and Milka chocolate; Jacobs coffee; LU, Nabisco and Oreo biscuits; Tang powdered beverages and Trident gums. Mondelez International has annual revenue of approximately $36 billion and operations in more than 80 countries.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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