Mobile Anarchy

How smartphones may blow up the way customers shop, pay and fall in love with your c-store brand

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

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“CPG companies are looking for a solution to go directly to the consumer,” Bakker says. “If [retailers] give them a solution, they will remain a shackle in the [supply] chain.”

Providing CPG companies with shopper history data and gearing up to accept mobile and other up-and-coming forms of payment are ways retailers can avoid irrelevance, Bakker says. His concern is that c-store operators don’t see this shift as a real threat.

“Best Buy didn’t see it coming,” he says. “[Retailers] want to remain the link in the chain between manufacturers and customers. They don’t want that link to become Amazon or UPS.”

Rethink Payment In the retail scenario that Hewitt of Mercator describes, incentives become the lure, the active currency for consumers. So as much as retailers have to envision a whole slew of new physical methods of payment—ranging from facial recognition to QR codes and technology embedded in watches or even under people’s skin—they have to consider electronic couponing an active part of the mobile revolution. (See timeline of payment evolution below.)

Mobile phones take the cumbersome paper coupon out of the equation, but discounting alone is not the inherent lure, says Bob Burroughs, senior vice president of product marketing for Sionic Mobile, Atlanta. It’s the offer’s relevance.

Referencing the importance of customer information and historic purchases, the retailer can customize coupons, corresponding them to the consumer’s habits, thereby having a better chance at achieving behavior change.

“Initial mobile ads were a shot in the dark,” Burroughs says. “By targeting a promotion, more likely [the consumer] will respond.”

Advocating a “holistic” view of loyalty, potentially across multiple, non-competing retailers, he says retailers can lure in customers who may not already shop in their stores by simply offering the right incentive.

“Let’s say you have two 25-year-old men and you’re able to look at the buying habits of each,” he says. “If the first one never bought anything at a GameStop or never had loyalty points from that type of merchant, you may not want to offer him entry in a contest to win an Xbox. But the other guy may want that and fill up at your store to get entered into that drawing.”

Solution providers both in the c-store arena and those catering to retailers in general have been developing “business intelligence” solutions for the past few years—to certain degrees of success—using mathematical algorithms and other methods to interpret data. Both retailers and suppliers continue to explore these opportunities, looking for ways to translate data into executable sales-floor strategies.


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