Commentary

Mobility Means Walmart Can Sell You Toothpaste At A Bus Stop

One of the most dramatic effects of the new mobility is that traditional behaviors are no longer tied to familiar time and place constraints. In fact, they may not even be tied to a consumer’s own familiar brands. The Internet may have made shopping available to consumers 24/7 on the desktop, but devices have now made every moment everywhere shoppable. My colleague Chuck Martin, editor of our mCommerce Daily and author of the new book Mobile Influence, tells us that mobile enables us never to leave shopping mode.

Walmart Canada seems ready to grasp this opportunity of the always-shopping consumer by putting a buy button in an unlikely place -- a bus shelter. In partnership with Procter & Gamble, the company launched 50 “mobile stores” in Toronto. The artwork promotes specific P&G products and offers a QR code that connects the mobile user directly to Walmart’s m-commerce store for select P&G products. Shipping on these mobile store orders is free. It allows consumers to buy on the spot everything from diapers to toothpaste and mascara.

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The program is a test running at 50 bus shelters in Toronto, and is sure to give both companies a better idea of how receptive people are to more explicitly mobilizing commerce at every opportunity.

It is an interesting idea. After all, how often do we try to remind ourselves of a need for the little sundries that will require another trip to the store? By reminding people of the everyday things they need, and on-the-spot opportunities to buy them, Walmart is taking a novel approach to broadening its customer base.

Typically, the store shopper or online buyer has to make a deliberate decision to visit Walmart live or online in order to shop there. This model separates the brand from the experience. Now the ads address a broader consumer need that registers with a potential customer with or without any existing alignment with the retailer brand. This test reminds us how mobility shakes loose many traditions that made some activities and habits connected to places, times and even brand experiences.

There are unanticipated consequences and opportunities to this kind of shift. It gives some brands an opportunity to divorce themselves from old contexts and argue their relevance to a new audience. If mobility means that everyone everywhere can shop, then it also means any brand, familiar or new, anywhere can try to sell you something. 

2 comments about "Mobility Means Walmart Can Sell You Toothpaste At A Bus Stop".
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  1. Brian Hendry from Cellphonist Inc., July 9, 2013 at 2:42 p.m.

    Steve
    I love mobile stuff, but here's my first-hand take. My bus stop shelter is one of the test sites you mentioned with excellent demographics for the products advertised. I love mobile stuff so I've been watching to see people's reactions to the ad. In my numerous times waiting for the bus people have only glanced at the ad and no-one has scanned the QR code.

    I scanned the ad on June 21st only to find: 1) no automatic geo-location - you have to manually enter your location, 2) the result was a listing of the nearest 10 Walmart locations. None of the ten had the Crest toothpaste in stock so it was a complete waste of time. No offer of a rain check, discount on another brand of Crest toothpaste, etc.

    I don't know what Walmart and P&G were hoping for from this test - general awareness? transactions? new customers to their database? To me it shows that just putting up an ad with a QR code and the possibility for free shipping isn't enough.
    Brian

  2. Steve Smith from Mediapost, July 9, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.

    Thanks for the on the ground follow-up report, Brian. Exactly what I would have liked to do myself. It has been my experience over the years that in mobile especially there is often something still missing in the execution.

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