How Mobile Devices Are Changing Shopping and What CPG Marketers Can Learn From It

When I was the brand manager overseeing Hellmann’s Mustard, one strategy for growing the business was identifying emerging trends that could translate to new products. In 1999, the major trend was grainy or honey mustard varieties. Back then, trend-spotting meant that I was reliant on a nice salesperson to buy a package of mustard, snap a picture, develop the film, and send it to me. Today, the expectation is to get information much faster than waiting for pictures in the mail.

Fast-forward to current CPG marketing and the influx of instantaneous access to consumers through social media and mobile devices. Shoppers now walk down the aisles of a grocery store, department store or sporting goods store with their smartphones. The consumer is better equipped to make a more informed purchase. On the flip side, CPG marketers now have full transparency to what is happening at a store as quickly as shoppers enter. The smartphone — as essential to consumers as house keys before heading out of the home — is a vast resource for brand discounts, immediate information about what is available at various stores and an opportunity for the marketer to deliver a brand message at a specific and relevant point in time (rather than waiting until the consumer has left the shopping experience).



In today’s world, customers are armed with information-ready mobile devices. This represents an enormous shift in retail shopping behavior for CPG marketers who want to better understand what is catching the eye of the busy shopper. Here’s a look at three ways marketers can understand how to better use smartphones for data research.

Giving Consumers Deals On-Demand

With sites like Groupon, Travelzoo and retail-rewards programs all accessible on mobile devices, shoppers are growing accustomed to finding great money-saving deals all the time. This gives CPG marketers the power to change the path to purchase. For example, a consumer makes their way to a given aisle in the grocery store if they have a coupon for a particular brand on their mobile phone, or if they see a mobile ad that motivated them to buy the product.

Many apps now have geofencing capabilities, which allow brands to send push notifications when a consumer crosses a set perimeter. These push notifications can offer deals or coupons on certain products the moment consumers enter a store. Fast-food giant McDonald’s experimented with mobile technology by rolling out beacons to 17 stores in Columbus, Georgia, to offer 18,000 redemption coupons. The result? An 8% increase in McChicken sandwiches and nuggets, which prompted the company to expand the beacons to 263 restaurants.

Instilling Brand Loyalty

Social media has given everyday consumers the ability to strike up conversations with brands at the drop of a dime. With the right hashtag, consumers can evangelize a brand and help it soar like Charmin’s cheeky #tweetfromtheseat campaign. Or with the wrong hashtag, brands can often look insensitive, like when Kenneth Cole tweeted, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo,” in relation to the company’s new spring collection, which seemed in poor taste to consumers during the Egyptian revolution. CPG marketers should keep track of consumers who are documenting the shopping experience on social media and seize the opportunity to create a dialog with shoppers who decide to call attention to their products.

In-Store Research

Shoppers in grocery stores can research any product at any moment. They can look up recipes, nutritional information, reviews, and more. Companies are even capitalizing on customers’ smartphone usage while shopping. Walmart and Lowe’s offer mobile apps that help shoppers navigate the store. But CPG marketers should recognize that the research can now flow both ways. Brands can utilize shoppers to conduct research on their products or competitors’ products in stores. Smartphones are powerful research tools with photo, video, barcode scanning and mobile survey capabilities. Brands can gain access to a whole army of respondents to gain further insight into the shopping experience. 

Mobile devices are now providing access to consumers in ways that are changing the landscape of the marketing world. From how shoppers redeem coupons to brand loyalty, the smartphone is a tool not only for the consumer but for the CPG marketer as well.

1 comment about "How Mobile Devices Are Changing Shopping and What CPG Marketers Can Learn From It".
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  1. Tom Goodwin from Tomorrow, February 20, 2015 at 11 a.m.

    I think we have to be careful with a lot of the measurement we're using here.
    When Taco Bell says that people who use the Mobile App to pre-order food then spend more money, to what extent are we demonstrating causation. The likelihood is in most of these trials that we're finding a way to capture more wealthy, more involved, more loyal fans and showing merely that these people spend more.
    And in the case above, what is to say that 8% via mobile coupon was better than what would have been possible with an old fashioned coupon? We need to be sure we measure these things properly and I'm not sure we do.

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