LAS VEGAS — Wakefern Food Corp. is moving ahead cautiously but steadily with mobile marketing applications, a company executive said here last week during a general session at the 29th annual convention of the National Grocers Association.
“You've got to listen to your customers and understand exactly what they want and what's important to them and then figure out how to make it happen,” explained Cheryl Williams, vice president of marketing for the Keasbey, N.J.-based cooperative.
“Basically mobile marketing is something you've got to do. Don't over-think it — just try it. And if something doesn't work, try something else because mobile marketing is not going to go away, so it's something you have to learn to deal with.”
Wakefern started testing mobile marketing applications two years ago, Williams said, by making electronic coupons available at the point of purchase to consumers with mobile phones. “When that resulted in confusion at the checkstand because of so many different coupons that had to be scanned, we switched to letting shoppers download coupons through their phones to their loyalty cards.
“Bringing the program to the loyalty card was a key decision that was seamless to the customer and represented full integration of mobile marketing with the more traditional way we've done business.”
When some customers indicated they were willing to get the company's weekly ad circulars by phone, Wakefern complied, enabling it to cut back on the 7.2 million circulars it had been printing each week, Williams said.
In another innovation, when it launched its first iPhone applications at Thanksgiving 2009, Wake-fern used billboards at high-traffic locations “so people could download information while they were stuck in traffic,” she noted.
Julie Bowerman, group director of digital platforms for the Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, said her company has been working with mobile applications for the last three years. “We started small — simply collecting mobile phone numbers from willing consumers and sending text messages. That has evolved to the point that we now see mobile marketing as critical and the way we will reach consumers in the future.
“We're now using mobile marketing in a more tactical way, to build customer solutions. Mobile marketing is not a standalone effort. It's part of a whole marketing approach, and it's important that you integrate it with what you're already doing.
“You are not always going to see strong returns on investments. At the start it's got to be about learning and growing and managing your expectations. You also need to leverage the outside expertise that's available to you to build your bank of knowledge.”
Michael Becker, North American managing director for the Mobile Marketing Association, said there were 6.1 trillion text messages worldwide in 2010, including 5.7 billion in the U.S.; and 15 billion applications downloaded last year.