American Marketer


Mobile commerce and how personalized value drives adoption

February 11, 2014

Patrick Moorhead is vice president of mobile brand development at Catalina


By Patrick Moorhead

You have seen the stats: 78 percent of shoppers already use their smartphones in bricks-and-mortar stores, according to Google. Half of shoppers have also approached the checkout stand with coupons on the screens of their mobile devices.

Meanwhile, the percentage of time consumers spend on their smartphones throughout the day is skyrocketing.

But advertisers have not gotten the memo, apparently. They continue to pour the greatest share of their budgets into other media, including more than 20 percent on print.

I think that is because consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands have not yet discovered the type of mobile content that will resonate with their customers.

Humming along
The answer is personalization, which drives value in any medium, but is critical to connecting with high-value shoppers on their most personal device via mobile commerce.

In the past, search history was the height of personalization. It did not take much to conclude, for example, that someone was shopping for a white 2009 Hummer, when she was using “2009,” “Hummer” and “white” as search terms.

Now, purchase behavior represents the next level for personalization.

That means creating a mobile commerce experience that sends content to the shopper’s smartphone based on her past purchase history, while pinpointing where she is in the store, and noting what she is placing in her cart at that very moment.

With this real-time intelligence at hand, so-called scan-and-bag applications – shoppers use their smartphones to scan items into their carts for a speedy checkout – can influence consumer behavior in the aisle during the moment of truth.

In an in-store study involving mobile commerce shoppers, we found that mcommerce shoppers shopped 41 percent more than their non-mobile counterparts. That is a strong indicator of greater customer satisfaction.

These shoppers also spent 43 percent more than non-mcommerce shoppers per trip.

Purchase-behavior personalization is about creating a three-way conversation between retailers, brands and their customers from which everyone benefits as long as the shopper feels her needs are known, anticipated and met.

Will it wash?
It is probably worth making a distinction between “targeting” and “personalization.”

Targeting within a mobile commerce solution means being able to deliver a real- time message to a small subset of relevant shoppers based on purchase history.

For example, for the shopper that adds dryer sheets to her basket, targeting would let her know about a new scent of fabric softener. This type of targeting ensures that messages arrive at the moment they matter most, and are most relevant and useful to each unique shopper.

Personalization, on the other hand, takes this to a different level.

Personalization is having a view into the purchase history of the individual, and knowing that she has not bought laundry detergent in three and a half weeks, but she usually purchases detergent every four weeks.

Using the dryer sheet scan as a trigger, but communicating “Hey, we noticed you might be running low on detergent, here’s $1.50 off our matching brand” is how personalization further capitalizes on the moment by leveraging intelligence about this individual shopper to deliver relevance and benefit both the shopper and the brand.

Similarly, a shopper who has just scanned a wedge of brie cheese into her cart receives an ad or offer for crackers, or a scan of bar hand soap can become a moment for the brand to give the shopper a reason to try its new line of body wash.

These personalized messages and special offers can make your communications feel more like a one-to-one interaction, rather than a digital edition of a store flyer.

But timing is important, too.

Unsubscribe rates are high when marketers try to communicate during offensive hours on the personal space platform of the mobile phone.

AN MCOMMERCE app must also collect data about the customer’s time zones to respect her time and provide valuable content in a ripple effect, rather than a blanketed blast.

In the next article of this series, I will discuss how to create a seamless in-store experience.

See part one of this series:

Mobile commerce and the consumer packaged goods arms race

Patrick Moorhead is Chicago-based vice president of mobile brand development at personalized digital media company Catalina. Reach him at