The mobile consumer is demanding a more personalized and contextually relevant shopping experience than found in E-Commerce today. The question is who will deliver, shape and own that experience in the future? With 9 out of 10 buying decisions still made in the store, will retailers maintain control of mindshare in the retail location, or are they already losing it? Phenomena like show rooming are certainly eroding that control. Today that may be limited to larger items where there is considerable competition by over the top retailers on the Internet, but it is not hard to imagine that this could even extend to produce and consumer packaged goods in the near future.
Mobile certainly has the potential to change the game in the relationship between suppliers and the shopper. In the current structure the retailer or the retailer’s agent determines the suppliers’ influence upon the consumer inside of the retail location. This includes product placement, in store advertising, and sales associate incentives. Mobile introduces the opportunity for the consumer to interact directly with the supplier while standing in the aisles making the buying decision.
Imagine the impact on the consumer of being able to interact directly with the local produce farmer, or a coffee plantation owner in Guatemala while standing in the grocery store aisles. In that scenario does Wal-Mart maintain the mindshare that they enjoy today in influencing the consumer decision inside their stores or is the consumer going to shift a larger portion of that mindshare to 1 to 1 relationships fostered by the manufacturers? Stay tuned but this possibility does represent an opportunity for manufacturers to gain more control at the point of decision.
When one considers the huge investments and strategic relationships that are being formed in retail around the mobile wallet concept, it does raise the question of why aren’t manufacturers taking the same strategic view of mobile to gain mindshare in the shopping experience?
Imagine the power of a few major manufacturers in complementary markets joining forces to create a mobile shopping engagement for the consumer that promoted their joint benefit. Brands aligned by identity in the market (i.e. luxury, value, environmentally friendly, etc.) could deliver a shopping experience that was more aligned with the goals and personality of the shopper. This critical mass of bringing a broad range of products and services that are personalized to the consumer and their shopping location answers the question of why the mobile consumer would provide mindshare to the manufacturer brand as opposed to the retailer.
Of course, on the other side of the coin, there is a significant opportunity for the retailer to create a mobile engagement and in turn monetize supplier access to that shopping experience much as they do today with advertising and product placement in the stores. It is certainly straightforward to imagine mobile shoppers using an application localized and specific to a retailer. In this framework manufacturers would gladly pay the retailer to have an impact on consumer behavior. Exceptional retailers already provide or are working toward mobile engagement, but many more are ignoring or treating mobile as an extension of E-Commerce and missing the mark.
Finally there is the possibility that a 3rd party steps in and fills this void. We saw this happen with over the top retailers on the Internet. There are already pure mobile players who use gamification, social media, and location to own the mobile consumer relationship in the retail location. These vendors introduce the possibility of charging retailers and suppliers alike to reach the consumer during the shopping experience. Imagine a retailer paying for ad-space in their own store, you don’t have to, they are already doing it today.
Over the next few years it will be determined how consumer mindshare is allocated in this new space. Pivotal to this point is how manufacturers and retailers react to grab the opportunity to gain access to the consumer at the golden moment of decision when they are standing in the aisle, staring at product, making a buying decision. With 90% of those decisions still happening in the store, the opportunity is considerable and the war to master and own this territory has just begun.