Mobile Spirits in the Material World.

Mobile marketing is changing in many ways as the mobile spirits of our customers are driving decisions within this traditional marketplace.   Again Giselle tackles real world questions we all deal with everyday in this article regarding mobile marketing in todays traditional marketplace. 


Today’s Consumers Are Mobile Spirits In The Material World


by Giselle Abramovich 
Senior & Strategic Editor


Remember when consumers went to the store with a shopping list in-hand? They often knew exactly what they wanted to buy, barring an impulse item or two.


  • Today, the majority of retailers are using geofencing technology to identify when a customer has entered a store.
  • Companies that are successfully connecting the physical to the digital best understand the experiences they are trying to create.
  • “My advice would be to look at mobile engagement of consumers as a continuum, even if it crosses lines from in-store to online.”

Those days are over. Today’s in-store shoppers have ditched their handwritten lists in favor of their mobile devices, keeping their options open about what they intend to buy, how they buy it, and who they buy it from. They glide through the store or mall, open to digitally delivered offers, suggestions, coupons, and deals from brands and retailers.

Marketers who don’t follow the lead of their customers and put in place a strategy to bridge the in-store experience with digital will soon find they’re losing business to the savvier competition, according to Pete Stein, CEO of Razorfish.

“If you just think about the power of the smartphone, its massive penetration, and how consumers are spending their time in stores, they’ve probably done their initial research at home on a PC, and then they continue to do research once they are in the store,” Stein told in an exclusive interview. “Retailers have to recognize that this is happening, and their job is to enhance that experience for the consumer and make sure to connect the dots.”

recent study by RadiumOne found that 49.3 percent of consumers use their mobile devices while in a store. That’s a huge number of people who are intentionally and voluntarily researching brands, products, offers, and coupons in-store, said Eric Bader, CMO of RadiumOne.

“That participation shows that mobile is as mainstream a medium for marketers when consumers are in-store,” Bader told “Furthermore, of all the communications options to reach people when they’re in-store, mobile has the largest scale and is most effective. Mobile’s not just a stunt or experiment anymore.”

The Technology Solution
Today, the majority of retailers are using geofencing technology to identify when a customer has entered a store. Geofencing allows marketers to target advertising based on location, and it can also be used for search-based advertising as well, according to Razorfish’s Stein. Location-based advertising is cost-effective because advertisers only pay per click.

Newer technologies, such as Apple’s iBeacon, tell a retailer when a consumer is in-store. A location-enabled branded mobile app can do that same, providing that the consumer is using the app in-store. QR code readers, SMS short code activations, NFC-enabled devices, and augmented reality are also technologies marketers rely on to bring together in-store and digital.

The Audi City virtual showroom in London.

Finally, retailers are turning to grassroots efforts and localizing a marketing strategy–for example, buying radio ad time to drive people in-store, where a local celebrity is in attendance. Once in the store, customers are encouraged to tweet. There are different variations of this, of course, but they all help get a more singular view of the customer, RadiumOne’s Bader explained.


Indeed, companies that are successfully connecting the physical to the digital best understand the experiences they are trying to create, according to Hank Summy, president of MRM/McCann. They are less about a trendy piece of tech and more about utility and helping the customer make a purchase decision. This could mean reshaping the physical space to mirror online experiences, he said. Sports Chalet, for example, customizes its store with whatever products are being showcased online, creating a cohesive push. Traditionally, retailers would put the most-sought after products all the way at the back so that consumers had to walk through the entire store before they got to them.

“Sports Chalet is novel in that they have an out-of-the-box view of bridging the digital divide,” Summy told

Another example of a brand blending the online experience with in-store is Audi. Its Audi City program in London is a digital showroom for the carmaker’s models. Consumers can go in and customize their vehicles via gestures and touchscreen using digital in-store technology. Then, when they leave the store, they are handed a memory stick with what they created, which they can later plug into their computers and bring back to life via the Audi Web site.

“Audi’s one example of a company that has made a pretty big investment [in bridging in-store and digital],” Razorfish’s Stein said. “Audi City shows how you can rethink the total in-store experience and also connect the dots with offline.”

Sephora lets customers read ratings and reviews, get deals of the day, and view past order history using its app in-store.

According to Stein, Apple has also done a nice job in its stores using beacon technology. Consumers can do self-checkout on certain items, find out about events happening in-store, and even get deals.

Sephora is another example of a brand that is taking advantage of mobile technology to bridge the in-store and online gap. The retailer has apps, mobile point-of-sale technology, and even allows salespeople to scan a customer’s face to find the perfect shade of foundation.

“We’re focusing on technology that blurs the lines between online and in-store,” said Johnna Marcus, Sephora’s director of mobile and digital store marketing, in an interview with Digiday last year. “Our greatest focus is giving the customer a personal shopping assistant in the store. Customers can scan products to read ratings and reviews, and all store associates are equipped with mobile phones to check customers out, so there’s no waiting in line.”

MRM/McCann’ sSummy also pointed to Starbucks as a brand he thinks is doing a superior job of blending online with physical. The company’s mobile strategy–which consists of mobile apps and Web sites–is all about making the in-store experience better for customers. The company’s mobile offerings see 34.8 million unique users per month. Its mobile apps and Web sites enable consumers to store their loyalty points digitally, make payments in the store, and even customize drinks.

The Starbucks app allows consumers to pay for their coffee via their mobile devices.

Challenges To Bridging The Gap
According to Summy, retailers’ biggest challenge is tagging what they’re doing to bridge in-store and digital in the point-of-sale (POS) system.

“The maintenance isn’t all that much work. It’s really setting the whole thing up that is a tremendous undertaking,” he told “The POS system is really for speeding up the checkout process. They’re about efficiency, not customer centricity.”

Ryan Aynes, managing director at EDGE Collective, recommended retailers work with an integrated agency. Digital agencies, he said, are focused on the Web, the social guys are all about social, and the creative agencies are focusing on stunts. None of these constituents will necessarily suggest taking anything in-store.

“Really, the integrated agencies are the only ones doing this,” Aynes told “These are the agencies that can connect the dots, and there’s not too many of them.”

According to RadiumOne’s Bader, marketers are missing the opportunity for bridging the online/in-store divide, keeping media too segregated to specific states of the purchasing life cycle. Mobile advertising, for example, tends to be a pre-retail activity investment for marketers to drive brand awareness or a specific action–not an integrated investment in each aspect of the buying stage, including in-store.

“My advice would be to look at mobile engagement of consumers as a continuum, even if it crosses lines from in-store to online,” Bader told “Look at it holistically rather than see it as mobile or tech investment to reach people in-store. At the end of the day, it’s all one continuum of consumer engagement, and so the commitment should be more holistic.”

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