Mobile Commerce Is More Than Just Coupons: Tips From Three Big Retail Brands

Consumer brands want to experiment with mobile commerce.

But you might be surprised where they want to focus. It isn’t always on coupons that offer product discounts. Why condition a loyal customer to expect a price break?

Three big consumer brand companies -– Coca Cola, Best Buy and Procter & Gamble –- offered tips on their mobile commerce strategies at the Under the Radar conference on Friday afternoon. Their message to startups addressing the space was simple: make experimentation easy, think about seeking product use data from consumers and pinpoint the moments purchases are made.

The tips weren’t the typical ones you might expect from big name companies. Startups trying to forge creative business plans might be smart to give them some thought.

“We need to experiment in the space and see what customers pay us back on,” acknowledges Margita Labhard (pictured above), director of strategy and business development at Best Buy Inc. “There is a lot of efficiency in mobile.”

To Ladhard, the most important piece of data a startup could supply the company is the news that a customer is making a purchase. Best Buy is already working with Shopkick, the developer of an iPhone app and virtual currency. The partnership tells Best Buy when a consumer with the app walks into a store. “That’s pretty powerful,” says Ladhard.

The next step –- time of purchase data –- is more valuable.

A greater trove of information might come from inside a consumer’s home, says Sonny Jandial, a marketing executive at Procter & Gamble. “This may be an interesting place for [a startup] to play.”

If a startup generates verifiable data on whether a household has, say, $500 worth of P&G products instead of $50, marketing managers can value the home and treat the consumers differently, Jandial says.

“Knowing what is going on in the home is incredibly important,” concurs Ladhard.

Coupons, on the other hand, aren’t “what necessarily drives loyalty,” notes Tara Scarlett, a senior manager at Coca-Cola. Consumers get used to receiving them.

Scarlett, however, didn’t reject using reward points, like the Shopkick currency, for consumers who buy six packs or other products. “We absolutely should be doing that.”

Coca-Cola is looking at conducting a market test with Shopkick, she revealed.

The soft drink maker is looking for “opportunities to encourage that brand love and drive incremental sales with mobile devices,” she said.