Mobile the next battleground: UK expert

Mobile is the next battleground to win customers and supermarkets are leading the charge, according to a UK expert.

Former director of mobile platforms at London’s Telegraph Media Group, Mark Challinor, warns media owners risk being left behind by bullish supermarket strategies for mobile marketing.

Listen to an edit of the interview with Mark Challinor here


Supermarkets lead the pack

British giant Tesco has started a pilot project using Apple’s new location-based app software, iBeacon. It is designed to detect when customers enter a store, alert them to deals and accelerate the check-out process.

Local retailers are moving in the same direction. Woolworths has had more than 1 million downloads for its shopping app, and in the Quick Service Restaurant sector, McDonald’s has just released an app for children around Happy meals.

Mobiles are increasingly becoming a shopping tool, with 45 per cent of Australian smartphone owners having shopped online in January, and that figure rising to 55 per cent among the smartphone-owning newspaper mobile audience, according to data from emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia).

Referring to the Tesco project, Mr Challinor said some pundits had claimed the iBeacon software could be the “saviour of the High Street”.

Currently, one in seven retail spaces across the UK are empty, and the bookmaker William Hill has just announced the closure of 122 outlets.

Digital Expert Mark Challinor

Digital Expert Mark Challinor

Even Tesco is having a difficult period, announcing at its annual meeting last month a 7 per cent fall in profit for a second successive year but still recording a £3.1 billion profit.

Mr Challinor said Tesco had also outlined how it would “accelerate a lot of their personalised shopping experiences and [experiment with] new channels” to generate new revenues.

iBeacon provided for Tesco a “seamless shopping channel where customers can use any combination of websites, mobile, physical stores, apps and more to complete stages of the purchase cycle.”

“Retailers have been the first to jump on things like augmented reality, and this is an even smarter way to engage customers,” Mr Challinor said.

Tesco’s app can personalise offers in-store based on previous shopping habits.

Also in the UK, the motor company Ford uses simple location data to send ads to customers’ mobile devices.

For Ford drivers living in the north of England, where it often rains, advertising may highlight wet tyres; in the south, where it’s (occasionally) sunny, the latest range of cabriolet soft tops might be offered.

Media players need to step it up

Mr Challinor said media owners had the opportunity to capitalise on these new digital opportunities.

“In the UK, people will pay for digital content on their mobile devices if it’s of value to them – that’s the first stage of how you package up content to the right platform,” he said.

“The second stage, which is where we’re at in the UK, is [working out] how we use the data smartly. That will give publishers a way to cash in on a new wave of intimacy and interactivity.”

He cited a study of 15,000 mobile users across the world by independent mobile ad network, iMobi, which revealed that “overall, mobile advertising, whether it’s news media or retailers or whatever, is proving very effective across the purchase funnel.

“The four things that stood out for me were: three quarters of the survey’s respondents said they’d been introduced to something new by their mobile device; two thirds said they felt it provided them with better options; half said mobile advertising had influenced in-store buying, and another half said it they’d actually made purchases with their mobile.”

Newspaper mastheads, such as The Guardian, were already investing in ways to utilise consumer data.

Mr Challinor said all news brands needed to begin thinking like a start-up in the mobile space because “banner ads will be redundant in years to come”.

“You have to experiment – you shouldn’t be afraid to get to market first and be more agile,” he said.

News media companies had been too slow to respond to the digital challenge but mobile presented a new opportunity. “We need to become more like start-ups – get stuff to market quick; if it fails, pull it, move on, get something to market quick again,” he said.

“The problem some publishers face with that concept is, to make that change happen in the organisation it has to be led from the CEO and filtered down through the company.

“In the future, it’s all about the experience and how we generate a good experience for people where it’s personalised, relevant and of value.

“The digital environment is changing our whole universe.”

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