Do me a favour: the next time you are in a supermarket take a look at the other shoppers around you. How many of them are using their mobile phones? I’m not proud to admit it and it wasn’t necessarily a career highlight, but I have undertaken this task in a professional capacity. The answer? Three. Three shoppers out of hundreds observed. And can you guess what they were doing? Two were taking calls, and the other was sending a text. None were using their phones to help them with the weekly shop or to plan what to buy for the family dinner that night.

But don’t shoppers take their phones with them everywhere, and touch them 100s of times a day? Shoppers have their mobiles with them when they are shopping so surely mobile is the great opportunity to interrupt shoppers at the point of purchase and influence their purchase decision? Well, yes….and no.

Mobile can be used to influence shopper decisions to devastating effect if, and only if, you first understand how shoppers behave and work in rhythm with that behaviour rather than against it. It is a fact that in most categories the majority of shoppers have decided what they are going to buy before they go shopping, so brands need to find a way to influence the shopper and get onto the shopping list pre-store. As strange or counter-intuitive as it may sound, although a phone will accompany the shopper to store the best way to use mobile to influence shopper decisions is to connect and engage with shoppers pre-store, and win their purchase before they arrive at the shelf.

Mobile is a constant companion for shoppers, and so shoppers do have their phones with them in store. It’s just that this is when they are very busy trying to find and buy all the items they had planned to buy and complete their shop as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Pushing a trolley with one hand, and maybe holding a shopping list in the other. Then using one hand for taking items from the shelf and putting them into the trolley, and perhaps holding another hand in reserve for an errant toddler: consulting your phone in store isn’t always that convenient! But pre-store, and post-store, is another story.

Shoppers are still the same people when they are away from the store, mobile is still their constant companion, and they have a little more opportunity and inclination to interact with their phone. So this is the time to engage with the shopper, or, more precisely, this is the time to let the shopper choose to engage with you. It’s important to recognise that we can’t force the shopper to do things as and when we want them to, they always retain control, but we can make offers and content available for the shopper to view at his or her own convenience. Convenient will be different for each shopper – it maybe in front of the TV with a cup of tea, or on the bus or train, or during a lunch break at work, or on the way to the supermarket. The important thing is that it is convenient, and so the shopper has a chance to consider the information presented and act upon it if they so wish.

Mobile offers, available 24/7 for shoppers to view and consider, are driving awareness for brands and successfully influencing shopper purchase decisions away from the crowded shelves of the supermarket.

If your mobile strategy relies on interrupting shoppers lives or last minute intervention at the point of purchase then you probably haven’t got it right.

Barry Lemmon

Barry Lemmon


Barry Lemmon, UK MD of Shopitize.