How Top Marketers Are Curating the In-Store Mobile Experience

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In 2015, the positive effects of mobile in-store engagement became abundantly clear for marketers. Major brands like Clorox, Energizer and Heineken have successfully embarked on proximity and beacon campaigns that reached shoppers at critical “mobile moments” in the store, driving purchase intent, brand awareness and sales.

By targeting these mobile moments — or the instances when a shopper reaches for her device — these brands were able to communicate with shoppers at the very end of the buying cycle. Never before has a medium taken brands so close to the final purchase decision. In 2016, and as early as Q1, we’re already seeing the savviest brands move mobile proximity out of the “innovation” budget and into mainstream spending.

But an influx of dollars does not equate to instant success. An effective mobile in-store approach requires great data, finesse and experience, and starts well before the shopper gets to the store. With that in mind, we’ve identified three major considerations for marketers targeting the mobile moment in 2016:

1. Pretargeting and retargeting can effectively drive the shopper to the store, and increase her spending per trip.
Successful in-store engagement starts well before the shopper gets to the store, and is rooted in fresh, accurate data. The savviest marketers are putting beacons to work, going beyond the obvious use cases that have been discussed in 2015, and leveraging the technology like an “offline cookie.” With this method, marketers can tag shoppers, develop a 360-degree understanding of their purchasing cycle, and pretarget them individually based when they’re “due” for a store visit.

For example, if a person shops for groceries every Thursday afternoon, marketers can now optimize their mobile banners for Wednesday and Thursday morning when that person is most receptive, and pause messaging on Friday when that person is least receptive. At inMarket, we’ve found that pretargeting (known as Quantum Receptivity) can actually drive an 8% increase in store trips per shopper, and a 14% increase in spending at the store.

These numbers are especially significant for offline retailers, who just lost to e-commerce in terms of total spending on Black Friday for the first time ever. Pretargeting and retargeting have been successful pieces of the e-commerce marketing mix for nearly a decade. Now, thanks to mobile proximity, marketers can put these tactics to work for offline retail.

2. App scale is critical for success in mobile proximity. Focus on extending your message across app channels that people already use, versus trying to reinvent the wheel.
Mobile moments in the store are a new touchpoint for brands and retailers. Many have tried to create their own channels (apps) for mobile interaction. But in most cases, these efforts have fallen flat. The top retailer apps reach an average of 4.5MM active users per month, according to comScore — or just a fraction of shoppers per month at the largest retailers. At the brand level, with the exception of a very few major apps, their scale is negligible. So there is a fundamental challenge for most marketers — especially when it comes to technology like beacons.

The reason why marketing-based apps have underwhelmed is simple: They’re not natural to the shopper. They feel like channels that exist for advertising’s sake, and that just doesn’t work. (You wouldn’t create your own TV channel just to run commercials… so why would you build your own app just to run ads?)

The answer to the question of scale s to work with major 3rd-party apps that people already use in the store. Through in-store amplification, brands should be focused on taking their existing digital assets and extending them to the mobile-instore audience via the best shopping apps that people already use.

3. Mobile in-store usage is a natural behavior of the modern consumer. Don’t make it awkward!
Real mobile moments are naturally occurring. According to the Google Shopper Marketing Council, 84% of smartphone owners are already using their phone in-store to help them shop. So mobile has already become an integral part of the modern shopper’s natural behavior in-store, and the onus is on the marketers to not make it awkward.

Successful mobile in-store campaigns start by simply facilitating the natural mobile moments that already occur. This could be a simple push message reminder to check the shopping list upon entering the store, or to check out a recipe that was recently favorited.

We know from 2+ years of data that location-based push messages can drive up app usage in the store by 16x over the baseline, and increases app retention by over 6x. These results indicate that shoppers appreciate the reminder to use a shopping app in a store — because that is where said app adds the most value.

4. Native Context Is a Must
If the real marketing value of mobile in-store lies within natural use cases, then how can marketers can properly incorporate branded content?

The answer is to deploy content in Native Context. Relevant branded content must be native to the app in which it’s deployed, and in context to the location where it occurs.

Hidden Valley just did a fantastic job of this, targeting mobile users in the store with quick, back-to-school dinner ideas via Conde Nast’s Epicurious (a top recipes app). The Hidden Valley campaign exemplifies the three major pieces of mobile in-store success: The branded content (quick dinner ideas) was native to the app (recipes) and deployed in context to the location (the store). All three things need to make sense in order for an effective engagement.

An example from outside of retail would be Zac Brown Band’s beacon proximity program. The branded content (support driver for ZBB’s preferred charity) was native to the app (ZBB Live! app) and deployed in context to the location (during ZBB shows at major stadiums like Wrigley Field).


With consumer behavior in place, and solutions making technology like beacons as simple as a media buy, mobile proximity is poised to become the fasting growing piece of mobile advertising in 2016. The brands that have tested and learned early on are in great position to scale up and reach their audiences this year. Now that millennials are essentially the entire 18-34 demographic, we’ll see an even greater emphasis on the new first screen and targeting mobile moments in the store

Kevin.HunterAs president of inMarket. Kevin Hunter leads multiple departments including strategic partnerships, business development, marketing and product. Prior to joining inMarket, her was co-founder and COO of Gimbal.