January 19, 2011

Shoprite, Shop Right!

By Hawa Omar, Sales Director, South Africa

Whether you want to buy an iron, a birthday present for your nephew, a bus ticket, haircare products or meat for the braai, Shoprite has it all and usually at a good price. With over 1000 outlets in South Africa, Shoprite is South Africa's largest supermarket chain. The company, which also has 36 stores in twelve more African countries, focuses on turnover and targets middle-income consumers.

And like a growing number of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) businesses, the South African superstore has begun promoting its goods on the mobile internet with banner ads and interactive pages.

FMCGs, in general though, are not making the most of mobile. CEOs need to take a step back and look at how internet giants like Amazon grew their online communities and markets, then adapt these lessons for the unwired.

Mobile advertising these days is a no-brainer. There are more than 500 million mobile subscribers in Africa alone. And on my continent, mobile long ago passed PCs as the most popular way of accessing the internet. So it's no wonder that Shoprite turned to mobile marketer Yonder Media to design a Christmas-time promotion.

Yonder worked with Shoprite to design a mobile campaign that placed banners across most content channels five days a week. The banners link to an online mobile catalogue.

The first thing a consumer needs to do, after reaching Shoprite's mobile landing page, is select which province she's from. This gets her through the front door and enables the system to share the most relevant promotions with her. It also provides Shoprite with information about where the clicks are coming from.

In addition to the online catalogue of promotions, the site also encourages consumers to register for SMS updates and refer friends.

Shoprite is pleased with the campaign's ROI. Mobile ads are cost-effective and Shoprite's banner received 10,000 clicks in less than a month.

But if FMCGs like Shoprite are going to take their campaigns to the next stage, if they are going to truly unleash the power of mobile, they need to do more. They need to create communities and enable mobile sales. The architecture exists. It's time for companies to make use of it, while keeping in mind these key consumer touch points:

Successful e-commerce sites like Amazon have thrived not just by establishing an efficient order fulfillment mechanism, but by creating customer-generated content, such as reviews, around the products they sell. Going forward, the retailers who perform best will be companies that enable consumers to rate products, make recommendations, share recipes etc. in the mobile space.

FMCGs have long cultivated consumer loyalty through a variety of programmes. These can now be consolidated into the mobile space. For example, there's no longer a need for physical loyalty cards, when mobile phones – and personalised mobile services – can take their place.

Forget the Sunday newspaper supplements. Yes, discounts attract consumers and generate sales. But virtual coupons and discount codes can now be sent to registered members by SMS and placed on mobile websites. Mobile devices can capture, manage and redeem coupons and discounts.

Enable consumers who visit your mobile website to create shopping lists that they can later access when in the store. If the shopping list can provide details on which aisle and row to find a product, even better.

Mobile phones can make payments now anywhere, anytime. And in many African countries, there are now more consumers who use phones as a banking device than there are consumers with bank accounts. Retailers should start letting consumers pay with their phones, in advance or at checkout counters.

Consumers are in a fundamentally different position today thanks to the mobile internet. With phones, they can browse, bank, shop, socialize, buy and trade.

FMCGs have begun to tap on phones to advertise, collect data and share information about products. It's time for them to take the next step.