Mobile Marketer: Unilever beacon play serves up soup, engagement in online-offline blend

By Michael Barris

A Unilever iBeacon program in Sweden that blended an outdoor sampling truck with a mobile coupon points to how consumer packaged goods companies are ramping up use of the technology to connect the online and offline worlds to drive sales as well as engagement. 

In the program, subscribers to the mobile application of Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet who tried a sample of Knorr soup from a curbside truck in Stockholm were served a soup coupon in the publisher’s application during a subsequent session or page view. The initiative shows how beacons have the potential to break new ground in CPG marketers’ years-long search for ways to effectively connect on and offline shopper behavior to market products.

“This was very much a brand-building campaign,” said Karin Schenström, marketing manager for savoury and tea with Unilever Sweden.

“In order to be close to purchase and to be perceived as modern, we did this through the mobile phone. Visitors with the Aftonbladet mobile app installed were later contacted with a special offer within the app in the form of a voucher for a new free soup in any store,” she said. 

Sampling session

Unilever and Mindshare collaborated with Aftonbladet, a major news outlet, and Glimr. 

In November, a Knorr food truck hit Stockholm’s streets, offering Knorr soup samples. Those who visited the truck during the week-long sampling session could eat the soup directly or take a sample to go. 

By activating beacons, marketers could target those who had the Aftonbladet mobile application pre-installed and who had visited the food truck. 

The next time the visitors entered the newspaper’s app, regular display ads could be switched to more tailored offers. Downloadable coupons were served to remind the visitors about the sampling campaign and give them an extra chance to taste the soup. 

The campaign partly aimed to change Knorr’s image as an old-fashioned brand.

“At the end of 2014, Knorr Sweden had its biggest launch ever,” Ms. Schenström said. “Four fresh soups with sustainably grown vegetables and no flavor enhancers were to modernize Knorr.

“We know through testing that the tendency to buy greatly increases if you sample a new product,” she said. 

“Soup is a low engagement product, which is why it was strategic to give the customer a reminder.” 

An important component of the campaign was that soup samplers had to have the ad publisher’s app already on a device to register the offline connection to the sampling truck.  

Some see the need to pair iBeacon with an existing application to register the subscriber’s proximity to a display or presence in a store as a weakness in strategy.

“The other major challenge is the assumption that a subscriber’s proximity to an iBeacon is indication of purchase intent or interest in which to base ad targeting,” said Matthew Ramerman, managing director and cofounder of Vehicle.

Leveraging beacons to target samplers.

Leveraging beacons to target samplers.

“Simple presence in store, at a display or on a Web page is not always a perfect correlation to interest in your brand or product.”

That said, mobile’s ubiquity makes a beacon program a plausible path to connecting offline behavior with online ad targeting.

“This is clearly early days of proximity solutions and understanding how to connect offline shopping behaviors and online targeting,” Mr. Ramerman said. “Given the hurdles this solution has in front of it, I believe it is a step in a longer evolutionary path of technical development.”

“Overall there is a huge potential for brands to use beacons to collect data and get a better understanding of their customers,” said Dick Rients, founder/CEO of Mobile Ventures. “Utilizing this data will allow Unilever to deliver personalized content and drive sales.

“CPG and other industries will continue to test beacons for different types of initiatives,” he said. 

“Beacon technology has the potential to transform every industry specifically retail, events, entertainment, and travel.”

Beacons also are a great way for CPG companies that lack a direct relationship with consumers to begin a dialogue.

Critical issue

“The critical issue for CPGs is collaboration with stores along with media owners,” said Sheryl Kingstone, Toronto-based research director of Yankee Group.

Moving forward in beacon marketing.

Moving forward in beacon marketing.

“There are lots of opportunities for creating engaging use cases that beacons represent. However, the most important part is to ensure value-added services so that the consumer is motivated to open the application and effective use of data so that the ad is targeted effectively. 

“We will see more collaborative digital proximity marketing campaigns as stores and CPG companies transition traditional co-marketing into a mobile-first world,” she said.

Read on Mobile Marketer: http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/software-technology/19732.html