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Posts Tagged ‘Donna Sutton’

Beyond Self-Checkout: Mobilizing Mobile Payments

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Last year, bold projections indicated self-checkout kiosks may become a thing of the past. After a self-service boom, leading grocery retailers announced a shift in their strategies, opting to focus on better customer service. But a year later, it seems that self-checkout, for the most part, has survived – perhaps because shoppers have defined improved service as including convenient checkout alternatives.

It seems self service is here to stay. However, uncooperative touch screen monitors and technology glitches can create long wait times. To ease this frustration, there’s a new mantra for the CPG industry: no lines ever. Leveraging recent advances in mobile technology, retailers are introducing new ways to pay.

In other retail sectors, mobile payment systems are already proving they may eventually eliminate traditional cash registers. At cutting-edge retailers like Apple, customers can walk up to any iPad-clad employee and pay anywhere on the shop floor. Many smaller retailers have adopted Square, a mobile payment service that expects to process $6 billion in payments this year. Starbucks and several apparel retailers are experimenting with similar systems.

The CPG industry is no exception to this modernization game, and has plans to go mobile as well. Walmart is testing a “Scan & Go” program that lets shoppers use their iPhones to scan products as they drop them into their carts. Customers then download their list at a payment kiosk. To expand this process beyond the world’s largest retailer, QThru, a smartphone app that works the same way, is present in Myers Group grocery stores, after a successful pilot program at a supermarket in the Seattle area.

As more shoppers embrace technology, mobile payments may do more than shorten lines. Apps capable of syncing to loyalty card programs and digital coupons may make it easier for customers to save. They could also serve as a differentiator for successful early adopters, and ultimately increase brand loyalty. Many shoppers will view updated technology that shortens lines and turns them on to savings as the ultimate in customer service.

Other shoppers may feel the retailer is fobbing them off to a machine and view mobile payments as yet another technology designed to cut costs by eliminating personal interaction.

Before investing in a mobile checkout system, retailers should evaluate their shopper base to gauge its potential for success. As not all shoppers are equally tech savvy, retailers should decide if a large enough portion of shoppers would prefer mobile payment options. SymphonyIRI’s DigitaLink research segments customers based on their digital habits, attitudes towards technology, and use of mobile devices. Applying DigitaLink or conducting similar segmentation can help make the decision to “mobilize.”

As I discussed in a blog about self-checkouts last year, each shopper has a preference as to how they pay. To prevent shopper confusion, until more shoppers embrace mobile technology, perhaps retailers’ best bet is to provide multiple checkout options.

What do you think?  How do you see this trend at play in retail environments? What is your retail outlet doing to embrace mobile technology?

How to Keep Kids (and Your Brand) Healthy

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Pending legislation may restrict the types of food that can be marketed to children. Supporters of the proposed guidelines seek to alleviate an all-time high level of childhood obesity, but others fear the policy will eliminate too many jobs.

It may be awhile before a decision is reached due to the requirement of a cost-benefit analysis. The cause-effect relationship between advertising and childhood obesity is also being debated.

Nevertheless, children’s health is a prime concern. In the meantime, how can the CPG industry show support for minimizing the obesity crisis while upholding their brands?

Over the past few years, some manufacturers have voluntarily altered their product’s ingredient composition. For example, General Mills vowed to lower sugar levels in all cereals marketed to children, which now contain 10 grams of sugar or less per serving. The company also increased the use of whole grain in kid-friendly Big G cereals.

Other retailers and manufacturers are supporting healthier options in schools, as the nutrition of cafeteria food has long been scrutinized. Produce providers Dole, Chiquita, and Sun World have recently donated salad bars to schools to offer children fresher alternatives to standard cafeteria menus.

Whole Foods Markets (a sponsor of the Let’s Move Salad Bars 2 Schools initiative) and Publix have also made donations, in hopes that children’s act of choosing from an assortment will turn fruit and vegetable consumption into a habit.     

Dole’s Nutrition Institute even created a school curriculum, including lesson plans, music, games and activity books focused on forming healthy eating habits.

Other possible strategies manufacturers can employ to support children’s healthy eating may include:

  • Introducing healthier, kid-friendly brand extensions (Sara Lee disguised whole grains in whole wheat white bread)
  • Reducing size and calorie count of lunchbox-friendly packs (Nabisco introduced 100 calorie packs for portion control)
  • Increasing marketing efforts to promote existing healthy product lines to children (Last year, farmers borrowed the traditional junk food marketing approach to brand baby carrots as “the original orange doodle”)

What are some strategies your brand is using to combat childhood obesity?

Eat This or Die

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Coffee, wine, beer and chocolate have long been considered vices, but recent studies reveal their health benefits: Coffee cuts skin cancer risk and lowers women’s depression; beer can help women protect against osteoporosis; and red wine and cocoa antioxidants could boost metabolism and benefit the heart, respectively.

Even so, consumers should have enough sense to not overindulge in traditionally unhealthy products. But, how do they react when a study reports health claims of nutrients without an existing bias?

The overly-trusting consumer may run out to buy every product with ginger in the ingredient list after reading that it reduces colon inflammation and cancer risk. Suddenly, CPG manufacturers of ginger-snaps have some decisions to make. Should they attempt to capitalize on these claims with front-of-packaging ingredient information?

Packaging claims have been a hot issue lately, as two camps of thought sparked a great debate. The Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) “Facts Up Front” rivals the Institute of Medicine (IoM) over what should be included in front-of-package nutritional facts.

IoM believes displaying calories and a simple star rating will sufficiently inform consumers of nutritional level, while the Facts Up Front Label will present calories, total fat, sodium, sugars, and two “nutrients to encourage” for the manufacturer to choose.

These systems ultimately have the same goal: help consumers make healthier choices. But striking a balance between information overload and ease of use is key.

Time Healthland featured a University of Minnesota study suggesting that people don’t actually look at the same nutrition information on food packages as they claim. Researchers used an eye-tracking device with a group of designated shoppers to reveal which components of nutrition labels participants paid attention.

“Although 26% of people self-reported that they almost always look at Nutrition Facts labels at the grocery store, 37% of them actually noticed at least one component of the label for almost all food items,” according to the article.

But, customers seem to be unaware of which components they actually noticed. There were large discrepancies between self-reports and eye-tracking data. While 33% said they looked at calorie count, only 9% actually did. In addition, 31% reported they paid attention to total fat content, 24% said they looked at sugar content, and 26% said they looked at serving size, when in reality, only 1% studied each of these components.

It will be interesting to see if this data changes when front-of-package nutrition facts become more prominent, as they’re expected to do in 2012. Will consumers trust only a standardized system, such as Facts Up Front or IoM’s, or can CPG manufacturers continue to play up key healthy ingredients in a less structured manner?  What’s your take?