Unilever enters mobile deals arena with Groupon partnership
By Chantal Tode
August 1, 2011
A recent Unilever deal reflects mobile's growing importance for Groupon
Unilever has teamed up with Groupon for a daily deals promotion that integrates in-store redemption at Jewel-Osco stores.
Unilever is the second consumer packaged goods manufacturer to make a deal available via Groupon and the first to enable in-store redemption. The first CPG Groupon came from General Mills earlier this year and offered consumers a chance to receive a package of items from several brands and pay half-price.
“This deal is more significant than the previous promotion with General Mills because it really focuses on mobile and integration with an actual store,” said Paul Gelb , vice president of mobile at Razorfish, Seattle, WA.
“It is a lot more complicated and challenging to execute deals in supermarkets because you have to deal with both the retailer and the CPG,” he said.
“The fact that Groupon was able to work with brands like Unilever and Supervalu and get them both coordinated and involved is significant.”
Mr. Gelb is not associated with any of the companies involved in the promotion and spoke based on his expertise on the subject. Groupon directed inquiries to a press release about the deal and Unilever did not respond to press inquiries.
Jewel-Osco is division of Supervalu Inc.
The Unilever deal became available July 28 on Groupon.com/chicago. It offers Chicago-area shoppers a 40 percent discount when they buy $15 worth of Ben & Jerry’s, Popsicle, Good Humor, Breyers and Klondike products via Groupon.
Anyone who purchased the deal on Groupon had to enter their Jewel-Osco Preferred Customer Card number.
Shoppers who did not have a loyalty card from the retailer were invited to sign up online.
Mobile plays a big role for Groupon since many users watch for deals and purchase them via mobile devices.
The Unilever promotion enhances the mobile play via in-store redemption.
“While the General Mills deal was focused on ordering from the company, this is more suited for mobile because of the location aspect of it,” Mr. Gelb said.
Groupon worked with Incentive Targeting to introduce the Groupon model to the grocery industry.
Once the purchase is completed, the deal value is digitally loaded onto the shopper’s loyalty card. Then, when the eligible products are purchased at a Jewel-Osco store and the loyalty card is scanned at check-out, the savings are automatically credited on the bill.
The mobile efforts of some CPG companies have been limited to a few tests , in part because of the limitations around in-store redemption of mobile coupons. However, others like Unilever have embraced mobile to reach consumers in engaging ways via apps and SMS messaging.
In the Groupon deal, Unilever said it is hoping to both reach existing customers and help introduce its brands to new consumers.
“As CPG brands are looking for a lot of growth to come from emerging markets, this type of program that is focused on more of a mobile location-based experience aligns with that strategy and could be a testing ground for how they are looking to market internationally,” Mr. Gelb said.
Unilever and Jewel-Osco will be able to access data from the program to measure its effectiveness and follow up with shoppers with more targeted programs.
It is notable that both companies will have access to the data from the promotion since, traditionally, retailers have owned the data around in-store purchasing. Manufacturers have long looked for ways to get better access to this information.
“This proves that CPGs with innovative ideas for retailers and that work with them on new ways to reach consumers and to leverage mobile will have access to data,” Mr. Gelb said.
Deals such as this one can also enhance manufacturers’ and retailers’ traditional couponing efforts.
“Deals to drive a highly social new consumer to purchase products are a value add in promotions that does not exist in the standard couponing strategy,” Mr. Gelb said.
However, the deal does face a challenge reaching significant numbers of consumers because loyalty card participation is a requirement.
“One of the sacrifices that Groupon’s user experience has is that you have to sign up for the loyalty program,” Mr. Gelb said. “While retailers have this as an objective, you would have a lot more consumers sign up if could have a more seamless way to redeem without having to sign up for a loyalty card.”
Solutions are currently being developed that would enable users to type a code into the self-serve credit hardware in stores that address in-store mobile redemption.
“This is a seamless way to get redemption via a code that can be delivered by email, text message or another way,” Mr. Gelb said.
“In my opinion, this is going to be the best user experience for CPG redemption through mobile, whether it’s for a coupon or a deal like this,” he said.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer
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