Meals — and Purchases — On the Go

For e-commerce companies, Internet marketing’s primary benefit is its ability to produce immediate sales. In many ways, the equivalent of offline point-of-purchase (POP) advertising, online ads for e-commerce companies can attract attention, incite a click, and lead consumers to a shopping page in less time than it takes to say “cha-ching.”

For companies that sell products in brick-and-mortar stores, however, using online advertising to secure offline sales has always been a challenge. By combining mobile marketing with branded content, two companies have just made this feat a whole lot more attainable.

Last week, Kraft took the concept of podcasting to new heights when it launched a marketing application that delivers its Web site recipes to consumers via their iPods. The application uses the iPod Notes feature, which stores information separately from audio files. It can be downloaded at kraftfoods.com, and includes over 100 Kraft-inspired recipes and cooking tips.

Through this initiative, Kraft will deliver branded content and recipes that call for Kraft products to consumers while they shop.

Similarly, online cooking community Allrecipes.com just partnered with Sybase subsidiary iAnywhere Solutions’ mobile Internet service AvantGo to create a food and recipe content channel. The downloadable channel includes 28,000 recipes, search tools, shopping lists, articles on cooking, and a recipe box. Allrecipes is offering a sponsorship placement that will provide interactive media buyers with unprecedented access to consumers in-store. It will also afford traditional advertisers the chance to finally convert banners into immediate sales.

“Providing needed information at a critical moment in the decision-making process — the point of purchase — has obvious consumer benefits but is also very appealing to marketers and advertisers,” says Neil Versen, senior director of AvantGo, of the Allrecipes application. “As technology and mobile devices continue to improve, users will look to interact with Internet content no matter where they may be, online or offline.”

Welcome to the modern world of POP advertising, where the union of online content and mobile marketing can generate offline sales. In this brave new world, marketers can use branded content for much more than branding, and interactive media buyers can deliver ads for shampoo and salad dressing to consumers as they walk down the grocery store aisle.

Here, advertisers can boost brand affinity and sales and reduce the chance of intruding on potential customers at an inopportune time. These “ads” are consumer-initiated; users voluntarily download the content and determine when they want to access it. To consumers, they represent convenience rather than an annoyance. To marketers, they may just be the ideal combination of on- and offline advertising.

It’s not surprising food-related companies are among the first to eat up the opportunity to reach consumers where they shop. They cater chiefly to busy parents and professionals. Though all aren’t up to speed on podcasting and mobile marketing techniques, those who are can reap real benefits from these sorts of applications.

This isn’t the first example of mobile marketing being used to deliver POP advertising (companies such as Dentyne have run mobile contests for this very purpose). But these attempts have something others don’t: they’re content applications first and foremost. Unlike branded mobile contests and games, they’re not designed to be used as entertainment but as tools that simplify consumers’ lives. That functionality ensures advertisers will reach and maintain the attention of their target audience.

The POP is the marketer’s final point of contact with the consumer as she makes her purchasing decision. Offline marketers know 70 percent of consumer purchase decisions are made “at the shelf.” That marketers are no longer limited to humdrum merchandising displays and signage that goes for the hard sell could change the way offline advertisers choose to market their products. At the very least, it stands to make planning meals on the go a lot easier.

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