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Packaged food brands missing opportunity on mobile to drive sales: report

Only two packaged food brands, General Mills’ Betty Crocker and Kellogg’s, display enough competence across desktop, smartphones and tablets to be considered digital geniuses, according to a new report from L2 Think Tank.

The report, which assesses the digital competence of packaged food brands, reveals that while 90 percent of consumers use their phones when shopping for groceries, 43 percent of packaged foods brands do not have a mobile-optimized Web site.  The need for a stronger mobile strategy is apparent, with half of smartphone shoppers choosing the brand site as the destination for in-store research, with 39 percent looking for retail locations, 38 percent promotional offers and 30 percent price comparisons.

“Mobile is critical in the grocery category,” said Katie Brehm, research lead on the report from L2 Think Tank, New York. “Ninety percent of smartphone shoppers utilize their phone for grocery research while in-store to search for recipes (37 percent), look for coupons or promotional offers (24 percent) and research nutritional information (19 percent).

“While more than half of brands have a mobile-optimized site, they have yet to invest in basic mobile functionality such as click-to-call (only 70 percent of sites), touch and swipe technology (43 percent) or geo-location (24 percent),” she said.

“Less than 20 percent of brands have a mobile shopping list tool. Few apps have gained traction: Oreo’s ‘Twist, Lick and Dunk’ gamification app has above a four-star rating off more than 7,000 ratings while Betty Crocker’s suite of ‘Mobile Cookbook’ apps have been downloaded more than 500,000 times.”

Digital geniuses
The report singles out Betty Crocker because it has a recipe site that is heavily trafficked, includes deep links in search results and offers an iPad-optimized cookbook as well as apps that aggregate 15,000 recipes.

Kellogg’s is highlighted in the report because of its recipe finder, a rewards platform that is integrated through SMS, mobile, desktop and email as well as a personalized email program that highlights couponing, recipes and offline events.

Other best-in-class examples of how packaged foods brands are leveraging mobile include Ben & Jerry’s use of geolocation on its product locator to direct customers to the closest location where they can make a purchase and Tyson’s shopping list tool, which provides the ingredients needed for recipe users to add to their recipe box and, from the mobile site, enables users to email the shopping list or note items already in their kitchens.

The tablet opportunity
Brands one step down from genius and in the gifted category include General Mills’ Pillsbury, Kraft, Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s and McCormick & Co.

In the feeble category are brands such as Kraft’s Planters, Grupo Bimbo’s Entenmann’s, Chiquita’s Fresh Express and ConAgra’s Marie Callender’s.

Digital and mobile’s influence on the purchase funnel for the $321 billion packaged food market in the United States is growing. Yet, while packaged foods brands are investing heavily on traditional media they are just starting to invest online, with only half investing in content on product detail pages on Amazon and, per the report.

The Betty Crocker app has been downloaded more than half a million times

Packaged foods brands are also missing an opportunity on tablets by largely defaulting to the desktop site, failing to bring recipe content, which is what tablet users are mostly looking for, to the forefront.

One area where food brands stand out compared to other consumer packaged goods categories is apps, with a higher percentage of brands offering apps and these offerings having gained more traction, with food apps averaging 3,200 rating while only two personal care apps have achieved more than 900 ratings.

Room for improvement
Still, there is significant room for improvement, with only 19 percent of food brands offering an Android app, 40 percent of apps getting less than three stars in ratings and 38 percent not having been updated in the last 12 months.

“Food brands need to adapt their site strategy for both the smartphone and tablet device, pushing recipe content and nutritional information to the forefront,” Ms. Brehm said. “Consumers turn to their tablets when searching for recipes or following instructions while cooking – engaging with the device for a prolonged period of time as they prepare a meal.

“The mobile grocery shopper leverages couponing and shopping list apps – Target Mobile, Shopkick, Cellfire – while in-store that brands must optimize for,” she said.

“As customers test e-grocery for the first time, brands must prioritize their presence on Peapod, FreshDirect, AmazonFresh, all services available via mobile app, to optimize for the digital shelf.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York