Shopping cart miniature stands on laptop keyboard.

Mobile Shopping

March 28 2019Hermann Hänle

From the loudspeakers, Benjamin the Elephant is trumpeting for Junior, his sisters in the rear are protesting vehemently against the unbearable use of the CD player. Mum is trying to calm things down (“Simon too is entitled to 15 minutes of fun. After that we can listen to Abba again …”), Dad – and driver – is at his wits’ end and reaches out for the last straw: “There comes a McDonald’s straight ahead …”

Car trip combined with shopping

We do not know how this ordinary family will react to the offer, but journey time is e-commerce time. In theory, yes. At least that is what the Digital Drive Report from PYMNTS and P97 wants us to believe. In the United States, 99 million networked commuters got behind the wheel and drove on average 51 minutes a day in 2018. Apparently, they account for an e-commerce volume of 230 billion US dollars. Instead of merely driving from home to work (and back), the journey time can be used for something much better – namely, shopping.
Typical things that Americans buy during their daily commute include gas, coffee (!), meals and groceries. Groceries – known as weekly shopping in German – that are purchased by customers are either delivered or prepared to be picked up. As far as the pickup method of purchase is concerned, Walmart evidently had a field day last year: “curbside” pickups apparently gave the retail giant a slim lead ahead of Amazon (!) in the online business: in November, 33 percent of US consumers said they did their recent online shopping at Walmart, whereas only 31 percent made their purchases at Amazon.

Digitalization merges two worlds

Using an app for your weekly shopping and/or online payment en route to/from work appears to be the sensible thing to do – especially if the supermarket is directly on the way. It’s also convenient if the purchases can be delivered to your office. I’d be a bit more careful with frozen products – unless the “workplace of the future” also has freezers for its employees. To maintain the work-life balance.
Sentences like “Honey, I can pick up bread from the baker’s on the way home” show that the American “buy while you commute” culture is almost entirely unknown in the (European) world. Apps and networking now bring this culture to a digital level. And it also makes it possible for customers to get the products much faster. In our opening example, this would mean that the front-seat passenger (or the driver by voice control) would order the burgers and fries, make the payment, drive to the parking lot, report his arrival, present the QR code of the paid bill and have his survival kit brought to him. Convenience all the way. Does it sound too utopian?

New business model or USP?

The car as a branch of the supermarket – I have to get used to the idea first. As an intermediary (or platform provider), this combination then offers automotive OEMs the opportunity to directly participate (as a kind of “reseller” or “affiliate marketer”) in the money flow of the retail business – perhaps via specific connected car functionalities. At the very least, these value-added services will result in more intensive user contact and integrate the car further into the user’s everyday life. This too could initially become a differentiating factor and later, after it is established, could even become a hygiene factor when buying a car. Or an asset in the struggle to win an interface to customers, as BMW Chief Krüger recently mentioned at the DLD. “Side airbags and a close-knit battery exchange network are okay for me. But have you also integrated a retail app?”

And if we continue down this road … obviously we do not spend all our mobile time in a car: public transportation, trains, airplanes … “buy when you travel” could have many facets. As long as the plane does not crash when someone’s ordering hand lotion …

About the author
Porträt von Hermann Hänle, Senior Manager, Sales Marketing Automotive, T-Systems

Hermann Hänle

Head of Global Automotive Marketing, T-Systems International GmbH

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