Mondelez Makes New Call to Startups for Retail Tech

'Shopper Futures' Will Cover Mobile Payments, Check-out Systems And More

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Picture yourself standing in line at a supermarket. Now imagine that you are at home, ordering groceries online, and then picking them up curbside a few hours later. In which scenario would you find yourself buying a pack of gum or candy bar at the last minute?

Chances are that shoppers will make fewer impulse buys when using modern shopping methods like curbside pickup, at-home delivery and speedy self-checkout. And that's a problem for gum and candy brands that have long enticed shoppers with check-out aisle displays.

"The biggest battle we are fighting right now is one for attention," said Laura Henderson, head of U.S. media and communications for Mondelez International, whose brands include Trident, Oreo and Cadbury. Whether it's fewer people entering checkout lines, or shoppers burying their heads in their smartphones while there, "it's clear that we need to be really disruptive to gain and hold attention."

But while new technology has created this issue, it might also solve it. At least that is one of the goals for a new Mondelez program that will pair its brands with startups in the hopes of creating new technologies that address the marketer's retail challenges.

The effort, called "Shopper Futures," will cover the check-out experience, mobile payments, loyalty programs, shopper analytics, inventory optimization, interactive displays and more. In early August, Mondelez will host a pitch day for startups at its office in East Hanover, N.J. The nine startups with the best ideas will be paired with Mondelez marketers and a retailer to work on U.S. and Canadian brands including Trident, Dentyne, Oreo, Halls, Ritz and Cadbury. The teams will get 90 days to design a market-ready pilot. So far, two retailers have signed on: Albertson's and QuickChek.

The program follows a similar effort called "Mobile Futures" that was launched in 2012 and was aimed at mobile marketing solutions. The output included one venture called Betabox that adapted traditional sampling to the digital age by linking brands with ecommerce partners. In February, Mondelez sold Betabox to digital agency VaynerMedia for an undisclosed sum.

But the goal of the two "futures" programs is not necessarily about making money by creating and selling startup ventures. It is more about fostering a startup mentality within the walls of Mondelez, which is among the world's largest food companies.

Rather than slogging through a lengthy request-for-proposal process, Mondelez marketers participating in Shopper Futures must move quickly, while working in tandem with developers of cutting-edge tech. "It allows us to be really focused and get exposed to smaller, earlier-stage startups that we may not have previously been exposed to," Ms. Henderson said.

Mondelez has already been tackling modern snack marketing challenges by boosting its ecommerce capabilities and hiking its mobile marketing spending. The company is nearing its goal of dedicating half of its North America media spending to digital by 2016, Ms. Henderson said.

Ecommerce efforts include adding "Buy Now" buttons on owned, earned and paid media platforms in 25 markets that link to more than 130 retailers' websites. In stores, Mondelez has experimented with wifi-enabled beacon technology that can ping apps if a shopper is approaching a Mondelez brand.For instance, if someone is nearing the cracker aisle, they might be delivered a notification to alert them to a mobile coupon offer for Ritz.

This year, Mondelez created what it says is the largest CPG-owned beacon network and tested it with its Ritz brand and two partner apps. Shoppers who had the apps installed and received in-store notifications bought three times more Ritz than those who did not, according to Mondelez. "We know there is certainly a rich opportunity in reaching the right people in store with the right offer," Ms. Henderson said. "The possibilities are endless."

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