Traditionally, grocery stores haven’t been the quickest food and beverage category to embrace the wonders of technology. That’s not to knock the acumen of grocery store marketers – it’s just how it is. Many people still value the nostalgia and old-fashioned aspects of the grocery shopping experience, and any technological enhancement would just seem out of place.
Don’t get us wrong – grocery stores have made some progress when it comes to transitioning into the 21st century. Self-checkout lanes are here to stay, online grocery shopping with drive-thru pickup seems to have caught on, and many stores have added a variety of list-making and grocer- planning tools to their websites.
But a rise in smartphone use and the inevitable growth of a shopper base that demands high-tech tools have caused some stores to take their efforts one step further. Here’s a look at four ways that grocery chains are embracing technology as a way to put the “super” back into “supermarket.”
We all know how frustrating it can be sometimes to find certain items in a grocery store. Those signs that hang from the ceiling aren’t nearly specific enough and some products – like marshmallows and salsa – are never where you expect them to be. Shoppers at Publix Super Markets don’t have to worry about that anymore, thanks to a feature on the store’s mobile website allowing customers to look up the aisle number for specific products at each of the chain’s 1,000+ stores.
No a Publix shopper? No problem. Smartphone apps like aisle411 also offer store maps and product locations for hundreds of stores nationwide.
RISE OF THE APPS
Just about every major grocery chain has its own app these days, and Winn-Dixie and Whole Foods are no exception. Winn-Dixie’s smartphone application allows customers to reorder prescriptions and even offers friendly reminders when it’s time to take that medicine or schedule doctor’s appointments. Whole Foods’ “Market Missions” app encourages shoppers to eat healthy by giving them more than 70 challenges (or missions) to tackle. Completing a challenge earns users a badge – for example, reaching for fruit instead of sweets will earn you a “Fruitastic” badge – which can be shared via Facebook and other social media channels.
Stop & Shop has taken the aforementioned self-checkout aisles to a new level with a mobile app called SCAN IT! that allows shoppers to scan bar codes with their phone while they shop so they can bypass the cashier and bagging process entirely. The app tallies your bill and charges the total to your bank account, which means no more waiting in long checkout lines. The next step in that process could be arriving soon, however. An Australian company is working with IBM to install RFID tags in grocery items. Sensors would then automatically total your bill as you place goods in your cart, charging your account when you leave the store.
Denver-based grocer King Soopers knows grocery shopping with kids can be a hassle and that those fun kiddie car/shopping carts are only half the solution. The chain’s car-shaped carts are now equipped with small TV screens inside the car that play kid-friendly programming like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Bonus for marketers (and this might explain how they offset the cost of the upgrade): A second screen targets parents with 30-second commercials about various products in the store.
MARKETING LESSON: Everything – eventually – moves into the 21st century. Including a time-honored tradition like grocery shopping.