Supermarkets Warm Up to Mobile Commerce. Finally.

Mobile CommerceI love grocery shopping. Not only do I love the process of figuring out what I’m in the mood to cook, food is probably the only thing I’m really obsessive about. I hate to run out of the things we use and need on a regular basis, so I’m at the market several days a week. But there’s always something I need that I manage to forget while I’m there. Which is why supermarkets focused on redefining the local grocer and making a move to mobile commerce makes me happy.

Considering that mobile devices are perpetually in our hands, ordering groceries using smart phones (or other devices) makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Actually, when you consider the data that exists about moms and their devices and how the two are inseparable, adopting mobile into the supermarket experience seems like something most stores would have done yesterday, but what do I know.

But for whatever reason, many supermarkets in the U.S. have been slow to embrace mobile tech, in spite of the fact that visits to retailer websites have been increasingly on the rise. That seems to be changing. MyWebGrocer, which handles digital solutions for over a hundred grocery retailers, launched an mCommerce app in January, 2013, with Campbell’s as an exclusive advertising partner. reported that visits to their retailers web sites have been doubling since 2009 and 10-25% of those visits are from mobile devices. And with the steady rise of smart phone use, grocery stories need to be paying attention and they need to be where their customers are – on their devices.

 The ShopRite Experience

The east-coast based ShopRite chain launched its mobile app in January of this year (link: http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/shoprite-simplifies-grocery-shopping-with-new-mcommerce-app), which allowed shoppers to order online for a scheduled pick-up or delivery or scan their items at the store and pay from their mobile phones. The app offers other functionalities to make grocery shopping a breeze, such as a recipe search, the ability to view recipes, create shopping lists, and clip digital coupons. The app also allows brands to advertise products within the app – another revenue center for grocery stores and a value ad for brands.

ShopRite app

One of the things I love most about the capabilities of mobile apps for the grocery experience is related to the things I forget when I’m at the store, distracted by kids or crowds or how much of a rush I’m in. An app like the ShopRite app remedies that, as you can have a virtual cart at the ready, at all times. When you think of items you need, you pop over to the app, put them in the cart and they’ll be there when you’re ready to shop. This alone equates to fewer trips to the store for me, for sure. If it’s already in your cart and ordered in advance before you visit the store, that’s one less thing to remember! Sweet!!

The Tesco Homeplus Story: A Grocery-Shopping Home Run

A great example of a brand understanding this and developing a shopping experience that suits their customers’ lifestyles is Tesco Homeplus, a South Korean grocery chain. They knew their customers were extremely hard-working and that their lifestyles left little time for shopping. The Tesco brand had fewer physical locations than the leading retailer and wanted to find a way to sell more products with fewer locations. They rolled out a campaign featuring virtual stores that exactly mirrored the way their stores looked in “real” life and they replicated these stores in areas like subway stations. This concept allowed customers to turn the downtime spent waiting for public transportation into something beneficial. They could shop a Tesco Homeplus store virtually by looking at items they wanted to buy — just like they did when they were in a physical location. They could then scan barcodes using their smart phones and the products automatically landed in their online carts, ultimately to be delivered to consumers’ homes at a time that was convenient for them. Did it work?

  • Some 10,287 consumers visited the online store using a mobile device after the campaign launched.
  • The number of registered users increased 76%
  • Online sales increased 130%
  • The Tesco Homeplus store is now the #1 store in the online market and a very close 2nd offline.

I’d say it worked. Here’s a video that shows more detail about the campaign, and it’s a great example of understanding your buyer personas, integrating their needs into your offerings and making it easy for them to buy from you. Oh and Tesco? They’ve now replicated the South Korea experience at stores in other markets, including the UK, with great success.

The Tremendous Benefits of Supermarkets and Mobile Commerce

Saves Time, More Efficient, Competitive Advantage. Supermarkets and mobile is a winning scenario for everyone. Mobile shopping saves consumers time, allows for greater effectiveness in the shopping experience (read that: makes forgetting things less of an issue) and it cuts down on the hassle factor of going to the grocery store. Supermarkets enjoy increased sales, happier and more loyal shoppers, and they have the ability to use this as a competitive advantage in the already competitive grocery industry. Brands win, too, as they get the opportunity to reach their customers through the in-app experience and deliver greater value, offer discounts, etc., as a result.

Cross-Device Functionality. One other thing that I like about the integration of mobile commerce into the grocery experience is the fact that it’s functional across devices. You can start a grocery list on your laptop, add to it on your tablet, then visit the store with your phone – and it’ll follow you across devices. I can’t imagine any device not being built with this in mind, but it’s especially important for a grocery shopping app.

Personalized Pricing and Rewards. We’re a rewards based-society and that’s as true of Millennials, many of whom are now becoming parents for the first time, as it is for Boomers living on a fixed income. Supermarkets are beginning to leverage the power of data really stepping up their game this year with personalized pricing. Safeway’s mobile app already offers personalized discounts through its mobile app — sending their shoppers deals on products via their Just For U loyalty program. Kroger also gives out 150 coupons a week to their mobile app users, and those coupons are based on relevance to the individual shopper based on purchase history. These personalized offers are already well received by the shoppers. Safeway reports that up to 45% of their sales now come from customers who are signed up to Just For U, which have thus far translated to a 1% increase in revenue.

Being “Awesome” is No Longer Enough. Be Useful Instead. “Don’t be awesome, be useful” is a line I routinely steal from my friend, Jay Baer, author of New Your times best-seller  Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help, Not Hype, and it applies as much here as it does anywhere. Grocery stores are a dime a dozen. And with competition from Target, Walmart, big box stores and online retailers like Amazon and Vine.com, the retailers who can make the local grocery shopping experience less arduous, more efficient and effective, more intuitive and tailored to our individual preferences, and more suited to our busy lifestyles — those are the ones who stand to nab the lion’s share of the market. We’re all living the same lifestyle. We’re busy, distracted and pressed for time – and we’re pretty tech savvy. Anything that retailers can do to streamline the shopping experience and make it easier for customers to buy, the more money we’re likely to spend.

What about you? Is your grocery shopping experience similar to mine? Wouldn’t it be easy to pop items into a virtual cart, place an order when you’re ready to shop and then have those items waiting for you at the store when you arrive? Or even better, delivered to your door at a time scheduled that’s convenient for you? Does your local store offer online shopping yet? If so, have you tried it out? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and what you see happening in your markets.

Other resources on this topic:

Business Insider: How Mobile Coupons Drive Mobile Commerce 
Retail Solutions Online: ShopRite Pilots Scan and Pay Mobile App 
Business Week: 2014 Outlook, Supermarkets Offer Personalized Pricing

photo credit: Fruitnet.com via photopin cc

  • paulakiger

    This is great! I imagine I am not alone in my (daily, sigh) grocery store trip — standing there toggling between my teenager’s text to remember her shampoo, my husband’s email with the recipe ingredients he needs, and twitter because sometimes you see things in the grocery store that just need to be tweeted :-) . I think I would be all over an app like this (especially back in the day when my kids were little and a trip to the store was a serious workout physically and mentally).

  • ShellyKramer

    I’m with you, Paula. It can’t happen quickly enough for me!!!!

You can also find me on Google+ Real Time Web Analytics