The face of retail is changing. In 2014, 75% of all persons over the age of 15 had made purchases online, with that number steadily increasing in the years since. Customers have not only come to expect but actively demand more convenience and ease of access from the brands they purchase from. Offering competitive pricing isn't enough anymore, grocery retailers need to start thinking about investing in mobile technology to stay competitive.
Coupons Aren't Dead
Mobile coupon apps such as Flipp have already become a staple amongst today's modern shopper. Flipp compares the weekly flyers of multiple retailers all in one place, so a user knows where to go to get the best deal on their purchases. A Nielsen study entitled "The Future of Grocery" noted that more than 50% of respondents use their smartphone while shopping to compare prices and products, while another 40% use their devices to look up coupons to save while in store. Leveraging a properly executed mobile strategy, coupled with in-store technology can provide shoppers with valuable in-store offers, rewards, payment options, and access to additional product information. Furthermore, grocers will have access to analytics on their customers' traffic patterns, buying habits, and crucial areas of up-selling. Perhaps a customer only wants to buy the items specifically for a recipe; with mobile technology, utilizing a grocery store's app to select meals and then identify the purchases needed all in one trip is both valuable to the customer and ensures sales for the retailer. Additionally, shopper engagement can be bolstered by integrating loyalty programs, coupons, gift card redemptions and mobile wallets all within a mobile app.
The Rise of Mobile Wallets and Orders
An exciting area where grocery retailers can harness mobile technology to their advantage is with mobile pre-orders and payment options. Successful retailer Wawa utilizes a mobile ordering system that allows their customers to log-in to their mobile app, select their store and customize their order, pay when they arrive at the store and go. The app alerts the selected location when their customer is close in order to prep their order, ensuring it's made fresh for when the customer arrives. Services such as these save customers valuable time not waiting in lines at deli or lunch counters, but can still actively encourage them to visit your retail locations. Another timesaver for in-store patrons is through wayfinding technology. Streamline your client's shopping trip by providing suggested shopping routes, digital floor plans, a product finder, and special mobile-only in-aisle offers.
Next-gen technology can be leveraged as well to ensure a shopper's experience is maximized. Mobile pay is starting to be widely embraced by customers and retailers alike, but what if you could take the experience one step further? Mega-retailer Walmart and Albert Heijn in the Netherlands have introduced a scan-while-you-shop system. When done properly, the shopper scans an item, pays directly via the mobile app and then exits the store. This frees up checkout lines for customers who prefer to pay for items with traditional payment methods. In fact, a study by ABI Research predicts that 2017 will the be the turning point year in mobile payment options, where people begin to abandon physical wallets in favour of mobile ones.
Virtual Stores Are a Viable Reality
Going forward, stores are going to become extensions of the mobile shopping experience. Virtual stores are a current industry experiment, being used to facilitate the task of shopping during a person's busy day-to-day. In South Korea, Tesco has taken up the task of creating these virtual stores. They install posters of products with QR codes in high-traffic areas, such as subway stations, that allow a potential customer to scan the QR code via mobile app, select and pay for the desired items and then collect them from a physical store.
Some Final Thoughts
So while the benefits of a mobile-friendly shopping experience have enormous advantages for the shopper, the real power of mobile solutions for grocers lies in the dashboard and analytics that can be harnessed on the retailer's end. They provide real-time tracking of how each location is performing; providing buying and stocking level trends, scheduling in-store staff to be at maximum efficiency depending on customer volumes, and understanding customer buying patterns is all possible via mobile solutions. Supply chain management can become even more efficient, as mobile tracking can send notifications and alerts in real-time for what items need to be restocked in which locations.
What it all comes down to is the ability to link the ease of digital purchasing with the demand for fresh physical groceries. Mobile stands poised as the optimal tool to bridge the two shopping experiences. A fully-integrated mobile solution provides the necessary tools to converge the online and offline buying habits of customers, and in turn, ensures that a grocery store's physical retail locations become an integral extension of their mobile strategy.
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