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    Expert Column: The Grocery Supply Chain Goes Mobile

    How grocery retailers and manufacturers can tap into 'unrealized potential' in mobile tech

    By Michael Bromme, Trace One

    While many industries have heartily embraced mobile technologies, the supply chain industry has been slow to tap the potential of mobile applications as a method through which it shares information with consumers. Mobile tools present a huge opportunity for food manufacturers and retailers to better connect with and inform their consumer base, while also gaining valuable consumer data.

    Brands are limited in their ability to communicate ingredient, allergy, production and other marketing or value-add messaging on their product labels.  Think about it: there is only so much real estate to work with when designing packaging. You cannot put an informational video on an apple – or a pizza box. Mobile technologies, like QR codes and other scanning tools, provide brands with an extended label through which they can share product information, market other goods and engage with consumers.

    According to a recent Deloitte study, mobile-influenced sales reached $593 billion in 2013. However, only about 29 percent of these sales are grocery sales. There is so much unrealized potential in mobile technology for food and grocery retailers and manufacturers. In addition to offering basics like product safety and ingredient information, food manufacturers could alert shoppers about sales, recalls and new, complementary products. They could target and advertise to those consumers based on their geographic data, but oftentimes they don’t. In fact, research shows that a number of the brands that do attempt to share information via mobile sites do so ineffectively, sending users to dead pages or un-optimized sites.

    Learning from clothing retailers 

    The food industry has a lot to learn from clothing retailers. How? By having customers opt-in and use their mobile app, large clothing brands know when we drive past their stores, and they can send push notifications about sales within those stores. After we have purchased a shirt, they can send a recommendation about the pants that would complete the outfit. Imagine the potential for the food industry.

    So, why haven’t food retailers and manufacturers mastered (or even broken onto) the mobile scene? The simple answer is that the data needed isn’t as shareable or as accessible as it would need to be. Most food retailers and manufacturers do not have accurate supply chain information and cannot identify their partners, let alone provide useful, real-time information to consumers. To solve this problem, food retailers and manufacturers must first know their supply chains, collect information and address regulatory issues. Only then can they input that smart data into a mobile application that can be distributed to consumers worldwide, furthering the relationship between brands and consumer loyalty.

    An example of a food brand that is using mobile technology to offer product safety information is ZEGO. Earlier this year, ZEGO launched energy bars with packaging that offers consumers real-time data with QR codes. When scanned, the QR codes provide consumers with test results for that batch of energy bars, and shows any measurable amounts of specific allergens. This kind of information increases consumer confidence in brands because they know the brand is being transparent about what is in its products.

    Right now, providing this kind of information directly to consumers is valuable, but not a necessity. In the near future, it will be a must-have for retailers due to both regulatory and customer demands. That change can be daunting, but well worth the increased sales and consumer confidence that comes with providing an added layer of intelligence on the ins and outs of the products you produce. 

    By Michael Bromme, Trace One
    • About Michael Bromme As EVP at Trace One, Michael Bromme has extensive experience in retail, grocery and consumer packaged goods as well as expertise in private label traceability.

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