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By John Karolefski
We all remember the scene in the movie, "The Graduate," when an experience-laden senior whispers into Dustin Hoffman’s ear: “Plastics.” The implication was that plastics are the key to his future prosperity.
Nowadays, knowledgeable people are whispering into the ear of the grocery industry: “Smartphones.” They are a game-changer and the key to future prosperity for every grocery retailer.
Let’s look at the most recent evidence.
More consumers are using their mobile phones while grocery shopping to research and select products, check prices and get coupons along the way, according to the Mobile Audience Insight Report from NinthDecimal, a mobile audience intelligence company. The study of 1,200 smartphone users (57 percent male, 43 percent female) researched how mobile impacts their path to purchase for grocery shopping.
More than two in three consumers (68 percent) use their smartphones to learn about products by researching nutritional information, researching brand/product information, or watching product videos. To get ready for a shopping trip, almost nine in 10 consumers (86 percent) use their mobile devices to find coupons, create shopping lists or browse recipes. Finally, during a shopping trip, six in 10 consumers use smartphones to review a shopping list, search for product discounts or get competitor pricing.
These percentages may seem a little high, but they certainly complement other studies that report increasing shopper engagement via smartphones during grocery shopping. But would those percentages be that high if only Millennials were polled? Maybe. But their behavior is especially important because they will be starting families that traditionally rack up large grocery bills. But many Millennials don’t like shopping in supermarkets. These tech savants will be using their smartphone to order groceries for home delivery or for pick-up at the store. Such shopping behavior would result in a decline in foot traffic in stores and fewer impulse purchases.
So the real challenge is to encourage Millennials – and really all consumers – to shop in-store. The smartphone will be the source of deals, personalized offers, and maybe some fun stuff along the way. Some grocers are embracing this mobile mentality already. Lunds Food Holdings, operator of 13 Lunds and 13 Byerly’s upscale grocery stores in the Minneapolis and St. Paul marketplace, has enhanced its mobile app by adding several customer engagement and personalization features. Marsh Supermarkets has deployed a closed-loop iBeacon platform in its 75 stores to connect with shoppers carrying a smartphones and or wearing an Apple Watch. And there are others.
Some questions for grocers: Do you have a mobile strategy? Do you have a mobile app for your shoppers to download? Are you planning to deploy iBeacons in your stores?
The answers to those questions could determine future prosperity.