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Supermarkets have begun to embrace mobile technology such as smartphone apps, Quick Response (QR) codes and more as the number of their customers who are comfortable with electronic devices increases, reported The Wall Street Journal. Millennial shoppers (ages 16 to 30) are especially important to retailers as they become customers, due to growing up with technology.
While the grocery business does not have large profit margins, smartphones are convenient to retailers because they can invest in the technology without spending a lot of money. Offering customers easier ways to shop will also increase store loyalty, according to IBISWorld analyst Agata Kaczanowska.
A Massachusetts pilot program that allowed customers at three Stop & Shop stores to scan items' bar codes using an iPhone app and bag the items as they shop has been received positively, according to parent company Ahold USA. The grocer had teamed up with mobile-shopping marketing company Modiv Media to launch the program, which tied the app to customers' rewards cards and allowed them to receive targeted specials and coupons.
Quincy, Mass.-based Ahold USA plans to extend the program to 18 more Stop & Shop locations, and possibly make it chain-wide in the future, while Modiv, also based in Quincy, said that it has committed to creating similar programs for two other major chains.
Mobile technology for in-store use could help cut down on store's labor costs, while potentially increasing sales for companies that accept online orders. Online grocery services Peapod Inc. and FreshDirect both receive approximately 10 percent of their orders through their respective mobile apps, according to the report. Other chains in the United Kingdom and South Korea have experimented with apps that allow customers to scan QR codes from a poster to order them for home delivery.
Other chains have more in-person uses in mind for their apps; Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer is adding geolocation capabilities to its app to assist customers with locating items on store shelves, according to a spokesman.
However, in many cases, the industry is moving faster than their customers; the most common use of supermarket apps is to locate nearby stores.