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Digitalization of Grocery Shopping

  |  June 1, 2010   |  Comments

Four examples of how mobile apps and devices are changing the way we shop.

Last time, we looked at how digital technologies are impacting considered purchases like consumer electronics or an important article of clothing. Digital technologies are changing the way we shop, and it's fairly easy to see that impact when it comes to heavily researched purchases like those two categories. It may be harder to spot changes happening with consumer-packaged goods, quick-serve restaurants, and grocery purchases, but the impact and ongoing shifts in consumer behavior are no less significant.

Consider how these technologies are already affecting the way we shop in these environments:

There's an App for That - Grocery iQ

Granted, this particular app has mixed reviews in the iTunes store, but you can see the potential. Paper grocery lists have worked for - well, ever. But it seems like it ought to be easier, especially for hard-core foodies. Every week, budding gourmet chefs around the world browse cooking magazines and books on the hunt for new flavors and/or new combinations of old favorites. To build a week-long menu means comparing the ingredient list of your desired recipes against your household inventory, plotting against your consumption curve, and then creating a list based on those careful (or if you're like me, those "just eyeball it") calculations.

Grocery iQ doesn't solve all of that, but it's a step forward - and is only one example of what's out there now, let alone what's on the horizon. On the surface, it seems like a simple shopping list application. Dig deeper, though, and you'll see it syncs with the cloud, allowing multiple users to contribute to the same list. When your significant other adds something to the list on his or her iPhone, you get a push alert on your phone. You can also apparently organize your list based on the aisle layout of your particular store, optimizing your list for the fastest possible trip through the store.

Today, it's a somewhat awkward replacement for the old paper list. But tomorrow, it's a fully integrated and mobile-enabled "smart list" that will take the thinking out of most grocery trips. What does it mean for any brand selling stuff in a grocery store?

There's a Device for That - Modiv Media

This idea is simple and incredibly powerful - you walk into the store, grab a cart, and pick up your personal shopper device. Part PDA (define), part UPC-scanner, this is a friendly machine that promises to simplify the check-out process while also revolutionizing how you shop. It connects directly to the store's loyalty program, learning your preferences and predicting your desires. You scan as you go, adding items both to your cart and to your check-out tab. No need to stand in line to pay at check-out anymore. And, as you shop, the device knows what you've bought on past trips, what you've got in your cart currently, and yes, it knows what aisle you're standing in. All of that information turns the device into a ridiculously smart personal shopping assistant - or perhaps more appropriately - a personal chef or sommelier, at the ready to guide you on a culinary journey (or at the very least, to help you navigate the grocery store and discover deals and items that are relevant to your interests). For marketers, it's a targeting dream. Buying chips? How about a coupon for dip? Entering the frozen food aisle? Here's a deal on ice cream. You're a historic Bud Light buyer? Let me see if I can tempt you to try Coors Light instead. And so on.

There's a Cart for That - MediaCart

Similar in some ways to Modiv, MediaCart has attached a small LCD screen to the far end of a regular grocery cart, and equipped the handle with a UPC-scanner and controls for the screen. Store maps, narrowly-targeted ads, and more appear on the screen as you shop. As with Modiv, MediaCart integrates with store loyalty programs and understands your buying history. It also knows what's currently in your cart and where you're at in the store, triggering highly relevant offers. Coming soon is integration with an online shopping list at your grocery retailer's website.

There's a Kiosk for That - TableTop Media

TableTop Media's Ziosk promises to change the dining experience at quick-serve restaurants. It's a small, wirelessly-connected touch-screen device that sits on your table and provides an interactive dining menu along with games, Web-based content from the likes of MSNBC, weather forecasts, movie trailers, and more. It understands the pace and flow of the meal and will tempt you with timely offers, allowing the restaurant to upsell you on that dessert as you're nearing the end of your main course. It makes payment easier as well with an integrated credit card reader and receipt printer. It'll keep the kids entertained while waiting, takes some pressure off the wait staff, and helps the restaurant deliver a more satisfied customer overall.

These are just four simple examples of how technology is changing how we shop, and they are truly the tip of a massive iceberg. If you're curious, also look into the impact of RFID (define), mobile couponing, digital signage, and facial recognition cameras. It's all coming soon to a store near you - unless it's already there. Either way, it foretells massive changes in how marketers communicate with people around these kinds of products and services.


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Jeremy Lockhorn

Jeremy Lockhorn leads the emerging media practice (EMP) at Razorfish. The team functions as a think-tank on new technologies and next-generation media, and operates as an extension of current client teams. EMP is focused on driving groundbreaking marketing solutions for clients. Jeremy is a filter, consultant, and catalyst for innovation - helping clients and internal teams to understand, evaluate, and roll out strategic pilot programs while reinventing marketing strategies to leverage the power of emerging media. Jeremy joined the agency in 1997 and is currently based in Seattle, WA. His Twitter handle is @newmediageek.

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