Industry News

Bringing supermarkets into the smartphone era

November 17, 2020
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This post is sponsored by Acosta.

Smartphone use among grocery shoppers has risen 22 percentage points in the past five years to 89%, and the devices are changing the way consumers shop for food and household items. The acceleration of online grocery ordering due to the pandemic has spurred even more consumers to integrate their mobile devices into their shopping routines -- from making digital lists to redeeming coupons. In this interview, Acosta Senior Manager of Business Intelligence Christina Davis explains the findings of Acosta’s report “The Mobile-ization of Grocery Shopping,” including how retailers can make the shopping experience more mobile friendly.

Christina Davis, Acosta senior manager of business intelligence
Christina Davis, Acosta senior manager of business intelligence

How are smartphones and other mobile devices changing the way consumers shop? 

Smartphones give shoppers unlimited access to information at their fingertips. Shoppers are taking advantage of apps that provide the ability to do pre-trip planning (e.g., list making, coupon collecting, etc.) and in-store or online shopping activity on their phones in a more convenient and streamlined fashion than ever before. Shopping can be done anywhere, any time -- no longer limited to a physical store or a computer.

How has the pandemic sped up the timeline on digital grocery orders and spurred even more consumers to make mobile devices part of their grocery shopping routine?

The unique circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have certainly escalated the online grocery timeline as shoppers’ priorities quickly shifted. Nearly half of all shoppers turned to online grocery shopping early in the pandemic, and a large portion plan to stick with it, at least some of the time. Subsequently, this turn of events has led to much higher usage of mobile devices in stores -- everything from accessing loyalty cards, to digital list making, to redeeming online coupons.   

How can retailers make the store experience more mobile friendly?

The store experience should encourage and reward shoppers who engage with the retailer’s mobile tech/app for an immersive experience that goes beyond mere shopping transactions. Retailers should:

  1. Encourage mobile usage in store for real-time offers and meal solutions
  2. Design easy-to-navigate aisles to accommodate multi-tasking shoppers
  3. Create circular/flyers that are easily viewable via mobile phone
  4. Integrate mobile-enabled signage throughout the store (QR codes, linkage to retailer app/store specific map)
  5. Deliver offers to in-store shoppers that are easy to access and download to a mobile device
  6. Encourage retailer social media check-ins via a mobile device; explore incentives for posting/sharing meal/recipe/promotion info
  7. Deliver convenient check-out solutions that leverage mobile capabilities

What can retailers do to engage younger shoppers while not alienating older generations who may not be as comfortable with mobile tech?

Retailers must offer a full suite of digitally enabled shopping tools/services as noted above to maintain relevance with younger shoppers. However, the majority of older shoppers are defying stereotypes and becoming more accustomed to mobile tech as 82% of baby boomers report owning smartphones. Regardless of technical prowess, all shoppers expect good customer service, and retailers risk alienating shoppers by transitioning to an all-tech approach. They must offer employee-manned checkouts, clear signage in stores, good assortment, fair prices and a loyalty program not totally dependent on mobile engagement (e.g., only require a phone number). Coupons or other offers only accessible online or via an app are the primary issue that may alienate shoppers uncomfortable with tech, but many of them may not realize the extent to which they may be missing out, or it’s not worth it to them to engage with the app to find out. 

How important is it for grocery retailers to have an app, and what can they do to ensure their app has the functionality consumers are looking for?

Offering an app has become a core shopper expectation for a grocery retailer of any size except the smallest bodegas. Shoppers expect pre-trip planning tools (e.g., list making) and instant access information on store services, product assortment, prices, sales, personalized offers/rewards and online ordering options. 

A retailer’s app should:

  1. Deliver the store circular in an optimized mobile device format
  2. Provide mapping by individual store that will guide shoppers efficiently
  3. Allow shoppers to easily build their grocery list using the app, whether it's an in-store shopping trip or an online/e-commerce order
  4. Customize the in-store shopping experience by delivering real-time promotions for grocery list items or those that complement the list
  5. With permission, cue shoppers on their mobile device when they approach an aisle/store section with a grocery list item
  6. Allow in-store mobile ordering of service items like meat/seafood, prepared foods, etc., to eliminate wait times for custom orders
  7. Integrate check-out services with the grocery app, whether it’s directing shoppers to the shortest checkout lane, allowing mobile scanning to skip the traditional check-out or allowing mobile payment

For more information on how smartphones are changing consumers’ shopping habits and what retailers can do to keep up, download Acosta’s report “The Mobile-ization of Grocery Shopping.”

Christina Davis is a senior business intelligence manager for the Acosta Strategic Advisors Thought Leadership Team. She has 25+ years of CPG and pharmaceuticals experience working across all areas of the marketing research spectrum from both the client and consulting sides. Her strengths are leveraging consumer and shopper insights across syndicated data and primary research to launch major brands and to develop shopper marketing and category management programs. Christina has a BS in Applied Mathematics from Georgia Southern University and an MS in Statistics from Georgia Tech.