A whole grocery store at your fingertips
Jan 04, 2013 (The Columbus Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Want to make a grocery list Peruse the grocer's weekly advertising circular Clip coupons
Grocers are now making it possible to accomplish these tasks and more with your mobile phone.
Mobile grocery-shopping applications have been around for a while. A year and a half ago, Cincinnati-based Kroger quietly launched an application that enables shoppers to do everything from thumb through weekly ads to refill prescriptions with their mobile phones.
"With 106 million people in the United States owning a smartphone, it was logical to give our customers an app that ... enhances the shopping experience," said Jackie Siekmann, media and government relations manager for Kroger's Columbus-area stores.
The Kroger app has caught on. Customers of Kroger-owned stores have downloaded the app for iPhones and Android phones 1.5 million times, Siekmann said.
An added benefit for the nation's largest grocery-store chain: "Shoppers who engage digitally with us are much more loyal shoppers," she said.
There are two sides to the loyalty coin: Shoppers who use Kroger's mobile app also tend to be more price-conscious, Siekmann said. That can be problematic, given mobile-phone shoppers' habit of "showrooming" -- visiting brick-and-mortar stores to find an item to buy, and then using a mobile phone to find a better price elsewhere.
"Nearly 50 percent of shoppers are using mobile devices in-store to inform a decision to walk out the door and complete their intended purchase online," according to a report by the market-research firm NPD Group. Even so, logic says that is more likely to happen with a big-ticket item than a carton of milk.
Chains such as Kroger are counting on their mobile apps to engage shoppers and get them to visit more often.
For the Columbus area's largest grocery chain, that means enabling customers to personalize shopping lists and add digital coupons to their loyalty-card accounts. Kroger has been updating its app every 30 days since this past summer, Siekmann said.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has had more experience with its mobile shopping application, now several years old, and its app includes more features. Customers at Walmart stores can create their shopping lists by typing items into their mobile phones, but they also can speak items onto their lists, using voice-recognition software, and add items by scanning UPC bar codes with their phones, said Wal-Mart spokesman Ravi Jariwala.
Last year, Wal-Mart added "geo-fencing" at its 4,000 stores. That means its application now recognizes customers' locations. "As you open the app, we will prompt you and say, 'Hi, it looks like you're in one of our stores. Would you like to enter store mode ""
In store mode, shoppers can access their shopping lists and learn of new items, prices and aisle locations in the store, Jariwala said. The app also can tell them what items' prices recently have been reduced.
"When we launched store mode (last) year, we did so with very little fanfare," Jariwala said. " There was no marketing. We just put it out there. And we saw, within two weeks, 60 percent of customers who were prompted to enter store mode did so."
Increasingly, shoppers are using grocery-store apps to find healthful food.
An iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch application by Whole Foods Market puts thousands of recipes, including some for special diets -- such as gluten-free -- at the tap of a fingertip. Shoppers can use the recipes to build shopping lists or find Whole Foods locations that stock hard-to-find ingredients.
Meijer grocery stores expect to launch an integrated mobile app next week, said Frank Guglielmi, public relations director for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based grocer, which operates 14 supercenters in central Ohio.
Like Wal-Mart, Meijer has had mobile apps for years. Unlike Wal-Mart, the Michigan grocer has six separate apps for pharmacy, coupons, recipes and wines, as well as apps that locate items in stores and alert shoppers to special deals.
"Next week, we are planning to launch a new app that unifies many of the features into one app," Guglielmi said in an email. It will be available for both Apple and Android devices.
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