A Challenge Worth Accepting

The push for retailers to develop their own mobile apps or work with a third party to do the same is nothing new. However, many questions still remain about how these apps can best be used by grocery retailers and shoppers. Should apps offer a mobile payment component, what is the best way to engage shoppers through social media, and most important, what features are shoppers looking for in the so-called "perfect" app?

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) recently conducted research in conjunction with St. Joseph's University to answer these types of questions and outline how food retailers can capitalize on consumer behavior as it relates to mobile apps. The report, "Digital Grocery Commerce: Exploring the Potential for Grocery Shopping Apps," identified personalization and exclusivity as the two most important features for a mobile app.

Says Nancy Childs Ph.D., professor of food marketing at the university, "The study suggests that the best retailer app must engage the consumer and encourage feedback, thus creating a two-way conversation. By integrating, sharing, creating, reviewing and suggesting, food retailers can drive sales opportunities and foster positive relationships with their customers through mobile technology."

Smart retailers will take note of the emphasis on two-way communication. Establishing an interactive dialogue with customers via social media is key to engagement. The adage, "Listen more, talk less" applies here as much or more than it does to person-to-person conversation.

Researchers also determined that grocery apps that offer exclusive discounts to its users, integrate existing loyalty and incentive programs and push relevant or even personalized digital coupons or sales offers will have the leading edge in the next 18 months.

"This potential for consumers to access information, savings and convenience through a mobile app enables a dramatic transformation in the retail industry," says Childs.

As adoption continues, shoppers are demonstrating their willingness to use their grocery store's mobile app. In fact, an earlier FMI study found that 65 percent of shoppers are interested in receiving information on weekly sales through a mobile app, and fully 72 percent of shoppers are already connected to their retailer through social media.

Impressive numbers to be sure, and now the onus is on food retailers to deliver the type of information and features that their shoppers value. A challenge, yes, but one that promises potential for significant organic growth.

As adoption continues, shoppers are demonstrating their willingness to use their grocery store's mobile app.

– Jennifer Acevedo,

[email protected]