How grocers can improve in-store retail through mobile

Data-driven technologies leveraging AI and machine learning help retailers and brands elevate the customer experience as consumers use their phones more often in-store.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
Elizabeth Christenson profile picture
guy shopping on mobile phone

Twenty-eight percent of U.S. customers shop with a mobile phone, with the top reason for mobile usage being to search for offers, discounts and product information, according to a report from Pymnts. In turn, grocers are looking for ways to leverage the in-store experience through mobile interactions.

Grocers have an opportunity to boost customer engagement and exceed the expectations of shoppers who browse the aisles in-store while simultaneously on their phones. Retail Leader spoke with Shekar Raman, CEO and co-founder of Birdzi, about how grocers can improve the in-store retail experience through mobile, including data-driven technologies leveraging AI and machine learning to help retailers and brands elevate the customer experience.

Retail Leader (RL): How are mobile devices aiding consumers’ in-store grocery experience?

Shekar Raman: Mobile devices have impacted the in-store experience in many ways. They allow retailers to communicate with their customers during the shopping journey. Push notifications triggered by location can alert customers to relevant items on sale while they are shopping, what better time to reach them?

Shekar Raman
Shekar Raman, Birdzi's CEO and co-founder

Mobile devices also have taken a lot of the friction out of shopping. One of the main goals customers have when selecting a retailer is to save money and find the products they need in as little time as possible. Retailers can help by creating easy-to-use mobile apps that offer product location and information, product label data, shopping lists and recipes. 

This touchpoint can also elevate the shopping experience by creating a more personalized experience. Digital coupons and ad items organized by relevance make it easy for the shopper to take advantage of savings just for them. Personalized product recommendations not only delight customers but also help grow them by expanding the categories and brands they shop.

The bottom line is that mobile devices enhance the in-store experience, so it is imperative that retailers leverage this technology to make the shopping experience as easy and enjoyable as possible. If one retailer doesn’t take the time to incorporate mobile experience into their customer journey, another retailer will. 

RL: What are consumers primarily using their mobile devices for in-store?

Raman: I can speak to what we’ve seen in the customers of our retail partners. When we look at the data it shows how price-conscious shoppers are these days. The most visited pages by far are coupon galleries and weekly ads. Coming in after that would be the things that make the shopping experience easier like the shopping lists and recipes. 

RL: When on their mobile devices are consumers using the grocer’s app, website or other sites?

Raman: When on mobile, our retail partners’ customers are using the retailer apps. I think whether or not users go to the retailer’s mobile app or another app depends on the ease of use and relevancy of their store app. If the retailer app has everything the shopper needs, there is no reason for them to look elsewhere.

RL: How are grocers able to create a personalized experience for consumers through mobile devices?

Raman: The answer to this is twofold. There are all of the options stated above; ads and coupons arranged according to relevance, updates on favorite items, personalized product suggestions, etc. The other side of this is the data made available through user engagement. When users interact with the retailer’s app and identify themselves through a loyalty program, the retailer can then begin to collect data on price sensitivity, average basket size, product preferences, brand loyalty, etc. Additionally, when retailers offer greater personalization in exchange for user-supplied information like dietary restrictions, health goals, age, etc., the retailer can continue to tweak and adjust their personalization efforts on a one-to-one basis. It’s like a snowball, the better the app, the more the user uses it. The more the user uses the app, the better the data. The better the data, the better the app is for the user, and so on and so on.

RL: Do you think these current economic headwinds have consumers using mobile devices more in store? If so, why?

Raman: Economic headwinds absolutely have a part to play in the increase in mobile usage. Consumers are challenged with stretching their income to meet their needs among rising grocery costs. Mobile devices have forever changed the game when it comes to price comparing and bargain hunting. Who hasn’t found an item in-store only to Google to see if they can find it for less elsewhere or head straight to Amazon? 

The economy has also left shoppers with less time. Working longer hours, both parents working and limited affordable childcare options all create a greater need for quick, efficient and seamless shopping experiences. Mobile apps are key to making this happen through product locations, mobile checkout or push notifications on nearby items on sale.

RL: How are mobile devices currently using artificial intelligence (A)I-enable technology to help with in-store experience? How do you expect AI-enable tech on mobile devices to continue to evolve?

Raman: AI-enabled technology on mobile devices is currently improving the in-store experience through personalized recommendations, virtual assistants, visual search and augmented reality. In the future, we can expect even more advanced personalization, smarter visual search, improved AR experiences and enhanced customer service through AI-powered chatbots.

RL: Where do you expect the use of mobile devices in the retail experience to evolve the most?

Raman: In the retail experience, I expect the use of mobile devices to evolve the most in the following areas:

  • Mobile payments — Mobile devices will continue to play a significant role in transforming the payment process. 
  • Omnichannel integration — Mobile devices will further bridge the gap between online and offline retail channels. Retailers will increasingly focus on creating seamless omnichannel experiences, where customers can browse, purchase, and receive support through their mobile devices regardless of whether they are in-store or online. 
  • Location-based services — Mobile devices will increasingly leverage location-based technologies to provide in-store navigation and send targeted promotions and personalized offers to customers when they are near or inside a store. 
  • Enhanced customer service — Mobile devices will continue to play a crucial role in delivering personalized and responsive customer service. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants will become more advanced in understanding customer needs, providing real-time assistance and resolving issues.