Mobile drives new ways of shopping—and selling

June 14, 2012

Shoppers aren't the only ones to gain with mobile. Virtual grocery stores are being tested along commuter paths.

Food buying in 2012—it’s not the way moms used to do it.

No longer do chief household shoppers rely only on their own wits, energy and leg power to make the family food budget work each week.

According to NPD Group’s National Eating Trends survey, about 25 million Americans each month use coupon apps on their smartphones to find grocery deals. Households with kids do this the most—and they eat plenty of eggs, cold cereal, bacon, sausages, macaroni and cheese, soup and fruit juice.

More than half of the nation’s consumers know about Groupon. About one in five receives e-mails regularly from the deal-a-day website—and just about as many (60 million+) say they read them at least monthly,

Moreover, 55% of consumers have gone online for recipes within the past year.
A separate NPD report associates social media and app use with more brand loyalty. It also indicates that about 7% of U.S. consumers visit at least four to six times a year “to look for food or beverage products they may be interested in purchasing.”

A CouponCabin-Harris Interactive survey reveals that 40% of smartphone users have redeemed a coupon on their mobile devices. And 29% use hand-helds to search for coupons at least monthly—led by 40% of Millennials in the 18-34 age group. Grocery coupon searches are far more common (39%) than non-grocery (23%).

Smartphones in hand, the connected consumers of 2012 have the resources to ‘tilt the playing field’ in their favor. They can instantly acquire product prices, ingredients, user reviews and more. 

For instance, 41% have used or requested a coupon while on their mobile devices in-store, 26% have scanned a QR code for product details, and 14% have read item reviews, reports Nielsen.

E-tail buying is also different using technology:  Tablet users spent 54% more per purchase than smartphone users ($123 vs. $80) and 21% more than desktop or laptop users ($123 vs. $102) in the 2011 holiday season, says Adobe research. They tend to be more affluent and males age 18-34. Moreover, in the 2012 National Retail Federation Research State of Retailing Online survey, 49% of retailers say their average order value via a tablet is now higher than traditional Web sales.

Just as consumers elicit information with their fingertips, food retailers are starting to think they’ll buy the same way.  In 2011, Tesco placed virtual stores of its Homeplus chain on subway platforms in Seoul, South Korea. Commuting shoppers scan products’ QR codes with their smartphones and request a delivery time. Peapod emulates this in a pilot at Chicago’s State and Lake Station tunnel, with deliveries possible as early as the next day.  According to TIME, it is one of 15 regional commuter rail pilots that might help Peapod “roll out pop-up grocery stores overnight without committing to much more than a time-limited ad buy.”

The vast majority of shoppers still go to stores, of course. It appears they’ll soon be able to pay with their smartphones too. According to the New York Times, Visa, Discover and Mastercard are pushing stores to upgrade their payment terminals to accept smart cards. And they’ll make stores responsible for any fraud losses if they don’t comply.