Retailers around the world are scrambling to understand how the smartphones in the pockets and purses of their customers can be utilized in a meaningful way. When the web appeared on the scene in the mid-90s, many retailers quickly realized that the it offered a way to sell to customers that were not situated in a market in which they already had a bricks and mortar store. While these online virtual retail outlets can also be reformatted and accessible via mobile devices, many retailers have realized that is only the tip of the iceberg. The mobile platform gives the retailer an additional just-in-time channel to their customer that can be utilized to increase loyalty and improve customer service. For example, offers can be pushed to users to encourage them to visit the store. In-store customer service can be improved by using the smartphone to answer questions about a product, or even to help find a product in the store.
Grocery is a retail category that typically do most of their selling in-store. We’ve been studying the role of mobile in retail by partnering with Forest Hills Foods, a grocery store here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Together, we’ve studied a variety of uses cases that involve their customers, from in-store bargains and how customers help each other find products. The outcome of these efforts has been a Forest Hills Foods Android application. We’d encourage you try out this experimental app and let us know what you think.