Using Technology to Deliver the ‘Endless Aisle’

For a long time, shopper marketing in the consumer packaged goods industry was focused on the brick-and-mortar structure of an actual store, the physical aisle. Now, as consumers seek to locate products anywhere and buy them at any time, grocers and brand marketers need to step up to the plate. Today’s shoppers want, and will soon demand, a highly personalized, mobile-enabled, and frictionless experience that delivers on the promise of the “endless aisle.”

Driven by the advent of mobile and location-based technology, the modern grocer’s endless aisle elevates the customer experience and extends it beyond the physical store visit. Brands are now empowered to deliver engaging experiences that capture consumer attention before, during, and after the physical shopping experience.

Building an Endless Aisle Marketing Strategy
Is your brand ready to adapt to the CPG shopping experience of the future? Is your grocery store equipped? Here’s a look at some innovative new technologies that are powering the next generation of shopper experiences:

1. Use Pre-Store Micro-Moments
One of the more interesting grocery research findings we’ve uncovered is that busy schedules and long to-do lists have fragmented the average shopper’s attention span. Consumers rarely perform dedicated “shopping trips” anymore. Instead, they have several small windows of downtime throughout the day — 20 minutes here or there while waiting to pick up a child from school or arrive at a doctor’s appointment — when they’re looking for productive things to do.

In a world in which grocery consumers value experiences, these micro-moments represent the perfect opportunity to engage customers with educational videos or life hacks like timesaving recipes, money-saving offers, or product alternatives before they enter the store. To capitalize on these benefits, grocers and CPG marketers need to build on the behavioral elements that drive purchase now and extend experiences across screens, beyond the grocery store, and around the clock.

For example, consider how Whole Foods Market is augmenting its loyalty efforts with personalized rewards and in-store experiences. Beyond its physical, experiential marketing tactics like cooking classes and store tours, the company recently rolled out a digital coupon app that allows shoppers to scan their smartphones at checkout to capitalize on discounts from brands and other offers.

Included in the app are opportunities to engage outside the store, like a grocery list function and a database of more than 3,800 recipes that shoppers can review and import to their grocery lists. In some cities, they can also create a list and schedule an order for delivery via Instacart — the ultimate convenience for a customer on the go who wants to take care of a week’s worth of grocery shopping in the 20 minutes between errands. This is a convenient add-on, but it's also a risky behavioral shift for shoppers who might be better served with an interactive, in-store engagement app that encourages product discovery and POS sales.

2. Engage Through Usage, Not Clicks
App Annie found that time spent in apps is up by 25% over last year. Because consumer attention is the currency in marketing and advertising today, grocers and marketers need to understand that it’s time spent that matters, not click-throughs or downloads. Those seeking to engage shoppers should focus their efforts less on enticing new consumers and more on immersing existing ones into their brand experience.

When Barilla wanted to raise awareness for a new product during a hectic holiday season, when there would be a lot of competition for their attention, the brand knew it would need to approach consumers in a special way. Barilla therefore engaged consumers throughout their shopping journey with video content and in-store rewards that incentivized physical product engagement at the shelf.

Using this strategy, Barilla was able to achieve a 1/3 purchase conversion rate, with 2/3 of users first becoming aware of the product through the campaign. And on days when Barilla ran in-store takeovers in its key retail channels, there was a 2-times increase in product discovery — all during an otherwise noisy and busy holiday season.

3. Pursue Mutually Beneficial Campaigns
The strongest argument for interactive engagement in the grocery store is that endless aisle solutions benefit brands, grocers, and consumers alike. On one side, cutting-edge marketing technology finally enables CPG marketers to achieve closed-loop attribution for their efforts. On another side, grocers gain additional foot traffic, more navigation and exploration in-store, and movement from the perimeter to the center aisles. Finally, consumers have a more entertaining shopping experience, save money, and accumulate rewards simply for doing the shopping they’d already planned to do.

However, the key for introducing technology in the grocery context is that the bells and whistles must provide value and not take away the key drivers of a successful trip for shoppers: convenience, efficiency, and the ability to get what they need while sticking to their budget. CPG marketers, and grocers must carefully consider how they can make the shopper’s typical path through the store more fun without adding friction. This approach will transition consumers away from their familiar in-store shopping patterns — grabbing mundane products and checking things off the same old list — to a state in which they’re willing to pay attention to what’s new and change their behavior accordingly.

Your brand or grocery store doesn’t have to build a record-breaking mobile app to succeed. Simply consider how you can incorporate turnkey mobile technology that satisfies and engages these new consumer behaviors. Take this opportunity to consider the role that interactive technology plays in your current customer interactions and how delivering an out-of-the-box, endless aisle solution can deliver better results for your marketing efforts.

About the author
Bill Demas is chief executive officer of Shopkick, a rewards-based shopping app that launched in 2009. Shopkick has worked with more than 300 brands and operates in roughly 360,000 retail locations.