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Beyond The Shopping List

Today's mobile apps find products in the store, link to rewards cards and even estimate your shopping bill.

In an industry that already operates on razor-thin margins, grocery stores are always desperate to find ways to retain customers, increase their visits to stores, and make their grocery shopping as relevant and convenient as possible. It's no surprise, then, that in today's mobile-dependent world, grocery stores are beginning to compete with each other in the realm of mobile technologies.

Understanding how mobile has affected the grocery store industry at large gives us a wider perspective on how mobile research and marketing trends are transforming entire industries.

Here's a quick overview on how a few individual players have uniquely tackled mobile:

Safeway's Just For U: In early summer 2012, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway launched its Just For U mobile shopping app that can be used to download personalized deals to the store's rewards cards.

Giant's Mobile App: Launched in March 2011, Landover, Md.-based Giant Food LLC's mobile app lets customers access and monitor their Gas Rewards points and A+ School Rewards, as well as receive personalized savings deals. The app links to the grocer's loyalty cards, and allows for downloads of store circulars to mobile devices, and specials to users' rewards cards.

Wegmans' Mobile App: Wegmans Food Markets, based in Rochester, N.Y., recently revamped its mobile app. It now allows users to create multiple shopping lists and estimate costs, view Wegmans recipes and have the ingredients added to a shopping list, and even scan bar codes on items in their refrigerators to add the products easily to a list. The lists can be tailored to specific store locations, in terms of the aisles where the items can be found.

Market research from The NPD Group's National Eating Trends report reveals that more than 25 million Americans use coupon apps each month. These customers are usually in households with children. Interestingly enough, smartphone users appear to be more loyal to name brands than money-saving generic items.

The mobile revolution also offers new opportunities for grocery stores to collect and track consumer data in ways previously unheard of, which can lead to more streamlined decision-making around offers and campaigns. As long as consumers are receiving tangible benefits, they're getting on board.

Just this small slice of grocery store mobile activity is revealing: Mobile apps that are linked to loyalty cards enable stores to better understand consumer behavior. Related deals are then pushed out to those users, making the mobile shopping experience both personalized and relevant. Finally, by integrating all of these aspects with other features, such as shopping lists that use geo-location to help shoppers identify an ingredient on the shelf, it's easy to see that mobile has the potential to completely transform the shopping experience.

In pushing out deals to mobile-enabled customers and making shopping more convenient, the overriding goal of these grocery chains is to make themselves attractive enough to keep customers from switching to Target and Walmart. In the end, it's all about connecting to people where they are, which means reaching them through their mobile devices. What is your business doing to become fully mobile-optimized?

Elizabeth Alton is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers mobile market research and technology trends. Her work has appeared in USA Today, The Huffington Post, PolicyMic, Technorati and many other publications. You can find her latest work on these subjects online at

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