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Five Tips to Engage Customers in the Aisles

Gone are the days in which  grocery store employees greet and know every customer who walks through the door. Instead, major grocers now serve thousands of customers daily and are limited to serving them via face-to-face interaction at checkout lines, customer service counters and when employees are restocking shelves. While this change in grocery operations is understandable -- and necessary to meet shopping demands -- the use of technology in-store is severely lacking. Businesses must begin relying on mobile technology and in-store signage to greet customers and alert them of sales, coupons and special promotions.

According to the Food Marketing Institute, nearly one-third of shoppers search for online coupons before their trip and use their smartphones for tasks such as creating shopping lists, finding recipes and researching products while in-store. The increasing number of consumers who incorporate mobile devices into their shopping experience creates a highly unique opportunity for grocers to utlize this same technology and meet customers where they are already active. By doing so, businesses can reconnect personally with consumers and boost customer loyalty, while delivering more profitable and effective promotions. Unfortunately, to date, only a small percentage have seized this opportunity.

Grocers can easily implement a strategic mobile engagement program through a few essential tips:

Extend the Aisle

Customers crave information, wanting to have any and all necessary information to make a buying decision right at their fingertips. Grocers can capitalize on this by providing in-depth product details via text code or in-aisle beacons that direct shoppers to a mobile microsite. By having all information at the forefront, customers will have the added confidence knowing they are making a smart purchase.

Win the price war through exclusive incentives

When contemplating near-field communication (NFC) technology, most retailers think to implement it at the cash registers. However, companies can utlize this emerging technology on the shelves by offering deals and coupons to consumers who hold their mobile device in close proximity to the NFC chip placed by a certain product. Not only does this benefit the consumer by offering exclusive incentives, but it also produces profit. Using this technology, grocers can save the time and money it takes to create and distribute coupon booklets or deal sheets, and instead update digital alerts daily to remain ahead of the competition. Today, NFC is only open on Android platforms but it is expected that Apple will open access to developers soon.

Embrace product reviews and demos

Customers want to know the product they are interested in purchasing will actually satisfy their needs, and positive reviews can give them that desired comfort. Offering direct links via text codes or QR codes on store displays is a creative way to display third-party endorsments from like-minded consumers. Additionally, store-made videos showing products in use is another way to use digital displays, so consumers see exactly how to operate a certain item.

Use games to reward loyal customers

Shopping should be fun! Grocers can create a social media game by inviting customers to compare points with fellow shoppers or introduce new guests via Twitter or Facebook based on buying patterns. By pushing special offers to shoppers who take certain actions, such as an in-store scavenger hunt or filling a basket with $100 worth of merchandise, the path to purchase becomes a competition for consumers and leads to more profits for the grocer.

Always be listening

In the end, the best way to engage consumers is to listen to them. It is essential all businesses give consumers 24/7 access to online customer service through their mobile devices and leverage social media to respond to questions and service inquiries. The more a grocer listens and addresses comments, complaints and concerns, the happier the customer.

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