Indys Talking Tech

This June issue of Progressive Grocer Independent features Part 2 of our exclusive research study on Technology and the Independent Grocer, which we have undertaken in partnership with the Center for Advancing Rretail and Technology, the National Grocers Association, and The Retail Feedback Group to address independent grocers’ need for technology information.

Part 1 of the study, published in our February 2014 issue, covered digital and marketing technology. Part 2, which was sponsored by Boone, N.C.-based ECRS Corp., focuses on in-store systems and operations technology.

What I found interesting it writing up the survey results was just how much mobile and digital technology has found their way into the brick and mortar store as well as operations functions. At the front end you have mobile payments and tablet-based POS systems beginning to gain a foothold, and interactive touchscreens (as well as tablets) are now being found throughout the store – almost as an evolution of kiosks – as a way for shoppers to access a deeper level of content such as recipes and food pairing information, and these are increasingly being tied into shoppers’ loyalty programs and digital coupons.

On top of this, cloud computing is making its way into operations technology with a pay-as-you-go model, enabling retailers to leverage technologies previously too expensive for independents and small chains, such as price optimization, or third party HR and payroll services. As cloud based systems, there is no cost for installation, and no resources needed for upgrades, which happen automatically on the vendor side.

And now we are tapping into low-cost consumer-facing mobile tech for initiatives as in-store location-based marketing and traffic analysis, leveraging inexpensive ibeacons and shoppers existing mobile devices.

Indeed, if there is one thing I learned from both of the technology studies we’re published this year, is the fact that we are still not taking care of the incredibly powerful tools that are already available to every independent grocer – and that is their smartphones, their employees’ smartphones, and their shoppers’ smartphones. There are so many things that can be done just with these devices alone, from a marketing standpoint, and we are not taking full advantage of them to drive real engagement with shoppers.

Here’s an example. It’s one level of engagement to post a tweet from your mobile phones letting your followers know that you have farm fresh produce. But how much more engaging would it be to post a photo of yourself at a local farm holding tomatoes you have just picked, with a note that those same tomatoes will be on your shelf in two hours?

But you can go even one step further. Encourage your customers to post a reply to your tweet saying how wonderful those tomatoes tasted in their salads. Now you have real engagement. Once you have your customers acting as social advocates for your brand, it will have a ripple effect among all of your social media followers. Encourage your employees to do the same. Those who have been there long enough to understand your brand should leverage their individual expertise. For example, your butcher should have his or her own twitter handle (perhaps included on a nametag and should engage his customers on all things meat-related. Most people forget the “social” part of social media, but that’s the most important part!

The beauty of many of these technologies is the fact that they require little to no up-front costs, and few – if any – dedicated resources to deploy effectively. And this means they are ideal for independent grocers.

Enjoy Part 2 of Technology and the Independent Grocer, we know you’ll find some useful information within. And let us know how these results match up with your operations!

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