2011.28 | Mobile Virus | Supermarkets

photo credit: Matt MacGillivray via Flickr

Mobile Viruses – Hot on the heels of all of those mobile wallet proclamations over the past few weeks is news that an Android virus has been deployed that attempts to gather banking information from mobile users as they log onto mobile banking sites.  While not particularly surprising, it’s still relatively early days for mainstream mobile viruses.  For now, most savvy mobile users know from their internet experience not to click on suspicious links and not to connect to potentially unsavory wifi hotspots with any device – mobile or not.  This will avoid encountering most rudimentary problems for the present.

As the masses move to mobile, keeping this locked down tight will be impossible.   Expect a boom in mobile virus and security apps and even peripherals for home to cash in on the general public’s desire to protect themselves by buying something and not really having to think about technobabble.  For retailers it’s another potential point of concern for mobile POS as well as mobile and internet payments security.  Every consumer facing organization needs to assess their particular vulnerability based on their business and take appropriate security measures.  While all retailers appear to recognize the potential upside of using the consumer’s device to interface with consumers instead of using retailer owned assets, the burden of security doesn’t move to the consumer – raising a risk that must be considered as part if the plan for any mobile initiative.

Supermarkets – Trying to move consumers away from a price focus is driving some interesting initiatives in grocery as of late.

The recent use of smoky bacon aroma by NetCost stores in Brooklyn is an interesting twist on the business model of places like KFC.  One does wonders about the long term benefit of such a solution – will the smell of bacon always drive sales?  My personal experience is that if there is a constant odour (ever work on a farm or with someone with strong perfume), I will eventually overlook it.

In.gredients is setting up the first package free grocery store in the US.  I think it is a really cool concept.  I am very interested in how they establish their front end.  Without some serious thought around the process and customer flow, this will not be a very fast grocery store for check-out.  I expect scales at the door to figure out a tare (since they are zero waste, they would probably have to write the tare on the containers with a marker – no printer – no stickers.  At the front end would be a list of products with codes – no waste, no scanning, and each and every item would need to be weighed and identified manually by the attendant for pricing.  I’m sure throughput is not their current concern, but it’s an interesting problem to consider, nonetheless.  If such a noble idea takes off, there will need to be a solid process to avoid the whole store backing up and deflating interest in the venture.  Unpackaged in the UK appears to use a strategy similar to what I suggest in image 8 on their start page.

Safeway’s recent announcement around their new VIP Elite Customer program has some of the kind of things that have become common to loyalty programs and benefit cards – discounts for gas and specialty items like floral and deli.  What caught my attention is the increasing movement towards non-traditional benefits for the customer – things like more cash back and returns without receipts.  These items are exactly the sorts of customer conveniences I believe can drive customer loyalty more consistently than prices.  As technology empowers consumers to get better deals, it also allows retailers to tweak their operation to provide specific conveniences to suit the needs of their clientele.  It’s all about using what’s there today and putting the pieces together in a novel way – just as Starbucks did with mobile payment, and Tesco South Korea did with their Virtual Grocery Store in the subway.  Safeway even offers up their manager’s mobile phone number.  While this seems an odd choice, how better to collect input on the store than from those who invest the most in it?

Every grocery store is a little different, and it’s wonderful to see so many new ideas.  I was struck this week by the fact that even though I think most consumers believe grocery stores are the same everywhere, they really are not.

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