What Grocers Need to Learn From 5-Year-Olds


Smartphones are miraculous for my generation.

For my 5-year-old daughter’s generation, while these devices may be “awesome,” they are hardly astounding. To them, digital is just part of the landscape and has seemingly always been here.

That point was really driven home for me recently when I was asked to present to my daughter’s New Jersey kindergarten class, which was doing a track on supermarkets.

I recycled an old industry Powerpoint by removing most of the text (the kids can’t really read yet) and retaining only the slides with the most interesting images. On presentation day, I was feeling pretty good as I flipped through pictures ranging from shopping carts to fruit displays, explaining how each fits in.

Towards the end of the talk, I showed some SN magazine covers, including one that displayed a smartphone. I asked, “How can you use a phone like this in shopping?”

That’s when the surprise began. These kids rattled off a full list of how mobile ties into shopping, including some aspects that stores haven’t even really embraced yet.

“You can make a list on the phone.”

“You can contact someone at home with a question about your list.”

“You can use it to locate products in the store.” (Not many retailers have GPS capability yet.)

“You can order online.”

“You can use the phone to pay for what you’re buying.” (This is currently a subject of experimentation in the grocery sector by companies including Google.)

These kids are already aware of how smartphones will become embedded in the shopping experience.

Many food retailers are experimenting with mobile in one form or another, and one company that stands out is Ahold USA, the winner of this year’s SN Technology Excellence Award for its efforts. That  company became a pioneer last year when it translated its popular in-store handheld device used for scanning and obtaining targeted offers into a smartphone app for shoppers.

The impact of mobile devices doesn’t mean the in-store experience is any less valuable. But that experience can’t proceed divorced from digital. It must be integrated.

In the near future, these capabilities will no longer be differentiators, but will instead be expected by kids and their families. Failure to embrace the mobile trend could cause stores to lose shoppers.

So move fast. Because 5-year-olds aren’t too patient.

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Julie Gallagher

Julie Gallagher’s delicious foray into coverage of the food industry was purely accidental. With a background in technology, she joined Supermarket News as associate editor of its Technology...

Liz Webber

Liz Webber is Senior Digital Manager at Supermarket News. She covers fresh foods for the magazine and creates multimedia, blog posts and other content for the website. She joined SN in August 2012.
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