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    Supermarkets Experiment With Smartphone Apps

    Retailers across the world are using apps, QR codes and other technology to connect with customers.

    NEW YORK -- Supermarkets have begun to embrace mobile technologies such as smartphone apps and Quick Response Codes (QR codes), as the number of their customers who are comfortable with electronic devices increases, The Wall Street Journal reported. Millennial shoppers (ages 16 to 30), who have grown up with technology, are especially important to these retailers to capture as they become grocery customers.

    The grocery business does not have large profit margins, so smartphones are convenient to retailers because they can invest in the technology without spending a lot of money. Offering customers easier ways to shop will also increase store loyalty, according to IBISWorld analyst Agata Kaczanowska.

    A Massachusetts pilot program that allows customers at three Stop & Shop stores to scan items' bar codes using an iPhone app and bag the items as they shop has been received positively, according to parent company Ahold USA. The grocer had teamed up with mobile-shopping marketing company Modiv Media to launch the program, which tied the app to customers' rewards cards and allowed them to receive targeted specials and coupons.

    Ahold plans to extend the program to 18 more Stop & Shop locations, and possibly make it chainwide in the future, while Modiv stated that it has committed to creating similar programs for two other major chains.

    Mobile technology for in-store use could help cut down on store's labor costs, while potentially increasing sales for companies that accept online orders. Online grocery services Peapod Inc. and FreshDirect both receive approximately 10 percent of their orders through their respective mobile apps, according to the report. Other chains in the U.K. and South Korea have experimented with apps that allow customers to scan QR codes from a poster to order them for home delivery.

    Other chains have more in-person uses in mind for their apps -- Meijer is adding geolocation capabilities to its app to assist customers with locating items on store shelves, according to a company spokesman.

    However, in many cases, the industry is moving faster than its customers. Currently, the most common use of supermarket apps is to locate nearby stores, the newspaper noted.

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