Let’s make food shopping about food

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Supermarkets & convenience stores are following digital shopping trends, introducing new technology into physical stores to make shopping a modern, fun experience in a world of smartphones and tablet computers. Asda is due to have free WiFi in all its stores by the end of February. This means they will be able to send shoppers price comparisons and special offers. Similarly, Spar are introducing Amazon lockers as a fine new addition to free WiFi, mobile phone charging units and in store mobile apps.

Vince Bamford writes in the Grocer that Supermarkets must all turn to WiFi to compete in the world where we are shopping online more and more. Increased Internet access is inevitable so the shops do need to use this to their advantage to retain customer interest. But will digitising the food shopping experience distance the customer from its very core – the food?

Asda claim the free WiFi and promotional opportunities that go with it will ‘give our customers an enriched shopping experience’. You know what enriches my shopping experience? Good customer service.

Technology is awesome but there is a missed opportunity here. Supermarkets could use this WiFi and real-time connection to shoppers to add transparency to their supply chains. By adding QR codes to products for shoppers to scan, they could take people on a journey to the origin of their food – where was it grown, how did it get here. Use Australian McDonalds for inspiration. They could put a face on the food, introducing shoppers to the person who grew the ingredients for the product they are holding. They could even give real-time recipe ideas to help with the rest of your shop. Actually, the recipe ideas thing is already being taken care of by Platter, a brilliant food app, but all these things would be a lot more useful than ending up with three times as much food as I need because of an offer.

Access to information is brilliant when buying food. Labels often leave questions unanswered (horsegate, anyone?). Of course you can Google it but its often nice to ask a real life person. One of the main reasons I enjoy farmers markets and buying from small, local shops is that I can ask as many questions as I want (…at least until you get annoying). I can find out where those vegetables are grown; what goes into those sausages; when that chutney was made and by whom. You don’t have to ask questions but you can if you want to, the transparency is there.

It is inevitable that WiFi will soon be available everywhere we go. There is an amazing opportunity for businesses to connect with their customers on a more personal level in a more direct way than ever before. I just ask that they remember what brought them together. Let’s keep food shopping about food.

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