The Digital Pantry

Today’s the day we turn the clocks forward, which means you lost an hour of sleep – or an hour of productivity, depending on your viewpoint. Either way, it’s just what you didn’t need, right?

Consumers are already time-starved and sleep-deprived, and grocery shopping can be a dreaded chore. Millennial consumers, many of whom are just setting up independent households and starting families, have been a disruptive element, also, with limited loyalty as well as limited budgets.

IMAGE CREDIT: Anthony Munoz

Online grocery shopping, home delivery service and digital tools for pantry management may provide relief to both shoppers and marketers.

Schwan’s has been making home deliveries of frozen foods since the 1950’s, and they’ve become a major e-tailer of frozen foods. Peapod was one of the first online home-delivery companies, and they now offer curbside pickup and have placed coded transit ads that act as virtual stores.

IMAGE CREDIT: FastCoDesign.com

Other companies have sprung up to service metro areas like New York (FreshDirect) or Los Angeles (Spud). National retailers are in on the action, too, as shoppers turn to WalMart, Target, Walgreen’s, and Amazon for non-perishable groceries, paper goods and pet supplies.

Although online shopping tends to curb in-store impulse buying, basket sizes are larger because there is a greater mix of pack sizes and categories available. Marketers can attract online grocery shoppers with easily navigable sites, improved search, and shared shopping lists – and all of these can be delivered at desktop, or, even better, via mobile.

Apps from stores like Walgreen’s and Wal-Mart use geo-fencing to help direct consumers around the retail environment, offer coupons and refill prescriptions. Ahold, which owns Stop & Shop and Peapod, has begun rolling out an app that combines loyalty rewards and mobile checkout. Once the consumer launches the app, it presents offers based on her purchase history and allows her to skip the checkout counter by scanning items with her mobile phone.

Consumers also use mobile apps for couponing and grocery list generation/pantry management. GroceryIQ, Out of Milk and Grocery Gadget include features like integrated couponing, list sharing, and the ability to scan barcodes in your pantry so you can keep track of what you need to – or like to – buy.

IMAGE CREDIT: Overlapps.com

Appliance manufacturers are rolling out more and more “smart” appliances, like Samsung’s (admittedly overpriced) smart fridge. The internet of things is already here. Think about it: if we were to combine a smart fridge that could communicate with printed electronics on intelligent packaging to send you a mobile message when the milk is about to expire, or could understand when we’re out of apples, or was integrated with a database of favorite recipes…

IMAGE CREDIT: Ashley Legg

Has technology helped in your pantry? Let me know in the comments.

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Image recognition online and in-store

Have you ever seen something new and wondered where you could get one for yourself? Of course you have. Up til recently, you’ve had two options: ask the owner about it right then and there, or troll the internet with your best guess as to appropriate keywords so you can find it. In 2011, Google introduced Search by Image, which allows users to drag an drop an image into Search. Google uses image recognition technology to find best matches to your photo. Internet retailers like ebay are exploring this technology to make mobile shopping experiences easier. Do you like that car, those shoes, that watch? Point, snap, search, buy!

Image recognition works both, ways, however. Not only can shoppers use it to search for similar products online, but retailers in Japan can use facial recognition to identify repeat customers and tailor shop windows to their preferences. Some stores already use security cameras to record shopper traffic, and could use similar cameras use these to track individual consumers. Other stores, mainly in Europe, are using “spy mannequins” equipped with cameras to provide similar tracking data. This technology has allowed stores to make store displays more relevant, but it can make shoppers uncomfortable. In the U.S., the FTC has issued opt-in guidelines for facial recognition. For the truly paranoid among us, there’s always camera-confounding makeup.

IMAGE CREDIT: yourpopfilter.com