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

 

 

 

 

When reality is not enough

IMAGE CREDIT: Wired.com

On your way to meet a friend in the city, your smartphone starts notifying you of local points of interest. At a museum, you skip the old-school audio tour for a pair of Google Glass specs, which display pertinent information as you look at each part of the exhibit. As you shop online, you can “try on” clothes and jewelry, and view yourself in the computer monitor. And most important of all, you can share these experiences with your friends and family.

All of these experiences are possible through augmented reality, or AR, technology. AR adds a layer of computer-generated data, images and sound (and someday, touch and smell!) to our experience of the real world. This all sounds like sci-fi, but AR is already here. My smartphone already has a few AR apps – and yours probably does, too. Yelp’s Monocle function made it one of the first apps to use geo-location data to overlay reviews on top of data from an iPhone camera lens – this was back in 2009.

I’ve also got Skyview, which uses my phone’s camera, compass, gyroscope and geolocation data to present me with information about the night sky. My son and I find this to be way more fun than his telescope.

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How Yelp sees my back yard. All the fun stuff is a long walk from here.

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My world, through Skyview’s lens.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marketers are using AR all over the place. Last year, IKEA’s 2013 print catalog debuted an interactive component. Smartphone users can download an app which unlocks video, 3D content, additional photos and more, when pointed at catalog pages with a tag by Metaio.

Goldrun is another AR mobile platform, successfully combining AR engagement with social sharing and consumer rewards. Last year they partnered with the NFL to let fans try on the Giants’ virtual Super Bowl ring and share photos of them wearing it.

Giants fans show off virtual Super Bowl 2012 rings via Goldrun. IMAGE CREDIT: Goldrungo.com

AR is a great way to create an emotional connection with a brand, but right now there’s no killer app for it. Like the clunky ol’ QR code, AR requires the user to download a variety of apps for different uses, and there are multiple tech developers. Until this functionality is somewhat standardized and baked in to smartphones, glasses, auto windshields, or clothing, it will be less than transparent and immediate. One also wonders how the content will be monetized, once it is all “baked in.” Could our AR experience someday look like this spoof of the Google Glass promo video? (The real version from Google is here.)