Research Says Mobile Grocery Apps Fall Short of Potential

Friday, August 23, 2013

Consumers have turned to mobile applications to meet a variety of needs. But when it comes to the grocery store, shoppers are somewhat disappointed with current options according to research by Nancy M. Childs, Ph.D., Gerald E. Peck Fellow and professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“There’s a disconnect between what consumers want in a grocery store app and what they’re getting,” Childs says. “When these apps fall short on delivering what shoppers actually want there’s a missed opportunity for grocery stores.”

Although online shopping has taken the place of going to stores for a variety of consumers’ needs, grocery shopping still remains something most shoppers want to do in person. Childs’ review of existing research and interviews demonstrate consumers want apps to make these trips to the grocery store more efficient and economic. Her research is assisted by the Peck Research Panel, an expert panel of grocery shopper and mobile applications experts.

“Grocery store app users are looking for three main things: value, exclusivity and ease of use,” Childs says. “It’s not mobile commerce. It’s mobile-assisted commerce.”

“Shoppers want something special for downloading these apps, whether it’s exclusive savings or just a more convenient shopping experience with personal touches,” Childs says. “It’s about the consumer feeling in control of their mobile relationship.  They respond to emotional rewards for app use, as well as the expected shopping benefits.”

While most grocery stores offer some kind of mobile application, many fall short of delivering on these demands. Shoppers have indicated they often know more about these apps than the store’s cashiers — which leads to awkward and uncomfortable experiences. Non-users are often worried about details like how often the apps will push out notifications or whether they’ll take up valuable memory space on their phones.

 “If the app doesn’t provide an immediate benefit or seem easy to use the first time a shopper opens it, they’ll delete it forever.  People are very unforgiving about app performance.” says Childs. “Grocery stores need to have these offers meet the general shopper’s needs, not just the tech-savvy users.”

The research is Child’s first-year findings as part of the Gerald E. Peck Fellowship, a three-year research program. The Peck Fellowship is pursued jointly with the Academy of Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University and FMI (Food Marketing Institute). She is now studying the different types of users who download these apps in an effort to better understand how grocery stores can reach these users.  

Childs can be reached for comment at 610-660-1643, or by email at .  The report is available from Childs or can be downloaded from FMI at:

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