October 19, 2011, 4:44 PM

Mobile app helps shoppers steer their grocery carts

A map shows precisely where products are located in aisles.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

The app not only displays product locations, but can offer shoppers a retailer's coupon.

Navigating inside a grocery store may no longer require looking up to read overhead signs and then scanning every shelf in an aisle. Point Inside Inc. has introduced a mobile app that displays a supermarket’s interior layout and pinpoints where specific products are located within the aisles.

The technology, which relies on a retailer supplying daily inventory amounts and the store layout to Point Inside, will get its first large-scale use when Meijer Inc., No. 319 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, expands what has been a five-store test to all of its 200 stores over the next couple of months, says Todd Sherman, Point Inside chief marketing officer.

Meijer’s version of the app, called Meijer Find-It and available for the iPhone and Android smartphones, currently is available for stores near the company’s Grand Rapids, MI-based headquarters. Meijer began testing the app last year. The merchant did not immediately respond to an Internet Retailer inquiry for comment.

The app enables retailers to better understand their consumers’ shopping and buying habits, Sherman says. Retailers can see which items consumers place in the app’s shopping list and compare that against the ones they actually purchase, he says. Retailers also can offer coupons within the app as the customer approaches an aisle. The shopper taps the coupon pop-up to add it to a digital coupon wallet.

Retailers can also monitor how many shoppers are in a store and using the app, and gauge how much time the shoppers spend in the store and in specific aisles, Sherman says. That can reveal which items are garnering the most attention, he notes.

Point Inside charges a set-up fee and a recurring licensing fee, but Sherman would not disclose those rates.

Comments | 4 Responses

  • Applications such as Point Inside's and Aisle 411 are pretty cool and should help time-starved consumers save time, frustration and complete more of their purchase needs in their "banded shopping window". However they rely on two notoriously poor pieces of data. One is the planogram information that the retailer supplies never matches what the consumer finds in the store. So the consumer will likely find peanut butter at about the location the application reports but that chances of finding the product at all are only about 75% and finding the product at a specific location on the shelves is less than 50% according to over 200 planogram compliance studies across many categories in thousands of top grocery chains performed by ShelfSnap. The second input data upon which this app depends is, in many cases the image of the product. About one third of all the products in any given category handled by Meijer or other major retailers do not have any images at all in the manufacturer's database (or the service companies that provide image services). This means if one of those unrepresented products are the consumers product of choice the app will make it look like the store does not handle. Another third of the products actually on shelf, are represented by images which do not match the package on the shelf. This causes customer confusion and frustration. When the image and the package on the shelf do not match, in 2/3rds of the cases the nutritional data has changed as well. This study too was generated via hundreds of test cases using the ShelfSnap service.

  • Are we going to start seeing more shopping cart collisions as a result of people watching their smart phone rather than where they are pushing the cart? Seems just like using your phone while driving a car. Maybe some states will make a law, to make it illegal to push a shopping cart while on a phone... This is not something that enhances out lives, but rather shows that these smart phones are making us dumb...

    • Oh I couldn't disagree more! What's desirable about aimlessly wandering around a super-sized grocery store for 15 minutes looking for baking powder? Or sippy cups? Or dog biscuits? Or, or? We're not talking about intelligence reduction here, we're talking about efficiency boosting. I agree that smartphones are saturating our life experiences, and I also agree there are times to turn them off, especially socially (really? you're TEXTING at this party?) But, let's compartmentalize things appropriately here. When it comes to increasing the efficiency of a usually painful task, it's a good thing!

  • Have you ever used an iPad via Cellular Service when in the middle of a grocery store surrounded by walls of tin cans? Most stores are not WiFi enabled, so until that happens, it's going to be a while before apps like these take off.

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