October 2, 2012, 11:38 AM

Peapod launches 100 virtual grocery stores in commuter rail stations

Consumers scan bar codes with their mobile devices to fill their carts.

Lead Photo

One of the e-retailer's virtual grocery stores found in commuter rail stations.

After testing the concept in Philadelphia and Chicago earlier this year, online food retailer Peapod LLC is greatly expanding its virtual grocery store program in commuter rail stations. Today it’s launching more than 100 virtual grocery stores at stations in Boston, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

The virtual stores feature billboards of grocery aisles on train platforms. Commuters with iPhones, iPads or Android phones scan a QR code on the billboards to download the free PeapodMobile app and start shopping on the spot by scanning bar codes of the products displayed on the billboards. First-time Peapod customers must register on Peapod.com in order to complete their first PeapodMobile order on their smartphones.

On average, commuters in the cities where Peapod delivers spend an hour in transit to and from work each day, Peapod says. With the Peapod virtual supermarket, consumers can get orders started, make selections from Peapod’s entire online store and schedule home deliveries, making the most of their train rides, says Mike Brennan, COO of Peapod.

“Getting your groceries on the way home from work just got a whole new meaning,” Brennan says. “With schedules that are more demanding than ever and people spending 200-plus hours a year in transit, our hope is that consumers will take advantage of our virtual stores and mobile app while they’re on the go and enjoy the time saved when they’re at home.”

Peapod’s East Coast virtual store ads feature products that typically fill weekly grocery shopping baskets, including staples like coffee, condiments and cleaning products; soft drinks, snacks and cereal; milk and bread; health and beauty products; and fresh fruits and vegetables. In Chicago, virtual stores feature Peapod’s selection of “Chicago’s Best” prepared foods, from 30 of the city’s restaurants and hometown brands, such as Wildfire, Big Bowl, Eli’s cheesecake, Chicago Butter Cookies, Intelligentsia coffee and Goose Island Beer.

Once they’ve launched the PeapodMobile app, customers have access via mobile commerce to more than 11,000 products, from grocery basics to farm-fresh produce; meats and seafood; prepared foods and party trays; deli meats and cheeses, sliced to order; Kosher, organic and specialty foods; and office, school and pet supplies. A variety of beer, wine and beverages are also available in select markets.

Peapod, No. 52 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has teamed on the project with national consumer products brands including Barilla, Coca-Cola, Kimberly Clark, Proctor & Gamble and Reckitt Benckiser. Brennan says the virtual grocery stores enable Peapod and its brand partners to reinforce messaging. “We all know how challenging it can be to get the attention of consumers in a meaningful way,” he says. “When we piloted the virtual aisles in Philadelphia and Chicago earlier this year, we found that the advertising stopped people, it engaged them. That’s what we’re after.”

Peapod, owned by Dutch supermarket company Royal Ahold, says it expects half of it orders to come through mobile devices by 2014. Soon after building its iPad app, Peapod said it found that iPad users spend more, on average, than the typical Peapod ticket of $150.

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