By Sue Wilkinson, Senior Director, Information Service & Research, Food Marketing Institute  
Mobile Apps for Independent Operators
The world of mobile apps can be confusing for large companies let alone independent operators.  FMI Connect speaker David Ciancio, Principal, Peak Loyalty LLC, provided background on how shoppers’ ubiquitous use of mobile technology is changing the shopping experience and the food retail environment making mobile apps an important consideration for the independent operator.

Ciancio commented that shoppers’ lives have been transformed by technology. Shopping trips are more complex, diverse and unpredictable and retailers must anticipate shoppers’ preferences to earn their loyalty and grow.  It is estimated that by 2020, apps will be more dominant in people’s lives than the World Wide Web.

At the same time, retail has transformed from the idea of a physical store with a focus on brands and categories, to a shift where customers are in control using their mobile devices, demanding personalization, shoppertainment and real time data.

How does the independent operator develop a mobile app to reach this customer in control?  Ciancio encourages food retailers to focus their mobile apps on creating a customer experience based on loyalty, which includes clear, fair pricing, respectful promotions, relevant assortment, listening vs. marketing, easy checkout, caring service and easy to shop. This customer experience must also be personal and include some element of fun.

Independent operators can engage in the mobile app arena by using a cloud-based, do-it-yourself app builder or contracting with companies that will build one for you.

No matter which path you take, Ciancio stressed that mobile is here to stay and mobile apps are a way to engage today’s shopper and differentiate the independent operator from the competition.