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Sainsbury’s accelerates mobile strategy, enables grocery purchases via a phone

May 18, 2012

Sainsbury's mobile commerce site for groceries

British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is expanding its mobile commerce strategy with a new version of its online site for groceries that lets users shop and buy via a mobile device.

The new site offers over 20,000 grocery items that users can purchase via a smartphone. The mobile site also provides the same offers and promotions as the full Sainsbury Web site.

“It makes sense for any business to allow consumers to shop on the go, via a mobile-optimized site,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. “Since they are already processing 165,000 online orders per week, extending this functionality to mobile consumers makes a lot of sense.

“How many times have you been out and about and remembered you were low on milk or toilet paper?” he said. “The here-and-now ability to add a product to a mobile commerce cart should drive tracked sales lift.

“Eighty percent of grocery store purchases are for repeated buys, so a mobile commerce play that has a registration component could yield some very powerful patterns.”

Improving the shopping experience
The mobile site for groceries includes everyday food items such as bread and butter as well as items for more special occasions, such as wines and champagne.

Users can search for the item they are looking as well as browse the full range of products.

The grocery mobile site follows Sainsbury’s introduction last year of a mobile commerce site for non-food items.

“The biggest challenges for grocery stores are to increase purchases while improving checkout throughput,” said Drew Sievers, CEO of mFoundry, San Francisco. “It’s a small margin business, so volume is everything.

“I wouldn’t put mobile grocery purchases at the top of my list of big mobile commerce ideas,” he said. “After all, what is the problem that this solution really solves?

“The most interesting ideas in mobile grocery support are around the delivery of behavior changing promotions and offers. I suppose that buying from your phone can facilitate that type of offer delivery, but one could do the same thing with standard checkout.”

The goal of Sainsbury’s mobile efforts is to make customers’ lives easier and to deliver the best possible shopping experience no matter where customers are when they decide to do some grocery shopping.

Sainsbury’s has been active in mobile and also offers the Click & Collect service, which enables customers to place a non-food order using their mobile phone and have it delivered or pick it up from one of its over 870 stores.

The supermarket chain also has mobile app that enables users to receive exclusive, personalized offers and earn loyalty points

Users can also find the nearest Sainsbury’s store by taking advantage of GPS technology.

The app is available for free to iPhone, Android and Nokia users.

Last fall, Sainsbury’s also tested a strategy for attracting tech-savvy shoppers into a single location with shopping carts that boast a built-in iPad holder and speakers (see story).

Grocery goes mobile
Other grocery retailers are also experimenting with mobile.

Online grocery retailer Peapod is giving commuters in Chicago and Philadelphia a way to use their smartphones to scan and order grocery items during their commute (see story).

Additionally, SuperValu has rolled out a mobile application for its grocery chains including Albertsons, Cub Foods and Shop ‘n Save that help consumers save time and money (see story).

While grocery retailers such as Sainsbury’s and others are actively embracing mobile, these efforts are not currently driving significant sales volume.

“At this point, mobile can’t be driving any significant sales at a grocery store,” mFoundry’s Mr. Sievers said. “Online grocery purchases have been around for years and it’s still a tiny fraction of store sales.

“I don’t see mobile making a serious dent in the near future,” he said.

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