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Trader Joe’s bets on Facebook to rev up mobile strategy

January 29, 2014

The new Trader Joe's new app

Trader Joe’s has debuted a new application that ditches the traditional couponing emphasis that many grocery chains take with mobile to instead focus on social media.

The new initiative is the grocery chain’s first attempt at a branded app and is available for free download in Apple’s App Store. In lieu of coupons or hard offers, Trader Joe’s new app tightly integrates with Facebook as a way for consumers to discover more than 3,000 privately-labeled grocery items.

“An app designed to share groceries wouldn’t work for most companies, but Trader Joe’s might just pull it off,” said Robbie Allan, vice president of marketing and sales at Carnival Mobile, New York.

“Trader Joe’s house brands stand out – they’re unique and tasty, and a reason many people choose to shop there,” he said. “The Trader Joe’s app is all about surfacing these products that customers love to drive them to store. The social sharing isn’t a core part of the app flow and may just be a nice bonus.”

Mr. Allan is not affiliated with Trader Joe’s. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Trader Joe’s declined to comment for this article.

App happy
When consumers first open the app, seven featured products appear on the home screen that consumers can scroll through.

A click-through on one of the products opens up a landing page that describes the product along with nutritional value and the price.

Social is highly played up in the app as a way for consumers to share and discover products. By either creating a Trader Joe’s account or logging in via Facebook, consumers can comment on products.

Users can also favorite products or share items through Twitter and email.

These items can be set up to automatically publish on a user’s Facebook account by turning on an option found in the settings.

Additionally, a big button at the bottom of the page encourages consumers to call their local Trader Joe’s location to find out if the item is in stock.

Suggested serving ideas and recipes are also located on each product page.

“[For Trader Joe’s], less is more,” said Marc Parrish, advisor at Appboy, New York. “They carry 2,000 products instead of 30,000, and 80 percent are branded Trader Joe’s. Roughly 25 percent of these SKU’s are seasonal.”

Mr. Parrish is not affiliated with Trader Joe’s. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

“Limiting stock to specialty products at low prices, they sell twice as much per square foot than other supermarkets,” he said. “Shoppers love them, and Trader Joe’s wants to capitalize on this consumer love by encouraging the community to share the good finds. It’s an impressive strategy. Whether people want to Facebook Dijon Mustard remains to be seen.”

A screenshot of the Trader Joe’s app

Grocery stores go mobile

As more consumers turn to their mobile devices to access coupons and deals, grocery chains are steadily building up their own stand-alone apps.

Interestingly, Trader Joe’s was singled out as a grocery chain earlier this year that is missing the mark with driving foot traffic from smartphone-owning moms in a report from Placed since the brand did not have its own app at the time.

Instead, Kroger stood out in the study with an app that tightly integrates loyalty and coupons (see story).

Compared to other grocery chains that heavily play up coupons or loyalty programs, Trader Joe’s app is unique with a stronger focus on social media that aims to eventually drive foot traffic.

This focus on product information and recipe suggestions fits into Trader Joe’s bigger strategy around unique branded products and low prices that do not fluctuate.

Therefore, features such as click-to-call are an interesting way for Trader Joe’s to build brand awareness and equip shoppers with as much information as possible before grocery shopping.

At the same time though, the focus on non-commerce functions could be limiting for Trader Joe’s.

“According to the Food Marketing Industry’s research, the functions that grocery shoppers want most in their apps are exclusive discounts, the ability to track loyalty points and incentive programs and proactive identification of coupons and sales offers,” said Bob Moul, CEO of Artisan, Philadelphia.

“In other words, they want a personalized experience,” he said. “I think that grocery stores are getting in at the right time to be able to do the kind of sophisticated audience targeting and content customization that’s necessary to attract their customers.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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