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Unified Grocers replicates ecommerce experience via beacons for in-store flexibility

June 13, 2014

In-store shopping continues to be inspired by digital experiences

In-store shopping continues to be inspired by digital experiences

Unified Grocers will install beacons in select West Coast locations to mimic ecommerce experiences in physical stores by transmitting custom coupons, loyalty rewards and shopping list reminders directly to mobile phones.

Presently, the options for in-store implementations are few and restricted to a small number of pioneering companies, though the potential for innovative applications by retailers is significant. Operating off the inMarket Mobile to Mortar beacon platform, which distributes branded companion apps that utilize the technology, Unified Grocers is equipped to create futuristic shopping experiences that bridge communications between the retailer and a generation of mobile users.

“Mobile to Mortar provides flexibility to adjust types of offers as we move forward—so shoppers could see hyperlocal offers, shopping list reminders, recipe reminders, loyalty/reward offers, context-based information or value adds,” said Dave Heinzinger, director of communications at inMarket, Venice, CA.

“We’re still in the very early stages so this will evolve over the next few months.”

“InMarket’s M2M platform enables this program to run through a variety of apps that folks use in stores. It currently reaches 400 million shoppers through apps like Epicurious, Key Ring and CheckPoints,” he said.

Unified Grocers is a retailer-owned wholesale grocery distributor that supplies independent retailers throughout the western United States.

Weighing in on mobile
Beacon technology is the latest example of Unified’s commitment to harness the digital channel for helping  independent grocers to engage and drive top-line sales for members.

Unified will use inMarket via iBeacon tech in conjunction with  branded apps, allowing the beacons to alert only shoppers who have “opted-in” by downloading the app to their device.

Keyring joins the inMarket platform

Key Ring joins the inMarket platform

The wholesaler will also demonstrate the M2M solution at its upcoming Expo buying event for its independent retailers and suppliers at the Long Beach Convention Center, June 18-19.

Replicating online experiences
Much like how ecommerce retailers analyze digital data via mouse tracking,  mapping and engagement rates per click, physical stores are beginning to implement similar best practices with beacons.

Exploring merchandise in aisle with an accompanying app is already a reality in many retail settings. Staples and Nordstrom currently leverage mobile as a communicative gateway to send offers and dissect shopping habits.

When combined with beacon and Bluetooth Low Energy technology, real-world shopping experiences can be enhanced and inspired by online strategies. For instance, American Eagle Outfitters uses in-store mapping software from Shopkick at select locations for guided navigation and a medium from which personalized offers can be delivered to.

AE leads shoppers to new items and deals

AE leads shoppers to new items and deals

In addition to bringing surprise and delight to shoppers, these types of technology offer powerful analysis tools for marketers. Burberry has installed kiosks and mirrors that double as responsive displays.

Burberry turns stores into Websites

Burberry turns stores into Websites

Working in tandem
Companion apps that play well with beacons are more widely being integrated into retail landscapes to upsell, cross-sell items and customize the experience for guests.

Unified shoppers may navigate a store with the phone and will be sent push notifications depending on their location which are personalized according to department and store sections.

While systems like this offer personalization for customers, the feedback gathered from trends is important, too, as tracking data can help retailers refine and experiment with store layout the same way Web developers’ toy with an ecommerce site.

“Unified is committed to leveraging technology to drive sales for its members. Beacons are arguably the most exciting development in retail tech this year, as they provide a tremendous opportunity to connect with shoppers in the aisles,” Mr. Heinzinger said.

“With beacons, we can provide context-based information for consumers, while simultaneously increasing basket size and driving sales for our retailers.”

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Michelle Saettler is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer, New York. Reach her at

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