The grocer everyone loves to hate has been rather busy of late. Busy racking up pre-tax profits of £162m for 2015-16. Busy planning to sell off just about everything that isn’t a grocery store (think Dobbies, Harris & Hoole, Giraffe). However, that’s not all: over in Welwyn Garden City, they’ve also been busy wrapping up a whole bunch of techie-type projects that show the business still has forward momentum even if a lot of its focus seems to be on getting back to basics.
First off, Tesco has announced it’s stepping up the rollout of its PayQwiq app after trials in Edinburgh and London last year. This represents the retailer’s drive into the mobile payment arena. The app lets you pay for up to £400 worth of Tesco goods and collect Clubcard points at the same time. Mobile payment is all the rage right now and has a lot of potential in the grocery sector. Anything that cuts down on queue times will appeal to countless time-pressured shoppers! Still, you have to question how many people will want to download dozens of bespoke payment apps for every individual chain they frequent, when their phones already come with retailer agnostic platforms built in to them. It seems a little counter-intuitive when what the end user really wants is fewer applications and fewer clicks. Loyalty is a challenge at the best of times in this era and making life more complicated for your customers probably isn’t a good move for the future.
Retailers like Tesco will also have to make sure they get it right when it comes to securing personal data and, perhaps more importantly, convincing the public they have done so. While developers claim all this stuff is as safe as houses, many shoppers, particularly in older age groups, remain sceptical and it will take time to overcome the reservations. Either way, as the first grocer to release an app with this kind of functionality, Tesco is certainly back where it likes to play, enjoying first-mover advantage.
If This Then That
Now, the second recent tech development from big ‘T’ is really interesting and does correlate well with modern, hyper-connected lifestyles. It involves IFTTT (If This Then That); a San Francisco-based developer that’s created an app to connect anything from smart lighting to shopping lists.
It uses simple rules called ‘DO’ and ‘IF’ to automate tasks that would otherwise take many clicks and a lot of copying and pasting to perform. IFTTT already works with over 300 ‘channels’ and again, Tesco is the first grocer to get involved. Essentially, you can set up any number of rules that perform actions when certain conditions are fulfilled (e.g. IF the price of strawberries falls, then add it to my basket) or create buttons to carry out tasks in a single touch (e.g. DO add chocolates to my basket).
This is exciting stuff. It meets an existing challenge by connecting different aspects of our digital lifestyle simply and effectively. It can certainly make your life easier if you currently run many different apps and spend a good deal of time on your mobile devices. What’s more, this has broad appeal and isn’t likely to stay underground for long once people see how handy it could be. The only thing that will limit it is your own creativity, but if that is a problem, you can always download the rules other people have already created and see how much beer and wine ends up in your basket!
Ad data syncing
Last but not least, what tech-related post would be complete without a reference to Facebook? Not this one!
Earlier this month, unsaleable data unit Dunnhumby linked up with Facebook to synchronize their respective datasets. This in turn enables brands to assess the impact of different creative tests within different groups at different times. According to netimperative.com, one test investigating ad frequency reportedly showed a 6-7% sales increase when a group was exposed to two features a week as opposed to one. Not deeply insightful perhaps, but there is surely a lot more that can be gleaned from these analytics to help Tesco and its suppliers deliver more timely, contextualised offers.
Well, clearly, there is a lot going on at Tesco to keep the grocer’s foot on the gas when it comes to technology. Some of it might fizzle out, but that’s ok because it’s more important to test and learn in this era than to sit and wait for a dead cert to hit you in the face. The other important thing to remember, as highlighted by the Facebook initiative, is the primacy of data and what you do with it. Yes, there are numerous smart-looking, sexy front-end apps that will catch some attention and draw in a few customers. However, the real value in the long-term comes from the strength of the analysis that Tesco and others perform using the data they have. That’s where the blueprint has to take them and that’s where a whole new world still awaits the retail sector.
Now that’s exciting!