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Peapod’s QR Train Station Grocery Trial Shows Mobile Bias

Written by Evan Schuman
May 9th, 2012

In a series of mobile trials in subway and train stations in Philadelphia and Chicago, online grocer Peapod has been trying to drive sales of milk, diapers and dog food to commuters with a few minutes on—and a smartphone in—their hands. The trials had to deal with mobile technologies with a very uncertain future—such as QR codes—and the frustrating logistics of demoing in cramped public transportation centers.

Peapod got the idea from a wildly successful mobile QR trial that Tesco did in South Korean subways. Peapod’s attempt is apparently the first to try and replicate the Tesco efforts in the U.S.

The trial itself was straightforward. At the test sites, huge high-resolution digital images of various products lined the walls. Shoppers would download the Peapod app, and then scan the QR codes of any interesting SKUs using their phone’s camera. Groceries could be purchased and delivered to the shopper’s home. The trial had a $60 minimum order, and it offered shoppers a $20 credit.

The dollars—and the ROI—involved in the project made it unusual. On the one hand, the trial’s $60 minimum is rather steep for a trial of a new technological approach. To insist on a change in behavior and to insist on at least $60? (OK, with the $20 gift, a $40 commitment.) Small orders come with a $9.95 delivery charge, which drops to $6.95 when the order tops $100.

So why the $60 rule? “Because we’re in business, and we have to make it make sense,” answered Elana Margolis, Peapod’s director of corporate communications.

Fair enough. But Margolis also sounded more financially relaxed when discussing the trial’s sales and how items have been scanned. “This was not a campaign meant to have an ROI. It was intended to create awareness,” she said. “It is supposed to be educational (to shoppers) that we do have a mobile app. This was not a campaign meant to flood the doors open (with sales), but we’re also not losing money on it.”

Didn’t the trial have some type of financial or download goals before it was launched? “This was just a test for us. We didn’t want to put any numbers against it,” Margolis said.

After consumers make a purchase, they are offered free delivery for 60 days after the first delivery.

The trial, which is in one location in Chicago and at 15 train stations in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, showcased a much more limited sample of products than did Tesco, which tried to re-create much of a full store. “Korea doesn’t have as much access to their local stores as we do,” Margolis said.


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