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Merchandising

Information, Please

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It’s hard to capture the attention of modern consumers, especially while they are shopping. Static signs and shelf talkers seem old-fashioned to smartphone-enabled shoppers with access to a web of products.

A new in-store shop-along platform gives retailers a way to grab the attention of information-hungry shoppers.

Concierge, a software platform from Mercatus Technologies, can connect multiple online solutions to the customer’s cart, says Sylvain Perrier, chief operating officer of the Canadian company. Primarily aimed at the grocery industry, Concierge is currently being used by Food Lion’s Bloom supermarkets; based on “great feedback,” the platform will be launched at other retailers in the near future, Perrier says.

Building software for the grocery industry is not for the faint of heart, Perrier says. Like other “smart” technology, Concierge depends upon product images and loads of data. The information dashboard is a scanner attached to the shopping cart handle. Shoppers can scan potential purchases for information and view results on an 8-inch color touchscreen. Products can also be scanned for purchase, saving time at checkout.

By signing into a personal profile, customers can view customized promotions, access recipes or follow a shopping list prepared at home. Profiles can be integrated into loyalty programs.

“Our platform helps the retailer by empowering and educating consumers about the underlying value of products,” Perrier says. Shoppers can use Concierge to browse for deals or find products in the store. By making information like calories, nutritional value and meal planning easily available to consumers, retailers sell more product, he says.

Real-time shopping behavior
Key to the solution’s usefulness is up-to-date, colorful product images from Gladson, considered the foremost provider of CPG (consumer packaged goods) product images and information. Originally utilized for planograms in space and category management, Gladson’s images and information are used for merchandising on in-store tags and e-commerce websites. Gladson has worked with Mercatus for several years on development of the new platform.

Gladson’s Chicago facility processes about 130,000 images a year and includes more than 150 product attributes. Store brand or private label products are included in the database. “We couldn’t find another database as massive or [that is] updated as often as Gladson’s,” Perrier says.

Retailers can use Concierge to capture real-time shopping behavior to help direct marketing plans. Targeted product recommendations and coupons can be sent to shoppers based on shopping history, boosting opportunities for cross-merchandising.

Pulling together a shopping list is easy, Perrier says. Consumers create the list on the retailer’s website; at the store, they take a cart and scan a card to download the list. Concierge will even remind the shopper what she needs to pick up in certain aisles.

Who pays for this new smart shopping product? Some retailers look to CPG manufacturers for funds, Perrier says. Advertisers can engage consumers at the moment when they are prepared to purchase, providing a new avenue of revenue for retailers. Stores with strong private label programs may foot the bill themselves.

“Retailers can now put brands in front of consumers,” Perrier says. Customers can compare products, something akin to physically taking products and reading labels — all via Concierge. “Consumers are used to having information at their fingertips,” he says. “In the grocery store, when they need to look up information, our product bridges that gap.”

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