Out of all the challenges that small business owners face, figuring out the best way to advertise to customers is arguably the most difficult. People record television programs and skip the commercials. They install ad blocking software on their computers to avoid online advertisements. They throw mail away without opening it. Wouldn’t you love a way to advertise to customers in a way that delights them and makes them feel like members of an exclusive club?

How much money could your business earn if you could advertise to customers exactly when they’re most ready to spend?It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call mobile apps the holy grail of modern marketing. All customers want to save money — especially at the grocery stores they patronize anyway. Nobody wants to clip coupons from magazines and newspapers to save money, though — people want the deals to come to them. Mobile apps make that possible. Does your grocery store have an app yet? If not, let’s examine all of the ways in which a branded application can improve your store’s bottom line.

Your Customers Use Smartphones

In the United States, approximately 80 percent of people who have Internet access use smartphones — and people who own smartphones go almost everywhere with them. Every time a customer downloads your company’s application, that person will create a golden opportunity for advertising almost every time he or she enters the store.

Mobile Apps Capture Attention

When a customer installs your company’s smartphone app, he or she will usually agree to receive push notifications — or advertisements that automatically appear in their phones’ notification centers. By setting up a network of Bluetooth communication devices called “beacons” within your store, you can detect when a customer who has your application installed enters the store and automatically display current coupons and sales on his or her smartphone.

The even more important feature of beacons is that you can use them to send specific messages to customers depending upon their locations within your store. The best time to let a customer know that you’re currently discounting some brands of cheese, for example, is when that customer is shopping for cheese already.

Smartphone Applications Encourage Repeat Business

Has your store ever experimented with customer loyalty programs, such as stamps or punch cards? A smartphone application can handle your loyalty program automatically and help to prevent long waits in the checkout lanes. That’s where the similarities between standard and electronic loyalty programs end, though. A smartphone application allows you to track a customer’s purchase history and advertise specific discounts to him or her based on what he or she is most likely to buy. You can even add game elements to your loyalty program, giving customers the ability to “level up” and unlock additional discounts after they reach minimum purchase amounts. With software, you can do absolutely anything that you can imagine.

  • TIP: When promoting your smartphone application, let your customers know the application contains exclusive “members only” discounts.

Draw In Nearby Customers

Is your grocery store in close proximity to other local stores? It’s likely that those stores are using smartphone applications and beacons as well. If they’re using popular beacon networks such as Google Beacons, you can actually advertise to their customers and encourage them to visit your store. Simply set up an advertisement in Google AdWords and configure it to display on search results based on the user’s physical proximity to your store. If people search the Web on their smartphones while near your store, they may see advertisements encouraging them to stop in.

Add an Element of Fun

You can use a smartphone application to add elements of fun and interactivity to the shopping experience. For example, you could create a recipe database and allow customers to scan bar codes as they select items from shelves. When a customer scans a bar code, the application could suggest a recipe and display a list of the items necessary to cook it. You could utilize any data gathered in this fashion to improve your business’s bottom line, too. Do people often consider buying certain items, only to change their minds and put the items back? With a smartphone application, you can actually find out what some of those items are and make changes accordingly.

Improve Inventory Management

The people who install your smartphone application will most likely be your most loyal customers — and they’ll probably have fairly consistent buying habits. When your store launches a smartphone application, you’ll begin collecting data on customers’ buying habits that you can use to your advantage. Utilize the data by making sure that you always have items in stock when your customers want them.

A smartphone application can help you reduce waste, too. Are you carrying a large stock of an item that’s going to expire soon? Don’t write those products off. Move them quickly by running a clearance sale and broadcasting it to customers when they enter the store.