UK: New application fills consumers’ baskets while they work, sleep, play…

Couple of weeks ago travels take me across the pond to the UK. While I’ll steer clear of adding my analysis of the Brexit vote, I am felt compelled to reflect on changing retail landscape in the U.K & implications here in the U.S. Specifically what was intriguing was the launch of an innovation aimed at making grocery shoppers’ lives a little easier.

Tesco recently leveraged the power of IFTTT (If This Then That) to create an automated shopping application. While it is powered by sophisticated backend technology, the proposition is simple: shoppers can join Tesco’s IFTTT channel to create “recipes,” or triggers that will automatically add items to their shopping basket at  Yes, bots will do your shopping & take out the mundane tasks.

IFTT, eloquently described by Tesco Labs, is a “platform for joining together all your different online accounts to enable you to do clever things.”

Consumers sign up for a free IFTTT account and connect it to other applications (think: Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.). Registered users can then create “If, Then” recipes that proactively help accomplish a variety of tasks including controlling home appliances, staying healthy, connecting to loved ones, shopping smarter, or staying current. A tech maven can get an email whenever there is breaking news from their favorite publication. A health nut can receive a text anytime they fall short of their Fitbit goal. (Finger-wagging tone free of charge.)

Tesco’s channel offers a few recipes to get shoppers started. You can add milk on a certain day of the week, get an email if a product drops below a certain price, or even add burgers to your basket if it’s unexpectedly sunny.

Further, users are encouraged to create their own unique recipes. I can only imagine that these user-generated recipes will provide Tesco rich new territory for mining consumer insights and identifying unmet needs. 

This proactive technology is an example of the many “butler/bot” applications that are stepping up to manage the mundane and time-consuming aspects of people’s lives even when they are not actively thinking about them. (See: Google Alerts, Amazon Dash, and Brita’s wifi pitcher). Clearly, it has the potential to help consumers save time and money, and even make more satisfying purchases.

In addition to these consumer wins, I can’t help but think about what this application might mean for grocery retailers and their partners.

One innovation expert suggests that automation disrupts the typical shopping process (make a list, go to store, seek and select products) in a powerful way. It creates new imperatives to get a product into a shopper’s consideration set and basket long before they enter the doors of a store – if they ever do.

Conversely, as shoppers offload the job of shopping for weekly staples, they may enter retail grocery environments with more time and mind space to seek and sample novel products, creating new opportunities for brands and retailers to engage them.

Eventually, cart automation could pave the way for a “predictive grocery basket,” wherein algorithms would allow retailers to understand a shopper’s patterns and populate their basket with the items they want. While this may be a few years away, what a game-changer it will be if consumers can accomplish most of their grocery shopping without a single step, swipe or click.

For more on how Tesco is piloting technology to innovate the retail grocery space, read here.

Image Source: The Memo, 2016