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Sobeys' app promises help cooking, saving money

The app is positioned as a personal shopping companion that helps get customers organized

Sobeys officially unveiled its new mobile app this week with a promise to help customers shop, plan and cook meals.

And save money.

The app was initially launched in September for iPhones but is now available for Android phones as well.

It enters a crowded field of grocery shopping apps. Loblaw and Metro also launched apps in the past six months, and regional chains like Longo’s in Toronto and Quality Foods on Vancouver Island also have apps.

At the heart of the Sobeys app is a “smart shopping list” that is designed to help customers organize shopping and meal planning. Shoppers can instantly add recipe ingredients and products featured in the Sobeys weekly flyer.

Customers simply log on, check off items as they shop, and consult the item counter to ensure they haven’t forgotten anything, according to officials with the retailer.

The app works nationally across Sobeys’ conventional store formats and is part of the Stellarton, N.S.-based grocer’s “better food for all” strategy, which launched this fall with pitchman-U.K. chef Jamie Oliver.

READ: Sobeys unveils its brand positioning with Jamie Oliver

In an interview with Canadian Grocer, Sobeys vice-president of marketing services, Paul Flinton, explained the thinking and strategy behind the app.

Flinton said that before moving ahead with the launch, Sobeys wanted to understand what shopping solutions customers were looking for and what media they were using to get grocery shopping and food planning information.

“That informed what platforms and media we’d introduce in the experience to deliver that information,” he said.

Sobeys also took a closer look at what customers did before, during and after they shopped.

Sobeys discovered its target customers were primarily looking for three things.

First, they wanted to find quality, fresh food ideas; second, they wanted to get outside the everyday food rut with meal solutions that were easy, healthy and tasty; finally, they wanted help saving time and money. The app is designed to deliver on all three desires.

For instance, it can show them what’s new in store to try and that information is refreshed weekly on the app. Details on products and related recipes and instructions on how to prepare them is also available on the app.

“It was really important to understand the customer journey,” Flinton said.

READ: Get ready for the battle of the apps

The ever-important weekly flyer is also integrated into the app.

“So customers aren’t chained to the flyer stack every Thursday night,” Flinton said. “You can review the flyer online and search by department. That’s one way the app is helping consumers save time and money.”

Sobeys' app will compete for attention with Loblaw’s PC Plus Rewards program app and Metro’s shopper app.

Loblaw’s app, which launched at some 44 Loblaws stores in Ontario in June and went national last week, uses algorithms that understands what people buy to send them weekly promotional offers. The app is linked to the retailer’s loyalty rewards program.

Metro’s app, which launched in September gives shoppers the ability to check their local store’s weekly flyer, write shopping lists, find recipes and quickly get vendor coupons.

READ: Loblaw rolls out PC Plus Rewards program nationally

Metro's app is also linked to the Metro & Moi rewards program in Quebec and Air Miles in Ontario.

Not surprisingly, Sobeys has also integrated its loyalty program into the app. Customers in Ontario and the western provinces can use the app to select personalized rewards to earn additional Club Sobeys points on items they buy.

A key benefit, Flinton said, is that customers will be able to get personalized digital offers and add them to their cart without having to clip them out.

“It’s an extension of a program we run online, and we’re making it available to access on your smartphone as well,” said Flinton.

With consumers flitting between phones, computers and tablets these days, it can be difficult to assume what device they are on at any given moment. Hence, Flinton said the design and user experience of the app syncs with all three types of digital devices.

A responsive design system was employed to make sure that the app would work on each of these devices and their different size screens.

This isn't the first app that Sobeys has launched. In June, 2012 it created Moodie Foodie, which suggests meal ideas based on a person’s mood.

READ: Sobeys app puts eaters in the mood

Flinton said Moodie Foodie still gets a lot of repeat sessions, so there’s no plan to discontinue it. Eventually, he said, Moodie Foodie could be integrated into the new app’s search functionality.

Current pitchman for Sobeys’ new branding, Jamie Oliver, who’s a big part of the web experience, would also eventually be featured in the app’s platform as well.

Marketing around the app will involve paid digital media (targeted banner display ads on Google, Facebook, for example), social media, in store and print media communication and owned digital media (e-marketing, web, social media).

A video explaining how Sobeys new app works, can be seen below.

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