A step in the right direction

In writing this year’s State of the Wellness Industry article for our April issue, experts I spoke with resoundingly agreed the future of the category appears bright.

At the same time, however, experts also noted the number one challenge continuing to plague grocers is their ability to educate consumers in the same the way, for instance, health food retailers can. More than one person stressed to me that arming the shopper with even a moderate amount of product info such as a more detailed explanation of ingredient and health benefits can be enough to convert someone from a looker into a buyer.

Clearly there are traditional options available such as shelf talkers and nutritional scoring systems, and while they are a step in the right direction, as many grocers will attest there is a fine line between offering information and overwhelming the customer with a cluttered shelf.

Interestingly, some of the people I spoke with felt QR codes represented an inexpensive and viable solution to getting information in people’s hands immediately and conveniently, however, they added that more needs to be done in the way of teaching the public what QR codes are, how to use them and the value they offer. Recently, I asked my husband, a technology- savvy career man at IBM, if he knew what the box with the broken up dots was in a particular magazine ad he was looking at. He said not only hadn’t he noticed it he had no idea what a QR code was. My bet is the average customer doesn’t know what it is either.

Bottom line – while having a dedicated staffer on hand to answer customer questions on better-for-you products would be ideal, it isn’t often realistic for grocers. QR codes are clearly a move in the right direction in solving the information challenge at store level. However, if the industry is hoping to reap its potential rewards it is clear retailers and suppliers will need to work together to shorten the learning curve and communicate its value.

P.S. I recently had my very first experience with seeing the ease and convenience QR codes offer when I downloaded United Airline’s boarding pass QR code onto my smart phone. Sure, it felt good to save a tree but felt even better when a 20-something passenger with a paper ticket in hand standing next to me in line took note of the code on my phone and told me how cool it was.

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