UK supermarket Tesco is delving into the Internet of Things (IoT) – a network of connected devices that are able to communicate with each other – to enhance the consumer experience. Two key initiatives, anchored in helping consumers make smarter decisions, are helming the push.
Targeting customers who want to automate mundane shopping tasks or be kept in the loop on price drops or offers (see also Keep-Me-Posted Commerce in The Streamlined Sell), Tesco has launched a channel on the ‘If This, Then That’ (IFTTT) web platform. This gives users access to a menu of downloadable code commands that trigger a specific action if a corresponding event occurs.
By connecting multiple devices and systems, commands could include: ‘if the weather gets warmer than 28 degrees Celsius, then add burgers to my basket’, or ‘if the price for Colgate toothpaste drops, then send me an email’.
Tesco users with an existing Tesco profile plug into a channel dedicated to the brand and select commands, which can be altered to specific needs and personalised by the user. These commands are regularly updated by Tesco’s innovation and technology think tank TescoLabs, as well as the IFTTT group.
By downloading the code, various applications including weather apps, Gmail, Google Calendar, Evernote and Tesco Groceries, as well as devices such as Amazon Alexa and the Nest Thermostat, can communicate with each other. The aim is to ultimately automate low-level general tasks, freeing up consumers’ time. The service is currently only available to Tesco’s UK customers.
Over 33% of food produced globally is wasted, with consumers responsible for a staggering £259bn ($373bn) worth of that excess (Wrap, 2016), while up to 250,000 tonnes of waste and 14% of agricultural emissions are potentially preventable through improved supply-chain efficiencies and household food management (PIK, 2016). As such, supermarkets have a clear opportunity to steer positive change – see also Eco-Ethical-Sustainable.
Tesco is already working with Irish in-store food-surplus management system FoodCloud and British charity FoodShare to donate near-to-expiry food. In April 2016, it partnered with UK engineering design consultancy Thaw Technology to create a 'Use By Mate' electronic receipt notification system that feeds directly into its mobile app.
The technology takes advantage of a new generation of retail bar codes dubbed GS1 DataBars, which contain ‘product life’ information such as ‘use-by’ and ‘best-before’ dates, weight and product sources as well as identification data and price. When products are purchased, all data from the receipt is integrated directly into the Tesco mobile app.
The information will either be printed onto receipts when consumers are in-store, or transferred to the shopper’s app profile, if using a Tesco club card. Based on the information derived from the purchase, the app sends out reminders to use or freeze food before expiry, or suggests daily recipe ideas. Users can add additional information to the e-receipt, such as date of usage or disposal, to personally keep track.
The new barcode system also enables Tesco to give price reductions on near-to-expiry products at the till, minimising the manual checking of product and ensuring traceability and recall. The information is also being integrated into Tesco’s customer range management (CRM) system for deeper insights into the behaviours of its most eco and ethically minded consumers.
Currently under development, the system will be trialled across its e-tail arm and all UK stores (dates to be confirmed).