The Subscribe & Save Grocery Game: Making Products That Fit The Future Non-Shopper

I love taking my son with me food shopping. However, I tend to know that there’s a limit to how long I can stay in the grocery store before I have to worry about him grabbing things off the shelf, getting a little too agitated, or wanting to rearrange the cart and put the milk on top of the bread.  It’s really not fair to the bread.

I also find it fun while we’re dashing around the store to play the “how much could this person reduce their basket by if they’ve used subscribe and save.”  My son is two, so he’s not too good at this game yet, but I’m a pro, thanks to an almost unhealthy obsession with ordering things online.

It amazes me that more people don’t use the automatic replenishment ordering features on websites like Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. Why go to the store, push it around in a basket, and increase the amount of time it takes to get food for something that can be delivered right to your door, usually for less money, at regular intervals based on how you use up a product.

Better yet, why aren’t companies with these products optimizing them for automatic replinishement?  I have yet to see a company be bold and change the label copy or graphics to entice regular ordering.

  • Instead of expiration dates on bread, why not have re-order dates?
  • Can we make it easier to do through the phone – where’s the app for that?
  • Why doesn’t Amazon use it’s ‘recommended for you’ technology to recommend subscribe and save programs for you?
  • How do we game-ify changing the consumer’s behavior to do more of this?
  • Can you hook up something to a deodorant container that alerts your eCom site to re-order once it gets pushed to a certain level?
  • Can the shelves in your medicine cabinet tell when a product is nearing empty and alert you?
  • Can your shower drain count how many showers you’ve taken and using the data of generally how many showers a bottle of shampoo or bar of soap lasts automatically order it for you?
  • Should the manufactures of products or the retailers of products build this?  How do they work together on this?  Which industry group will lead the standards?

There’s been some efforts by companies to play into this, like Alice.com‘s original intent. That still didn’t integrate with the products though.  Also, there’s some great grocery programs that help you not spend too much time ‘in-store’ like Tesco’s virtual supermarket in the subway.  However, not long from now these type of features that take advantage of online, recurring orders will be ubiquitous on products.  As a product developer – why not lead the way?  As a start-up – why not develop the methods for product developers to enable this?

Matt Kane

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