This week I had the good fortune to meet some old friends for dinner at a restaurant called Inamo in Soho. If you’ve not been, it’s worth a visit. Huge variety of Asian food and a lively atmosphere with friendly staff. You order from an interactive table, and you can play games on the table and even watch the chefs in the kitchens.  It took a normal evening catching up with old friends, into something far more memorable. It’s a very clever concept. Perhaps the perfect first date venue. Someone has updated the concept of a restaurant, which is fundamentally unchanged since inns and refectories of the 1200s, and applied relevant technology to enhance the experience.

And that got me thinking. What would we do with technology as brands, as retailers, as agencies, in a grocery shopper context, if there were no media packs, no restrictions on what brands could do, and you put shopper experience at the heart of the thinking?

There’d be tailored offers. Clearly Waitrose is doing this to an extent already with their Pick Your Own Offers. And Dunnhumby has been tailoring paper and email Clubcard vouchers for years.  But what if at shelf (or online, clearly) prices changed based on your consumption preferences, simply by you walking past, and rewarded you for loyalty? To a brand, and to a retailer?  

You would never run out of essentials again. Amazon’s Dash buttons are a step in this direction, and Samsung’s interactive fridge likewise. The Internet of Things reading your fridge contents, would either order automatically, or alert you whilst in the store, that you were about to run out of milk. Could your Bellabeat or other fitness tracker menu plan for you, based on your mood, hormone changes, or training plan for the week, and in conjunction with your fridge, order missing ingredients?

And how about the shop itself? Shopping in the UK is a fundamentally functional experience. An exercise in emptying your wallet, efficiently, for the best possible price, as quickly as possible.

Much time and effort is given to price promotions. But what if the same effort were put into inspiring shoppers what to eat on a rainy Wednesday evening? Apps working with instore beacons could give recipe inspiration based on consumption preferences, and which aisle you were in in the store.  Brands could collaborate on creating recipes; they become part of the solution.  Perhaps the same location based app could help you locate items you’re searching for. If Pokémon Go can show you the location of virtual monsters, why couldn’t a retailer app help you locate the missing coconut cream for that Thai curry?

What if you could entertain and educate children whilst shopping? 41% of children don’t know where eggs come from, apparently. Surely this is a golden opportunity for retailer owned app based infotainment, with augmented or dynamic reality, and distraction from demanding shiny things seen from the trolley?  Taking the stress out of taking children shopping one step further, what if technology could ensure that children were absolutely safe in a crèche, and parents could drop them off for half an hour to get the Big Shop done, like Ikea?

Inamo has shown what can be done if you’re prepared to break the mould. With grocery retailers struggling for a point of difference vs. the discounters, could technology be the difference?