Family grocer gets friendly response from mobile offers

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Chevy Chase Supermarket, an upscale mom and pop grocery store that has been in the Washington metro area since 1958, went from hand writing its receipts to using computers just two years ago.

This year, the Chevy Chase, MD, grocer is jumping further into new technology by targeting its community with mobile marketing via MobileLime's platform.

"E-mail is a good way to contact the community, but mobile is instantaneous," said Kevin Kirsch, owner of Chevy Chase Supermarket. "With mobile, we can tell our customers that we just got some really good blueberries in and that they should stop by later today for a deal on them."

Chevy Chase is a third-generation, 20,000 square-foot grocery store with seven registers. It sells typical grocery products like fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood, baked goods, imported cheeses, beer and wine.

The supermarket contacts patrons with exclusive real-time promotions via mobile phone about once a week. Patrons can sign up in the store or on the Web site at www.chevychasesupermarket.com. The introductory offer includes a coupon for $15 off a $50 purchase.

Other offers include a sale on rotisserie chickens that is sent around 4 p.m., when customers are making dinner plans. The promotions are targeted as well, sent to clients based on demographic and lifestyle data. Also, important information is communicated via the mobile platform, such as whether the store is open during a blizzard.

These messages go to 50 to 75 people a day depending on the relevancy, but each customer should expect to receive only one text a week.

Additionally, the communication is interactive. The customer can write back and say, "Hold 2 baskets of blueberries for me."

Not only does mobile offer Chevy Chase real-time marketing and two-way communication, it offers payment options. MobileLime's platform lets the consumer's mobile phone access a credit card number, checking account or prepaid account.

The grocer hopes to use the pay-by-cell-phone option soon. Mr. Kirsch said that this would be great for customers who ride along the bike path that runs next to the store and have their phone but forget to carry their credit cards.

But the marketing alone has worked, as Mr. Kirsch said that the response rate has been very high. The average purchase by regular customers is $30.53, while loyalty members of the mobile program spend an average of $58.79.

Being a neighborhood establishment where customers and staff know each other by first name, the customer has trust and the open rate is high.

"I don't want to send you anything that you wouldn't want to receive, so I only text once a week with relevant deals," Mr. Kirsch said. "You always open your friends' text, since you know it is important. I want our customers to think of us as a friend."

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