Giant Food Stores is piloting an augmented reality (AR) experience in 15 of its Harrisburg, Pennsylvania stores. The program, called Snowflake Search, is an interactive game that was initially designed for children to be entertained while the adults shop. But Kim Mack, manager of digital strategy and media at Giant and project lead, told Grocery Dive the game has proven to be engaging for adults as well.
"We developed this program to bring technology and innovation to our customers and really bring some excitement and fun to their shopping experience," said Mack.
In order to play the game, shoppers scan a QR code that is located at each entrance of the store and on signs throughout the store so customers can join the experience at any point. The QR code then takes them to a website where they can access the game. Players look for snowflakes around the store, then scan the QR code on each snowflake to reveal a virtual "buddy." Buddies include a penguin ice fishing in the seafood department, gingerbread men making flour snow angels in the baking aisle, an abominable snowman in the frozen section and a polar bear juggling fruit in the produce department.
For each experience they find, shoppers earn 50 points through the chain's recently revamped Giant Choice Reward program, for up to a total of 300 points. Customers can earn those points up to five times during the duration of the game.
The program began Dec. 10 and will end Jan. 30. Giant Choice Reward points can be used for gas, grocery dollars or to redeem specific store items for free.
The company hired Schiefer Chopshop, an Irvine, California-based media and creative agency, to create the technology. Mack said Giant didn’t run into any major hiccups along the way but did face technical issues that any company experiences when developing a new program like this.
"We were really thoughtful in the process and in the execution and put the customer first," said Mack. "We really thought through what they would be experiencing. So as we developed the program and did a lot of our testing, we wanted to make sure it was as seamless as possible for the shoppers.”
This is Giant’s first time utilizing AR in its stores, but there's a good chance it won't be the last. Mack said Giant plans to learn from this pilot program and potentially role out programs at stores across its 180-store footprint.
"If this is successful you’ll definitely see more experiences rolling out [next] year, certainly around major initiatives we have and around major seasons that are exciting," she added.
AR across the retail industry
Augmented reality is slowly creeping into grocery. A few years ago, Kroger launched a program that let users scan a logo or icon in a printed circulator and browse price and product information. In 2018, Walmart added an AR function to its app that showed prices, details and reviews of products when customers held their phones up to store shelves.
Technology vendors are also growing in the space. ScandIt integrates into retailers’ apps and lets shoppers view ingredient and dietary information when they hold their phone in front of a particular product.
Across the retail industry, companies are using AR to help shoppers try out products and engage more deeply with their brands. Eyewear company Warby Parker lets customers try on glasses through its app, while home goods companies like Wayfair and Ikea help customers virtually place chairs, tables and other furniture in their homes before they buy.
Giant's pilot, meanwhile, is less about functionality and more about helping shoppers have fun. Pokemon Go, the massively popular game that debuted in the U.S. two years ago, revealed the demand for AR experiences, particularly among young consumers.
"We’re using AR as a fun experience for our shoppers rather than a tactical approach like many other retailers," said Mack. "It’s purely about entertainment and rewarding them so they can save at the end of the day."