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Publix ramps up mobile test to streamline deli orders

Supermarket chain Publix has expanded a mobile test to find out if ordering from the deli via a smartphone can speed up the process for on-the-go customers.

The mobile ordering program was introduced at a single Florida store in August and has since rolled out to 50 additional locations. Publix customers are able to place orders online or via a mobile device for custom subs, wraps and sliced meats and cheeses by visiting

“We have just completed our install to 50 locations,” said Maria Brous, director of media and community relations at Publix, Lakeland, FL.

“We will be learning from the 50 store pilot, and based on learning, determine what the most appropriate next steps are,” she said.

Deli orders made simple
Publix is focused on enhancing the shopping experience for its customers, who are busy and on-the-go.

Recognizing that many of these customers are increasingly looking to use their mobile device to easily accomplish simple tasks, the retailer pinpointed the deli as one area where mobile could help customers save time.

The mobile ordering program simplifies deli orders by enabling customers to place an order before they arrive at the store or as they are walking around shopping.

The Publix iPhone app

Several locations will also have in-store devices for order placement.

“Enabling mobile self-service via deli ordering, scanning, payment, coupons, navigation, etc. is about enhancing the shopper experience,” said John Caron, vice president of marketing for Catalina Marketing, St. Petersburg, FL. “It’s faster, smarter and easier for the shopper.

“But, the real upside is that it boosts loyalty and revenue,” he said. “The Catalina Mobile team – formerly Modiv Media – pioneered kiosk-based deli ordering years ago and it drives measurable lift while boosting satisfaction provided there’s queue management.

“The key in mobile deli will be to balance the queue in front of the counter with the orders that come in via mobile.”

To place an order on the mobile site, customers select the items they want, specify pickup time and submit the order. An order pickup number is provided as well as the deli department’s telephone number, in case users have to change their order.

The site prompts customers to save their order selections to a “Favorites” section so future orders can be easily placed.

To pick up and pay for their orders, customers go to the “Online Easy Pickup” location in the deli department.

Publix also offers mobile apps and a mobile site.

The in-store experience
Publix is using a variety of methods to make customers aware of the mobile ordering program, including with t-shirts   worn by store employees, point-of-purchase signs and targeted media outreach in specific markets.

Mobile and online deli orders can currently be placed at multiple stores in Florida and Georgia.

The news comes as a variety of merchants are increasingly using mobile in the store to enhance the customer experience. Pizza chains such as Domino’s and Papa John’s offer mobile ordering while retailers such as Sephora, Sears and others are equipping store associates with mobile devices that act as a point-of-sale terminal.

Publix operates 1,053 supermarkets in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Its other mobile efforts include an iPhone app that includes weekly sale items and a mobile site at

“From JCPenney removing registers to Walmart’s planned mobile self checkout mobile is a core part of how big retailers are reinventing the consumer experience,” Mr. Caron said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York