Co.Design

Peapod Creates Virtual Grocery Aisles For Subway Stops

How do you get busy commuters to buy groceries? Bring the virtual store to them.

Peapod is a business built around convenience. Urban dwellers might not have minivans to load up at Walmart, so Peapod’s delivery service fills in the gaps. But it was the web that was Peapod’s real revolution, making the whole ordering process a lot simpler than talking to a stock boy on the phone.

Still, are there still other ways that Peapod customers could shop? In a campaign in subway stations across the country, Peapod has placed 100 large billboards that mimic grocery store aisles. Each features about 50 items from Peapod’s roughly 11,000-item inventory. And with a smartphone, shoppers can scan the barcode of any item to add it to their grocery list. It’s the actual grocery store shopping experience, half-digitally, half-physically inserted into a commuter’s lifestyle.


“It grabs potential customers in a way that a direct mail piece can’t do,” explains Peg Merzbacher, director of marketing, “and it’s a repetitive message that they see every day. We think it may be the best possible way to get people to check out our app.”

So yes, it’s an advertisement, but that ad is in itself designed around a totally natural interaction model--a casual experience that the core Peapod customer (who spends over an hour in public transit each day) has needed to eschew in the interest of efficiency. And unlike your normal “virtual shopping” gimmicks on websites, Peapod’s ad isn’t a time-sink destination, but an actionable chunk of mortar in the cracks of someone’s life, a means to kill a few minutes while waiting for the train--and hey--I needed milk!

“Realistically, our app provides the best functionality,” Merzbacher admits, “but the transit signs are a great way to let customers know that grocery shopping anywhere is a reality for anyone with a smartphone. Even when they are commuting they can get grocery shopping done easily.”

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