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How Peapod Is Revolutionizing the Grocery Shopping Process with Virtual Conveniences

Online grocer Peapod is one of those sleeper companies in my eyes — I honestly forgot they existed. Despite the fact that Peapod was founded in 1989 in Evanston, Illinois (years before the internet came into its own), I assumed they went under during the dot-com bust that happened in the early 2000’s.

Added Bonus: No stock boys in your way!

They’re still around and kicking, though, and in fact they’ve made the news for their latest advertising and branding stunt here in Chicago!

Peapod brought the brick-and-mortar grocery store to the hallway of the State and Lake Street CTA station in Chicago. The walls are covered with 7-foot-tall “shelves” — filled with everything from fresh produce to essentials like paper towels — on both sides of the 60-foot long tunnel. To make a purchase, all you need to do is download the free Peapod app onto your smartphone (don’t worry it’s displayed on the wall next to their shelves). Then, just point your phone at the item you want to buy, purchase it, and the items will be delivered to your door within a day of ordering.

Seem random? Maybe. However, it’s definitely worth a shot in attracting existing and new customers to do their grocery shopping with Peapod and not have to actually go to the grocery store. At this station, 17,640 commuters on average walk through this tunnel each weekday. Talk about getting your brand’s message out there to the masses!

I live in the suburbs, so grocery shopping for me means hopping in my car and driving to a store ten minutes away where ample parking is available to me. In the middle of downtown Chicago, though, this isn’t how grocery shopping works at all. Peapod’s virtual shopping and mobile app could revolutionize the way city dwellers shop!

Even while you’re macking with your boyfriend, you can buy paper towels

Mike Brennan, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Peapod, seems confident that consumer responses will be positive. “Grocery shopping doesn’t necessarily happen the way it used to. It’s becoming more of a task that happens in multiple steps throughout the week,” he said.

I tend to agree! My grocery shopping habits are radically different than my grandparents’, for example. I’ll buy stuff for one or two meals and then go out a few days later for more food. But my grandparents will go once a week for everything they’ll need – different generations mean different shopping habits.

Peapod says they’ve had strong responses to their latest CTA endeavor, “It kind of changes the game for the out-of-home advertising medium, almost as a kind of service rather than branding,” said Dave Etherington, senior vice president of marketing and mobile for Titan, a New York-based media firm who created the campaign for Peapod.

What have commuters said about the addition to their tunnel surroundings?

Virginia Marino, 28, said: “I typically take the ‘L’ during rush hour, so I don’t know that I would take the time to really walk by with my phone and shop. There’s no way you’re stopping; because of the crowd, it’s just not going to happen.”

Evelyn Ramirez, 20, slowed down enough to take in the new artistic feel of the pedestrian tunnel: “it’s kind of interesting, I feel like I’m actually in a store right now.”

Giving a man’s perspective was Brandon Precin, 23, who was impressed by the spontaneous nature of the ‘virtual foraging’ surrounding him: “I think it’s really cool, being able to walk by, scan something and shop. That’s a great concept. You get to look for what you want, scan with your phone and that’s it.” (Read these responses and more here).

Seoul, South Korea

I’d say so far, so good for Peapod’s business model! They’re not the first to try virtual grocery shopping (a company called Tesco launched it in Seoul, South Korea last year), but they’re the first to do it on a large scale here in America.

Even if your company doesn’t have the same business model as Peapod, that doesn’t mean you can’t walk away with some tips to improve your business:

  • Recognize the next wave and trends in your industry. Stay up to date on industry news by subscribing to news and planning for future scenarios. You’re never too old (or successful) to learn something new!
  • Think about your competition and plan how they could outperform you. Don’t just sit back and wait to react, think ahead and be the first to act. A good defense is a good offense.
  • Don’t stay stagnant with your marketing and advertising. Changing your tagline, logo, and demographic every six months isn’t smart, but keeping everything the same year after year will grow stale to consumers. Try something new and fresh and see how your customers react to it. You never know, you may have just the thing to bring in new customers!
  • Ask for outside help. If you’ve created your business from the ground up, then you’re obviously doing something right, but don’t be afraid to consult people who can help you make your company a success. Admitting you don’t know all the answers isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather a sign that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to further your company’s success!

As much as I would love to see pictures of shoes lined up in a CTA tunnel that I could click and buy as I rushed past, I don’t see that happening any time soon. Even if your company can’t directly apply Peapod’s idea to your next marketing campaign, that doesn’t mean you should sit on your hands, either! Be proactive with your next campaign and see where it takes you.

What do you think of Peapod’s new virtual supermarket? Would you use it? What’s the craziest type of marketing campaign you’ve witnessed? Sound off below!

Image credit to stirwise and


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  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    I definitely think that Peapod has a good idea on their hands, though the execution could’ve been a little better. Generally when I use the L, I just want to get to the platform and go. I’m not interested in taking my time snapping pictures of paper towels as I run to the train.

    But if they put the store at the actual platform when people are waiting, that would be a good idea. Idly waiting for a train would be an excellent time to shop!

    Overall, though, Peapod has the right idea when it comes to new marketing. Good luck to them. 🙂

    • Amy Swanson

      I agree with you, while the location seems awesome (over 17,000 people per day walk through this tunnel), anyone who has been shoulder to shoulder with people run/walking to the platform knows that “stopping ain’t gonna happen”. Your idea of putting the “shelves” on the actual platform for people to have space to walk around more freely makes much more sense.

      I’m very curious to hear if this is a success or not at the end of their run. I could see it going either way.

  2. Jen

    This is really interesting Amy! I think Peapod is a really cool company and I’d like to see them continue to succeed.

    • Amy Swanson

      This concept makes sense, to me. If I could snap some pictures of the things I needed and move on with my life I’d be all for that! However, they could’ve done more research for their location. I can’t imagine being in this tunnel during rush hour before and after work- makes me claustrophobic just thinking about it!

      I’m glad you liked it, Jen 🙂

  3. Jaimie Smith

    Amy this was a super cool post! Idk if its for me, though, because I personally enjoy going to the store and taking my time and looking around. I despise running in and out quickly. So I usually take my target trips on days I know I have plenty of time.
    This is a great idea though for many people. Especially in the city. I am kind of interested to see this. I will be in Chicago next weekend so maybe I will get a chance to see it.

    • Amy Swanson

      Thanks, Jaimie!!

      I hope you get to see it, I kind of want to go and check it out too 😉

  4. Jeff Porretto

    This is really cool stuff! I DESPISE grocery shopping. I don’t know why, I just do. Laura and I go maybe once every 3 weeks and just buy ridiculous amounts of food. If I went every couple days for just a meal or two I would lose my mind!

    I’ve long been looking to get my groceries delivered. But I’m also cheap, so there’s an obvious conflict there. Someday when I’m rich… someday indeed…

    • Amy Swanson

      I actually really enjoy grocery shopping, when I have the time and the patience to deal with other shoppers that is. I like checking out all the new products available, haha. Hopefully your “someday” comes sooner rather than later 😉 Good luck with that!

  5. Rachel

    Neat post, Amy! I remember reading about the grocery wall in South Korea, so it’s cool to see a company a little closer to home trying it now. 🙂 I’m curious to see what these tunnels look like in person. I wouldn’t be able to download the app, though; just one more reason I need to get a smartphone …

  6. Jill Tooley

    I hope this catches on! Do you have any clue how much I loathe and dread going grocery shopping? It’s the WORST. Especially with my hubby dilly-dallying in every aisle. Packed supermarkets don’t mesh well with my crowd anxiety.

    With that being said, Peapod should do extensive research for locations of these virtual checkout aisles. Mandy has it right — it seems more logical to have it next to a place where people would stand around, not where they’d run by it to catch a train. But one step at a time, right? 🙂

    • Amy Swanson

      Peapod rolled out this concept here and in Philadelphia, so I’m assuming they’re testing it before they roll it out at other mass transportation sites nationwide. I’m with you and Mandy’s thought process though, put these “shelves” at areas where customers can actually slow down and take a picture without fear of getting run over.

      We shall see what’s in store for them down the road. Thanks so much for commenting! 🙂

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