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The Giant Company to test technology to boost brands in the alcohol aisle

Published Nov. 23, 2021


Dive Brief:

  • The Giant Company will soon start to test QR codes that shoppers can scan to access product information in the alcohol aisle of 15 King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-area stores, the grocer and A3 Media, creator of the tool, known as SocialShelf, confirmed in emails.

  • Set to start in mid-December and last for 90 days, the test will place SocialShelf’s owl icon and QR code next to the prices on the shelf tags of more than 150 brands, Rachel Laird and Rob Lucci of A3 Media said.

  • The Giant Company sees SocialShelf as furthering its efforts to innovate while also helping customers navigate the alcohol aisle in-store, particularly for “upscale wine and high-end craft beer,” a spokesperson for the grocer said.

Dive Insight:

Alcohol departments can often be tough to shop owing to the vast selection of prices, brands, name recognition and varieties. The Giant Company is looking to streamline the experience for customers.

Social Shelf is an in-aisle and e-commerce advertising tool developed by A3 Media, a marketing and advertising firm based in the greater Philadelphia area, that uses scannable QR codes on shelf tags to provide product details through ways like a video, a link to the supplier’s website or a page with information about ratings or flavor notes.

“The category can be overwhelming to shop, with all the options available... we were attracted to Social Shelf because it offered us a convenient way to help customers make purchasing decisions by making a wealth of information available to them at their fingertips,” Ashley Flower, a spokesperson for Giant, wrote in an email.

The pilot with Giant includes local and national brands, Flower said. For local brands, SocialShelf can provide more visibility at an affordable price point, Lucci and Laird said.

During testing, SocialShelf will be free for retailers and brands that want to use it. After that, the technology costs either $3,000 per quarter or $9,000 annually for the maintenance fees for brands and then 18 cents per view, said Lucci, director of audio and digital at A3 Media. Brands will be able to set a budget and then expand it if they reach their limit, Lucci said, noting brands will get reports on when the scans happened and which products customers sought information about.

Giant plans to monitor and review the pilot’s performance and listen to customer input before deciding on whether or not to expand its use of the technology, Flower said.

In addition to the selection overload for consumers, alcohol also faces strict and varying regulations, further making it a difficult department to handle. A3 Media is already familiar with those challenges — the company has worked with several alcohol brands including the Yuengling Brewery, Flying Fish Brewing Company in New Jersey and others.

“We have a really good feel for the category as far as the laws in the states and the way this can be promoted. ... We know that a lot of craft brands and smaller brands don’t have the budgets to market the way Budweiser or Coors or Miller would,” said Lucci. “It’s an opportunity for them to do some low-cost marketing in a very personal way.”

SocialShelf QR codes on the shelf tags for wine bottles.

Permission granted by A3 Media

The Giant Company has long focused on elevating its alcohol departments, from debuting its first Beer and Wine Eatery in 2016 and then expanding the format to more than 100 stores to collaborating with local breweries on co-branded beer, with a portion of the sales donated to local charities.

Colin Heap, beer and wine category manager for Giant, told Grocery Dive earlier in the pandemic that the grocer has been able to take advantage of growing local brewing and distilling efforts in recent years to meet consumer demand, noting that the grocer puts an emphasis on local beer and wine.

With alcohol sales flowing in during the pandemic, grocers have placed heightened attention on their alcohol departments and are looking for ways to keep the sales for wine, beer and liquor keep pouring in as people head back to bars and restaurants.

SocialShelf was originally designed as an app but is currently focused on the QR codes, which are seeing increased adoption during the pandemic, said Laird, strategic partnership manager at A3 Media.

In-store signage, social media and digital advertising, billboards, commercials are some of the main ways A3 Media is looking to alert shoppers to what SocialShelf is and how to use it, said Laird.

A3 Media is looking to run several more pilots in early 2022 and has had talks with other retailers as large or larger than Giant, Lucci and Laird said, noting the goal is to test the technology in multiple markets, grocery categories and retailers.

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