PARSIPPANY, N.J. — The New Jersey Supermarket Economic Development Act is gaining grass-root support thanks to an innovative text message campaign piloted by Kings Super Markets here.
If passed, the bill would raise the current cap on liquor licenses from two per New Jersey supermarket chain to 10 over as many years.
During the weeks leading up to an expected hearing of the bill, Kings is encouraging shoppers to text their support via a New Jersey Food Council message posted on digital monitors at the checkouts of its 26 stores. It instructs: “To vote YES: Text the word ‘CHOICE’ to 38681.”
The effort is part of One Stop Shop NJ, a campaign advocating the sale of alcohol in more supermarkets in the state. The NJFC is its primary supporter.
“We've had a good response from customers,” said Kings spokeswoman Cheryl Good, who would not provide specifics. “They want the convenience of purchasing alcoholic beverages at the stores in which they shop.”
In advance of the hearing that NJFC President Linda Doherty hopes will take place before this week's legislative recess, text messages will be tallied and distributed to the legislators responsible for each individual shopper's district. Shoppers who text are not asked for their address. Instead, the store where they shop is identified through a unique vanity code — the specific word the shopper is asked to text to 38681. At the conclusion of the campaign, “votes” will be directed to the legislators associated with the sender's store's district.
“The Kings in Bedminster might use a vanity code of ‘SHOP ONE,’ while the store in Morristown might use the code ‘SHOP TWO,’” said Kim Steele, vice president of business development for the provider of Kings' digital screens, LSS Technologies, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Directing texts to the appropriate representative makes for a more impactful campaign, according to One Stop Shop NJ.
“Legislators rightly pay the most attention to their own constituents,” according to its website, www.onestopshopnj.com.
In the past, New Jersey grocers like Wegmans Food Markets directed shoppers to the site. Once there, visitors can identify their senator or assemblymember and email a form letter asking them to support the sale of beer and wine by more food retailers. Though Wegmans has hosted similar capabilities on its own website, Kings is the only New Jersey supermarket testing the mobile option.
“It's an extremely innovative approach,” Kings President and Chief Executive Officer Judy Spires told SN. “We can communicate with consumers about issues that are important to them and our business.”
The test is made possible by a bottom-of-the-basket loss-prevention technology offered to NJFC members by LSS Technologies, free of charge. Rather than obtain financial support from end users, the system is paid for by advertisers who promote their products on one side of a two-sided screen at the checkout. LSS recently began sharing ad revenue with retailers.
The screen featuring the One Stop Shop NJ message and other promotional ads faces the waiting consumer, while the other side is viewed by the associate manning the register.
“When a customer comes into the lane, our system looks for products at the bottom of the cart,” said Steele. “It activates a camera and freezes the images on [the associate's] side of the screen, and they ask the customer to bring up the product.”
LSS recently partnered with Converdia, Minneapolis, to manage mobile messaging data. The company keeps track of all of the phone numbers from which messages are sent as part of the One Stop Shop NJ campaign.
The idea to merge the NJFC's campaign with LSS' system came from the technology provider, according to Doherty. LSS is a member of the NJFC.
“LSS approached us, saying, ‘We want to help support the food retailers in New Jersey,’” she said. “It came up with the idea to merge the technology with our issues management campaign.”
Kings has been so pleased with the mobile messaging campaign that it's already considering promoting other issues like combating obesity, and promoting health and sustainability, Spires told SN.
“This is a great way to reach our younger consumer who is really comfortable with texting,” she said.