September 21, 2023
The second day of Groceryshop flew by in a whirlwind of exciting content tracks, conversations about groundbreaking technology, and exchanging ideas around sustainability. From the first session of the day to the conversations in hallways, it’s evident that the grocery retail sector is at the epicenter of a profound transformation.
Between technology integration, mindful sustainability, and an emphasis on employee engagement, speakers hit on a few resounding themes. Let’s dive into the day’s highlights and top takeaways!
Technological fluency is something that doesn’t just belong in the IT department of retail organizations anymore.
“Digital transformation is not just something that happens in IT, because of IT. We have to look for these skills in everyone we hire,” says Luke Anderson, Chief Information Officer at Cub Foods-Brainerd, MN. “It’s our responsibility on the technology side to take responsibility for change management and training that gives us the wanted outcome.”
Everywhere you turn at Groceryshop, there are conversations about investing in technology and investing in the people who leverage that technology to elevate retail initiatives!
Another hot topic at Groceryshop Day 2 is… sustainability! But what happens when we combine AI and planet consciousness?
“The algorithm is always optimizing to minimize food waste,” says Ben McKean, Founder & CEO, Hungryroot. ” Our spoilage at our facilities is 80% less than the typical grocery store. Turns out, we’re bad at grocery shopping for ourselves as humans. 20-30% of the food we buy at grocery stores we throw out at home. So for our customers, we have largely cut out food waste with AI. There is a sustainability component to that, a value component to that, and that’s a huge part of our value proposition.”
For Alanna McDonald, President of Mars Pet Nutrition North America, it’s about impact. Mars Petcare is dedicated to creating the world we want tomorrow “for people, pets, and the planet,” she says. “Because we’re a business based in agriculture, and we have the scale, we can make the impact that we want.”
For “90% of grocery transactions, the point of sale still occurs in a physical store,” says Krystina Gustafson, SVP of Content, Groceryshop.
“Both e-comm and in-store shopping experiences offer opportunities to connect in meaningful and personalized ways,” says Barbara Connors, VP, Strategy & Acceleration, 84.51˚ (Kroger). “The key for retailers is to innovate and lean into technology so that we can provide exceptional online and in-store experiences.”
From a C-store perspective, the role of digital transformation serves to make shopping even more convenient. “Online helps us get customers to our stores in better shape,” says Mario Mijares, VP, Insights, Loyalty, Marketing & Monetization Platforms, 7-Eleven.
“There’s an important emphasis on both,” says Anna Bell, SVP of Marketing, Pet, Central Garden & Pet. “It’s very likely going to be both for a very long time across different categories.”
Changing social trends, the emergence of new technologies, and economic headwinds are all molding consumer behavior in various ways. This creates a complex landscape for retail bands, making it challenging to decipher today’s customers’ shifting needs and wants.
While many consumers seem to favor brands or retailers with a strong sense of purpose or those offering convenient and personalized experiences, the reality often reveals a prioritization of price and a cautious approach to sharing their data.
“In the grocery space, we’re seeing that customers are having a hard time choosing about what goes in the basket, especially in this high inflationary time,” says Barbara Connors, VP, Strategy & Acceleration, 84.51° (Kroger). She goes on to say that they are still shopping in stores and taking advantage of promotional discounts, clipping coupons, and deferring to deals. And ultimately, “we’re seeing that there are categories where customers are willing to trade down where their budgets force them.”
But on the c-store side, 7-Eleven is all about fostering loyalty. “Retail marketing is similar to getting married,” says Mario Mijares, VP, Insights, Loyalty, Marketing & Monetization Platforms, 7-Eleven, to loud laughter from the audience. “If you marry someone for money, and the money runs out, the marriage is over. If you marry someone for love, and the money’s gone, you’ll make it work.” In the same way, c-stores are working to earn the love and loyalty of their customers with consistent, personalized, innovative in-store experiences instead of trying to win shoppers over with low costs.
“A big part of convenience is getting access to new products,” says Mijares. “We built a set of tools to make 7-Eleven the cheapest, fastest, less-risky place to innovate.”
The Fresh Market has been rated the #1 best supermarket in America for the last two years by USA TODAY (and they’re up for a threepeat this year!) And breaking news- they just beat Publix for the #1 supermarket in Florida, according to the Miami Herald!
But… it hasn’t always been that way.
“A few years ago, we were ranked the worst company to work for by Glassdoor,” says Kevin Miller, Chief Marketing Officer, The Fresh Market. “We had a vision to become one of America’s most loved brands. We knew we could build a reputation for the best shopping experience in addition to the highest quality food. We wanted that experience to be about joy, anticipation, and discovery. We wanted you to feel like if you were going to The Fresh Market, you couldn’t wait to get there. We wanted to deliver impeccable guest service.”
(Spoiler alert) They achieved that vision and then some. How did they do it? They accomplished their goal by “making it personal.”
“We did research- we found when we upended our customer satisfaction data that when a customer comes into TFM, and they are welcomed, that basket goes up by $4. If you walk the customer to the shelf, the check goes up by another $4.50. Nothing replaces the connection you make eye to eye in an authentic way, communicating a passion for the brand. That’s irreplaceable authenticity and credibility.”
Without a doubt, the hottest topic at Groceryshop has been AI.
“GenAI has exploded into our collective psyche in just the last few months,” says Ben Miller, Director of Original Content, Groceryshop.
Advanced AI Chatbot technology – like ChatGPT – has taken the retail world by storm, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of its capabilities. Already we know AI will save employees time, help everyone to work smarter and faster, and cut down on the drudgery of day-to-day tasks.
“Our whole thesis is that in 5-10 yrs, your weekly grocery shop, you’ll want AI to do it for you,” says Ben McKean, Founder & CEO, Hungryroot.
Groceryshop Day 2 sessions tackled the changing social trends, emerging new technologies, and economic headwinds that mold consumer behavior in various ways. This creates a complex landscape for retail bands, making it challenging to decipher today’s customers’ shifting needs and wants.
That’s why it’s crucial for brands to build effective communication channels so that team members can celebrate successes, share creative solutions, and maintain a sense of excitement about their work across the entire organization.
This connects every human in the organization to the values of the brand, spreading contagious enthusiasm and ultimately driving loyalty and enhancing the overall customer experience.
Good news… that’s Zipline’s bread and butter 🛒 😎 🥖 🧈
Zipline is how retailers bring brand strategies to life in stores – combining frontline communications, task management, resources, insights, and more to #KeepTodayOnTrack.
👋 See you at Booth A1136, and stay tuned for more fresh supermarket content!
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