September 22, 2023
It hasn’t been easy to be a frontline worker in a grocery store during the last few years. From supply chain shortages, skyrocketing inflation, pandemic-related consumer behavior changes, to the volatility of the labor market… grocery frontlines are taking the brunt of every crisis we’ve faced. Despite all of this, supermarkets are increasingly innovative and resilient.
And really, grocery chains have a special hold on our hearts. Our beloved hometown supermarkets are integral to our homes and communities. At Zipline, we LOVE talking about our favorite grocery stores to shop at. Really! We have an entire Slack channel dedicated to sharing their Trader Joe’s finds, and you can catch us in an occasional Zoom breakout room dedicated to debating about the best aisles at Costo.
The final day of Groceryshop 2023 drove home theses final takeaways from the show. The speakers continued to unravel exciting trends and insights at the intersection of grocery, convenience, and quick-service restaurants (QSRs).
Here’s what we covered:
In the old days, customers discovered new products on the shelves. These days, consumers have discovered products well before they set foot in your stores.
“You don’t want to be chasing trends; you want to be making trends. However, there are a lot of brands that have huge groundswell on social media, and it’s so much easier to convert that purchase, compressing cycle times,” says Michael LaVitola, Co-Founder & Chairman of Foxtrot, “And ultimately, online is cool… but where you really drive volume is retail.”
It’s clear that tomorrow’s C-store leaders aren’t just relying on store employees to ring up transactions at the register – they also need them to develop personal relationships within the community and educate shoppers about new products. That’s why the most successful C-stores are focused on differentiating their employment brand and frequently communicating directly down to the front lines.
“AI and retail media are the two most trending words here, no doubt about that,” said Art Sebastian, Founder & CEO, Nexchapter. “If you take a broader look at the landscape, there’s so much pressure from so many directions. Companies are being pushed to do a lot more with a whole lot less. In retail, you are always looking for places where you can drive your business forward, and AI can more effectively build relationships. Retail media drives partnerships with CPGs and create more seamless omnichannel marketing.”
“You are no longer just a retailer. You’re a retail media company, and you need to change your organization to reflect that,” says Anne Mezzenga, Co-CEO, Omni Talk.
For Hy-Vee, it isn’t about staying competitive with other retail media networks. It’s about competing with the media. “We’re not just competing with other retail media networks, we’re competing with other media networks,” says Donna Tweeten, President, of Hy-Vee. “Writers strike could reduce viewership of TV by 30 percent, and we are going to capture that.”
In a time marked by shifts in supply chains, pandemic adaptations, and labor market fluctuations, the retail industry is reevaluating its approach to its most valuable resource: people. Successful brands invest in empowering their frontline workers with tools that foster innovation and amplify great ideas. Building strong connections and feedback loops with employees is essential for navigating these challenging times.
“Everything you’re doing for your frontline workers is about operational efficiency,” says Francisca Hawkins, VP of Digital & Enterprise Technology at Blue Bottle Coffee. It’s her priority to introduce technologies that free up the time and energy of your frontlines “so they can deliver the freshest cup of coffee to the consumer.”
“Labor has been challenging the last few years,” says Cara Keating, Chief Customer Officer, Frito-Lay North America, PepsiCo. “Making sure everyone has access to building capabilities and building careers, and building a great culture is part of that.”
There’s been a shift, according to Esi Eggleston Bracey, President, Unilever USA, and CEO, Unilever Personal Care, North America, and Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Founder & CEO, Braintrust, in today’s Groceryshop keynote.
“The demographics in America and the world are changing,” Esi says. “We’ve shifted from multicultural (meeting needs of a cohort) to polycultural (meeting all needs).”
We’re seeing a shift towards shoppers who want to see individuality expressed in the brands they shop and for employees to feel heard and represented by their leaders.
So how can brands deliver unique experiences to a polycultural audience? “To deliver individuality, we need to deliver authenticity,” says Esi. “The marketplace demands individuality, so we must lean into people. Don’t start with an agenda. Start with people…. not people as consumers. When you identify the human need, you tap into what’s going to drive innovation.”
Especially after years of business amidst a panic, the retail industry is investing more than ever in people, the most important asset that they have in stores. After all, it isn’t tech that is the key to retail success- it’s people. Investing in those people, by providing tools that empower them, means increasing execution, accelerating creative solutions, and unlocking feedback loops so that great ideas can get amplified.
As Groceryshop 2023 came to a close, it was evident that the food industry is in the midst of a profound transformation. The convergence of grocery, convenience, and QSRs is forging new pathways, and these key themes—consumer preferences, AI and retail media, social media’s influence, evolving eating occasions, and a people-centric approach—are guiding industry leaders toward a dynamic and exciting future.
Did you miss out on Groceryshop this year? Check out our recaps for Day 1 and Day 2 to get stocked up on all the fresh learnings we took away with us. (Turns out, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there after all; it lives on in grocery stores worldwide!)
Zipline is how retailers bring brand strategies to life in stores – combining frontline communications, task management, resources, insights, and more to #KeepTodayOnTrack.
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