Ideas for Improving Online Grocery Shopping

Markus Stripf is the CEO and co-founder of Spoon Guru, a digital health innovation partner to leading grocery retailers around the world.

Citing statistics that indicated online grocery sales in the U.S. grew to $5.3 billion in April, compared to $4 billion in the previous month, and that online grocery will grow by 100% this year, Stripf has some specific thoughts on how retailers can improve online grocery shopping.

His list of “fresh ideas,” which were featured in a recent SupermarketNews article, included:

  • Offering customers designated delivery times to improve convenience
  • Providing more curated experiences based on consumers’ dietary preferences
  • Utilizing the power of personalized nutrition technology to enable healthy food exploration
  • Transparency to better enable purchasing decisions on specific dietary needs
  • Review and reinvest to ensure the simplicity and usability of user interface platforms

Read the full article…

Albertsons Named SupermarketNews Retailer of the Year!

In a recently posted announcement, SupermarketNews has named Albertsons Cos., the nation’s second-largest supermarket operator, as its Retailer of the Year for 2020.

“The past year has seen Albertsons successfully go public, spur growth and innovation in strategic areas such as e-commerce and private brands, and refresh its store base, among other initiatives,” the article stated.

The piece went on to identify key results of the chain’s efforts, which included improved customer loyalty and market share gains.

Read the full article…

4 Ideas for Supermarkets in the New Normal

The pandemic has changed the way people shop and what they care about most, says strategy-business.com. And most likely for the long term.

So, as a result, retailers’ strategies must also change.

“Whether the trip they’re looking to win is inside a store, curbside, or at a customer’s front door, emerging from the crisis on a strong footing will require retailers to plan around this new normal. Those that are best at sensing demand and responding quickly with engaging and brand-defining experiences will “win the trip” and see the highest return on their investments in those experiences, or return on experience (ROX),” the article said.

The piece goes on to suggest that retailers have likely seen growth in demand for certain categories, including food and beverage, personal care and wellness, home improvement, and pet care, as most of life’s activity has shifted to the home. Consequently, extra care (and inventory) in those categories will be necessary. Supermarkets also have an opportunity to “compete for trips — real and virtual — and reinforce their brand leadership by offering shopper resources, such as recipe ideas and educational content, in these categories.”

The authors suggest these four key ways that retailers can compete in the new marketplace:

  1. Improve and personalize targeting.
  2. Reinforce consumers’ category interests.
  3. Invest in targeted subscriber acquisition.
  4. Reimagine loyalty programs.

Read the full article…

Reinventing Grocery?

An interesting e-book, “Reinventing Grocery: The Timeline to the New Normal,” was recently released by co-creators Agilence and Date Check Pro.

With no sales or marketing messages, the publications shares straightforward content about several key issues affecting the supermarket business, such as:

  • How former “slow moving” categories may be worth further investment
  • The role Associates play in future customer acquisition & retention initiatives
  • Why cleanliness & safety protocols will arise as a key driver to new sales
  • Why a familiar industry adjacent to the grocery industry may emerge as a direct competitor
  • The DNA of the New Shopper

More information about downloading the e-book

Voice of the Customer

Supermarket shoppers appear to be optimistic about things “returning to normal” according to a recent study by Acosta Research, thought the results vary a bit based on certain demographics. They also believe that some of the new in-store behaviors being put in place, such as hand sanitizing and mask wearing, may become permanent.

According to the study, 51% of shoppers polled expect life to return to normal in less than six months, while 29% believe it will take more than a year to return to pre-coronavirus behavior and daily life.

Summarized in a SupermarketNews article, the study also indicated that many of the current safety protocols have become second nature to shoppers, and that Millenials and Southerners are the most optimistic about a return to pre-Covid life.

43% of those surveyed believed their state was “reopening” at an appropriate rate, while 39% said steps toward reopening were being taken too soon. Only 13% said their state’s reopening plans were moving too slowly.

A bit closer to the aisles, 68% of shoppers reported using a hand sanitizer before or after shopping, and the same percentage reported wearing a mask while shopping. The study found mask usage has doubled since early April (most popular among shoppers in the Northeast) and nearly half of shoppers (49%) reported shopping during off-peak hours to avoid crowds. The use of self-checkout has risen as well with 34% of shoppers choosing to do so.

Not surprisingly, shoppers are over-buying select items depending upon expectations of supply shortages. The current (as of mid-May) item of concern is meat, as opposed to the paper products buying frenzies during the first quarter. Of those who are “stocking up,” 34% said they were doing so because they are “eating at home more often” and 31% said the reason was fear of shortages or an attempt to reduce the frequency of shopping trips. 35% noted higher prices,

Innovative Improvements Continue to Emerge in Supermarkets

PREPARING FOR THE “NEW NORMAL”

Today’s Wall Street Journal reported that Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV is accelerating development of a robotic cleaning arm to help workers clean stores and process orders more effectively due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All the researchers said this Covid situation is so urgent, we see a direct application for our work right now because there’s scarcity of people who can work in stores,” said Bart Voorn, Director of Data, AI, and Robotics.

Of course the grocery giant is only one of many organizations taking innovative steps to initiate improvements in how the operate.

The article quoted Paul Daugherty, Accenture PLC’s group chief executive for technology, as saying, “Hyper automation is coming. We have now only automated 15 to 20 percent of what we can do.”

As noted in previous posts, necessity is, indeed, the “mother of invention” in supermarket chains across the globe; and combining technology with tried-and-true process improvement methodology is the likely path toward preparing for the “new normal” in food shopping.

Kroger’s Innovative Step-up

Spring-boarding from our previous post on emerging innovations within the supermarket industry, Kroger has exemplified such behavior by launching new new drive-thru test sites for coronavirus.

According to a recent SupermarketNews article, the chain will be offering free drive-thru testing for COVID-19 at 50 locations in more than 12 states by the end of May, and expects to have conducted up to 100,000 tests by that time.

So far, Kroger’s healthcare arm, said it has performed almost 8,000 tests in 30 locations.

The article goes on to quote Rodney McMullen, Kroger Chairman and CEO, as saying, “As part of Kroger’s commitment to help America reopen safely, we are proud to help expand access to COVID-19 testing as a partner in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public-Private Testing Partnership.”

Not only is the drive-thru aspect of Kroger’s testing model innovative, but so too is their methodology. Their sites use anterior nares or mid-turbinate nasal swab tests, which are designed to increase safety. The tests are completed in just a few minutes using self-administered test kits, and results are expected within about 48 hours.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company and the author of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways shared some great examples of how bad times have brought out the best in people and organizations.

Possibly this free testing being offered by Kroger will be remembered as such in the future?

Necessity & Innovation

Nearly everyone we ask says that they want to be innovative — the best returns come to those who are first to market with a new product; those who innovate new and better processes can provide much better quality at much lower costs; those who can create a management system or culture that constantly is clicking on all cylinders can have a powerful advantage.

But how often do they happen, and why?

In our experience and research, we find that innovation is truly enigmatic:

  • Large organizations have more wherewithal to invest in systematic innovation, but smaller organizations seem more capable of capitalizing on innovative ideas.
  • Most innovations come not from visionaries at the top but from people closest to the work. Yet paradoxically, strong leadership and vision at the top of the organization are required to create an environment that fosters innovation and risk taking. Without strong leadership, organizations become bureaucratic and risk-averse.
  • Outsiders often have the most innovative ideas, but insiders’ know-how and buy-in are required to get them implemented.
  • And possibly most relevant during the current pandemic, adversity or “necessity” often brings about innovative solutions.

A recent SupermarketNews article notes that current world challenges have been exceptionally tough for supermarkets, and that the associated difficulties have brought about significant and innovative improvements in how stores are being run… now and possibly in the future!

“The first hint of the virus reaching our communities ignited the shock of an overwhelmed supply chain,” said Randy Evins, Senior Principal and Industry Advisor.

“A couple of weeks later, the consumer experience was further diversified with online pickup services, home delivery and special hours reserved for vulnerable shoppers. Some local grocers have also installed plexiglass protectors around their checkout stations and added floor markers to help ensure shoppers are standing six feet apart while waiting in line.

“There’s unquestionably a lot of ingenuity happening in supermarkets right now. But there is one area of the business that still requires attention — especially if grocers want to continue surviving this constantly evolving time as well as the eventual rebound to come.”

The article goes on to stress the importance of leveraging digital technology to ensure that all variables are considered in “real time” when making inventory management and ordering decisions.

“Digital strategies must go even deeper to cover the entire value chain — addressing the need for connected processes, real-time transactional data and immediate visibility into store-level inventory,” Evins said.

“Supermarkets can no longer afford to order new products and additional inventory blindly. They need to know what is available on their store shelves, store backrooms and distribution centers — by SKU and quantity and in light of forecasted demand.”

In support of this perspective, the article cites predictive data indicating that 25% to 30% of a grocer’s sales volume will consist of digital orders by 2025, compared to 6% to 10% today.

Evins went on to say that the use of technology, as described, will enable store employees to “have the visibility and insight they need to work more efficiently, safely and productively while keeping consumers happy and coming back over and over again.”

Certainly, given today’s circumstances, necessity has truly been the “mother of invention.”

Read related newsletter…

Supermarkets Offering Innovative Improvements & Solutions

Necessity is the mother of invention, the adage says. Certainly, we’ve seen many examples of innovative thought and practical improvements put in practice in supermarkets throughout the U.S. during this pandemic.

For example, to promote social distancing, H-E-B was among the first to offer its customers a deal that to keep them out of lines and away from large crowds. Their stores across Texas provided free, next-day curbside ordering and pharmacy deliveries to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We are working diligently to provide solutions for seniors and Texans in need to access food and supplies with limited public interaction,” the company wrote.

They and many others also shortened store hours to better serve customers and to give team members more time to restock more quickly-depleted shelves, thus increasing product availability.

Stop & Shop was among the first to offer designated shopping hours for seniors, a step taken to help create a safer and more comfortable shopping environment for those most susceptible to the virus. Many have followed…

Albertsons was the first major company to announce they will install plexiglass “sneeze-guard” barriers at checkouts in its 2,200 stores… Walmart and Kroger have made similar commitments… Whole Foods also confirmed it’s in the process of rolling out sneeze guards at all locations to protect customers and Team Members at the registers.

Additional examples of best practices and suggestions were recently shared by the The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC that conducts research into new ideas for solving societal problems. Among their recommendations are the following, which many supermarkets have put into practice of their own accord:

“Employers need to implement immediate steps to reduce grocery workers’ exposure to COVID-19 by expanding access to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves and end any restrictions on workers wearing them. While supplies of protective masks and gloves are extremely limited across the country, employers and policymakers should prioritize PPE for grocery workers as they become available.”

“Employers should provide adequate cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, regular opportunities for workers to wash their hands, and frequent equipment cleaning.”

“Stores should shorten hours and limit the number of customers at any given time.”

“Grocery stores should implement additional measures to protect workers and enforce safe spacing of customers.”

Order for Pick-up Best Practices

A recent SupermarketNews article referenced the fact that the gross majority of people in the US own a smartphone and that this has led to a “NOW” economy where almost everything consumers want is available at their fingertips or on-demand. “These expectations provide a great opportunity for grocery brands to grow revenue if they can provide the pickup experience that customers are looking for,” the article said.

The piece went on to cite data from Rakuten Intelligence indicating that “Order for Pickup” has grown 2.5x faster than delivery over the last 3 years and that over 60% of consumers having tried curbside pickup or “click and collect.”

To capture those valuable and loyal mobile-first customers, grocers must be prepared to offer the right products as well as a top notch experience.

In fact, the article referenced a study by PWC highlighting that 73% of customers point to experience as a critical factor in their purchasing decision.

The following 5 best practices were then identified as critical to a successful Order for Pickup program:

  1. Focus on logistics and infrastructure. Clear signage, dedicated parking and pickup areas will reduce wait times and positively impact the customer experience.
  2. Leverage data to personalize the experience. The lower the wait time and the more personalized the experience becomes, the higher the customer perception of the overall shopping experience.
  3. Optimize technology to alert employees when customers arrive to pickup their orders.
  4. Provide dedicated employee training so they can provide high-levels of service.
  5. Promote your program to drive awareness and usage.