Big Y, schnucks leveraging innovation for improving customer experience

Innovative improvements in retail operations, pricing, merchandising, and customer service have been the norm over the past eighteen months, and the trend is continuing at a rapid pace.

Progressive Grocer recently reported on two prime examples.

Big Y Foods, one of New England’s largest independently owned supermarket chains, is enhancing its fleet logistics with new trailers equipped with state of the art refrigeration units and an electronic platform for remote monitoring and control.

The eSolutions platform provides continuous visibility of Big Y’s cold-chain assets via a centralized data stream that monitors trailer temperatures, location and movement, and also enables remote control of refrigeration units. The platform also:

  • Provides notifications as trailers come and go from geofenced areas assigned to Big Y’s distribution center and key locations within its retail network.
  • Finds unused or underused trailer assets, including those dropped by Big Y’s third-party logistics provider at vendor partners, where they may be idle for a few days until loaded.
  • Monitors trailer precooling time to minimize fuel waste.
  • Optimizes refrigeration unit performance for fuel efficiency and product protection.
  • Helps avoid emergency call-out situations in which a refrigeration unit must be re-primed because it ran out of fuel. Fuel level monitoring sensors send dispatchers low-fuel alerts via eSolutions, and units can be programmed to automatically shut down before they run out of fuel.
  • Shortens refrigeration unit uptime through the use of continuous analytic and diagnostic information

On a different front, St. Louis based Schnuck Markets Inc. has announced that it will be the first grocer to use a Check In feature provided by GetUpside.

Shoppers can use the free GetUpside mobile app to take advantage of personalized cashback promotions of up to 20%. The new Check In feature will make it easier for customers to earn cash back as, instead of snapping and submitting a picture of a receipt, they can just click “Check in” and GetUpside will verify each transaction.

These innovations are just two examples of how many of today’s supermarket chains are leveraging innovation and technology to improve processes and to provide a better customer experience.

Amazon Reduces Waste with New ‘Curbside Recyclable’ Delivery Packaging

SupermarketNews recently reported that Amazon has unveiled a new sustainable food packaging solution for the point of delivery.

The article referenced a statement from Stephenie Landry, vice president of Amazon Grocery, indicating perishables deliveries from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market now will come in “curbside recyclable” insulated paper packaging.

“Rolling out just in time for Thanksgiving, Amazon’s new packaging is made from recycled paper and is curbside recyclable. Whether customers are ordering turkey, green beans, or frosty pints of ice cream, chilled and frozen foods from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market will arrive insulated in packaging that is easy and convenient for customers to recycle at home.”

As part of Amazon’s overall sustainability effort, they say the new packaging will replace of the plastic liners and bubble bags that are often used to insulate chilled and frozen items. It will also cut back on material waste they claim, replacing about 735,000 pounds of plastic film, 3.15 million pounds of natural cotton fiber and 15 million pounds of non-recyclable mixed plastic annually.

Key considerations in developing the new packaging included sending less material to landfills and more back into the circular economy loop while ensuring that the insulated material properly chilled the food inside and was compact, flexible, easily recyclable, inexpensive and scalable, according to a company spokesperson.

Instacart Offering New Ways for Online Grocery Shoppers to Save

You have likely seen reports of rising grocery prices which, along with supply chain shortages, have many shoppers concerned.

So the timing seems quite good for Instacart’s recent announcement about several new ways for online shoppers to save money.

“For most families, when it comes to grocery shopping we know that every dollar matters,” said Asha Sharma, chief operating officer of San Francisco-based Instacart. “That’s why we’re proud to roll out these new features that help customers get exactly what they need, while also saving along the way.”

The new offers, which are accessible via the Instacart app, include:

  • New Reduced-Cost and Free Delivery: In select markets, Instacart is testing a new delivery option, which will reduce or waive the delivery fee on orders placed more than 24 hours in advance of the desired delivery date and time.
  • Savings with the Deals Tab: offers savings with daily coupons from retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. Customers can visit the Deals Tab to browse sales in their area and save on weekly staples, bulk products or special-occasion items.
  • ​​5% Credit Back on Express Pickup Orders: provides additional savings to Express members who use the company’s contactless curbside Pickup offering.

5 Grocery Trends in 2021

The grocery business has been, as we all know, greatly impacted by the pandemic and shifts in consumer shopping habits and demand. The return of more grocery shoppers in-store has retailers breathing a sigh of relief, but supply chain issues and the associated challenges of getting stock into the store are concerning.

SupermarketNews recently published a report listing five key trends that have emerged this year:

  1. Fresh is back on track! With bakery and deli sections reopening and rebounding, things look bright on the perimeter.
  2. Supply chain issues linger, impacting center store most and increasing the likelihood of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) out of stocks.
  3. Beverage sales are up, with single-serve beverages making a comeback as consumers resume their more active lifestyles.
  4. Snacks have become more popular as all-day noshing buoys the category both in-store and online. It seems younger consumers are more likely to snack for lunch.
  5. Wellness and weight control have had a positive impact on demand for vitamins and supplements, but flu remedies are lagging.

More Supermarkets Offering COVID-19 Booster Shots

Giant Food, Publix Super Markets, H-E-B, Wegmans Food Markets, Albertsons Cos. and Big Y Foods are among the latest grocery chains to provide COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

Pfizer COVID booster shots are administered at least six months after completion of the initial Pfizer two-dose vaccination series. Eligible patients include seniors, long-term care residents, those ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions, individuals ages 18 to 49 at high risk for severe COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions, and people ages 18 to 64 at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional settings.

Big Y Foods, a New England chain, is now providing the Pfizer COVID booster, as well as the Pfizer and Moderna third COVID vaccine doses, at all of its pharmacy and clinic locations. On Sunday, the Springfield, Mass.-based chain kicked off “Big Y’s Big Vax Week,” a series of on-site immunization clinics — including COVID and seasonal flu shots — through Oct. 2 at all 71 Big Y supermarkets in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

As part of their first-ever chainwide vaccination event, Big Y will be giving patients who receive a vaccine a coupon for $5 off $25, as well as other giveaways. In addition, Big Y said it will administer COVID booster shots at all Big Y pharmacy locations regardless of where people received their original Pfizer COVID vaccine series.

Customer Experience Programming Provided by Progressive Grocer

Making customer retention a first priority and finding ways to let customers know they are cared for were among the key focus areas to be addressed in a Customer Experience program offered by Progressive Grocer.

“As those who keep you in business explore a rapidly expanding landscape of options beyond your stores, customers need to know you care about keeping their business over time… [you must] become the most trusted partner to meet each customer’s needs, keep them safe, and ensure they know you’re listening and learning from their experiences,” they said in a statement.

The piece went on to pose some thought-provoking questions regarding customer trust and loyalty, and about finding opportunities to gain their feedback to ensure needs are being met.

“Customers have more options than ever to obtain what they need and want,” PG said.

“Retailers who don’t specialize in grocery or have never offered grocery items are expanding across the market to capture larger segments of your customers’ budgets. The intensely competitive nature of grocery requires constant communication with customers and attention to these imperatives: an omni-channel approach to customer feedback, prioritizing safety and building customer trust, and knowing exactly what your customers want.”

Leveraging Technology at Whole Foods

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Whole Foods Market will be implementing the checkout-free Just Walk Out payment technology that Amazon introduced in its Amazon Go convenience stores in two new stores slated to open next year in Washington, D.C. and Sherman Oaks, Calif.

As the name implies, Just Walk Out allows customers to avoid the checkout line by using overhead computer-vision cameras, weight sensors and deep-learning technology to detect merchandise that shoppers take from or return to shelves and track items selected in a virtual cart. Customers will be prompted when entering the store to select Just Walk Out shopping or use the traditional checkout or self-checkout lanes.

Another example of how supermarkets are leveraging technology to continually improve the in-store shopping experience!

Omnichannel Attribution

In a recent Progressive Grocer article, Diana Medina, Director of eCommerce Solutions at Inmar Intelligence, shared some good insights and best practices for today’s supermarkets’ marketing strategies.

The article noted that in a traditional single-channel model it was simple to evaluate a grocer’s marketing efforts. “An ad ran, sales increased and you knew it worked,” she explained.

But today, that attribution becomes a more complex because grocers are using multiple channels to reach customers and prospective customers, and they must”…know what’s working and what’s not, and they need to know it quickly, so they can react and optimize in real time.”

Medina goes on to identify five important factors for optimizing attribution efforts:

  1. Attribution Isn’t Just for Digital Channels. Digital’s direct impact on grocery sales is easier to measure than more traditional marketing — like the weekly circular — but a comprehensive attribution plan needs to encompass all of the marketing channels you’re using to reach shoppers.
  2. Data Automation Is Essential for Measurement. Data is the lifeblood of sales attribution for any grocer. But for data to become a truly effective tool, it needs to be easily accessed and analyzed to create actionable, optimizable insights.
  3. Technology Should Drive Your Media Mix. The days of using one marketing message for all grocery shoppers are well behind us. Thanks to technology and data, you can now predict how an individual shopper might respond to one offer, while another will respond to an entirely different message. That means you can create relevant stories and experiences that engage shoppers when, where and how they prefer to shop, throughout their unique shopper journey.
  4. Predictive Models Actually Work. Predictive, or lookalike modeling, is all about understanding and anticipating shopper needs. The more comprehensive data you have on shopper behavior, across all channels, the easier it is to stay ahead of the competition.
  5. Test, Learn, Test Again! Small failures are almost a certainty when there are so many moving parts, data points, shifting customers needs, media options, marketing objectives and channels. The trick isn’t to avoid failure, it’s to learn and respond to it — quickly!

Read the full article…

Stockpile Alert?

A recent SupermarketNews article shared the results of Inmar Intelligence research that warned retailers and consumers alike that we could be in for another wave of consumer stockpiling.

With COVID-19 infection rates climbing and mounting concerns about the Delta variant, a surprising number of people are fearing the worst.

Of 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed by Inmar, 69.4% said they’re considering replenishing a current stockpile of groceries and other essential products as transmission of the Delta variant increases.

Forty-six percent have already created a product stockpile in response to coronavirus, and 12% of those that haven’t done so said they now will stock up because of the Delta variant.

Another 32.8% said they’re not sure if they will build up their supplies.

Interestingly, sixty percent of consumers polled reported still having products in stockpile they created because of the COVID-19 outbreak! And sixty-five percent said they now plan to always have a stock of food and supplies for emergencies like the pandemic.

If these projections should prove to be accurate, grocery shopping trends could very well shift back to what we experienced at the height of the pandemic, which included larger average order size and an influx in online transactions.

Leveraging Technology to Improve Processes at Walmart

A recent SupermarketNews article said that Walmart plans to roll out warehouse automation that will improve speed and efficiency at regional distribution centers.

The plan involves activating robotics technology in 25 of Walmart’s 42 distribution centers, which will include a fleet of fully autonomous robots and proprietary software to improve throughput while boosting warehouse capacity,

“This move will fundamentally alter how products get to stores,” said Joe Metzger, executive vice president of supply chain operations at Walmart U.S.

“Right now, product arrives at one of our regional distribution centers and is either cross-docked or warehoused until we need it. The products are moved or stored manually… This system uses a complex algorithm to store cases like puzzle pieces using high-speed mobile bots, operating with a precision that speeds the intake process and increases the accuracy of freight being stored for future orders. By using dense modular storage, it also expands building capacity. And by using high-speed palletizing robotics to organize and optimize freight, it creates custom store- and aisle-ready pallets, which take the guesswork out of unloading trucks.”

Another good example of improving processes to drive the customer experience while keeping costs down!