Engagement Day at Smart & Final!

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that corporate employees and top executives at Smart & Final,  a chain of warehouse-style food and supply stores based in Commerce, Californian, spent Wednesday in the field supporting one of the year’s bussiest shopping days.

, spent Wednesday ou support of stores anticipating their second biggest food shopping day of the year, around 200 employees at Smart & Final corporate offices reported to work at its stores Wednesday, including its top executives.

“Some people need to stay back and turn on the lights, maintain the help line and keep the systems running,” CEO Dave Hirz said, “but everyone else is pitching in at the stores. It’s a lot of fun.”

The event is part of a twice-yearly “Engagement Day” supporting the company’s core value of teamwork.

Based on the premise that engaged employees lead to engaged customers, this sounds like a great way of promoting both concepts!

A Dining Partnership at Whole Foods

mendocinofarmsA recent SupermarketNews article shared details and some great photos of a shared dining solution being presented within a Whole Foods store in California.

According to the article, Mendocino Farmsa family-owned business specializing in “an elevated dining experience,” opened its first location within a Whole Foods Market in Tustin, California. The 140-seat shared dining room within the store includes a bar with craft beer and wine, and the grocer’s typical prepared foods.

Whole Foods has been adding outside local restaurant operators to its food line up in stores across the country, the article explained.

The grocery chain’s relationship with Mendocino Farms also included a minority investment that will help the better-sandwich concept grow.

 

Supermarket Dining!

supermarketdiningWe all know that the trend toward providing a more enjoyable and diverse shopping experience has been prevalent in the supermarket world. So it comes as no surprise that food stations that resemble quick-service or fast-casual restaurants are on the rise at supermarkets, emerging as a natural extension of the traditional deli counter.

But a  SupermarketNews article reports that ten years ago Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, and the Texas chain Central Market began to experiment with bringing a high-quality dining experience into their stores.

While the full-service restaurants have been slower to catch on, some chains, such as Wegmans and Price Chopper have found success with the concept, the article said.

A more recent Boston.com article shared numerous examples of how an increasing number of supermarkets in greater Boston are winning fans with affordable, high-quality restaurants.

As new supermarkets spring up, plans invariably include kitchens run by chefs, dining facilities, and more-in-store classes, the article said, citing as an example the Whole Foods in Dedham, Massachusetts, which has a glassed-in Wellness Club. Others feature live music and poetry slams, and the Shaw’s at Boston’s Prudential Center conducts nightly wine tastings!

Supermarkets may not have yet achieved the level of customer service associated with more traditional hospitality organizations, such as Ritz Carlton, but they certainly seem to be on the right track toward greater levels of customer service and engagement.

 

Supermarket Priorities for 2017?

A recent SupermarketNews article shared some interesting perspectives from Acosta Sales & Marketing, the sales and marketing powerhouse behind most of the trusted brands seen in stores every day.

The article listed the top priorities on which supermarkets should focus next year, based on various surveys and emerging trends.

The top five recommendations:

1. Integrate health and wellness: Educate shoppers in-store and digitally to help them make smart food choices. Also consider how any in-store dietitians, pharmacies or other services in the wellness category can benefit customers during a single shopping trip.

2. Prepared foods: Expect the trend of ready-to-eat meals to grow further as shoppers look for convenient, but quality, meal solutions. Retailers should provide nutritious options in this category, as well as more diverse types of meals.

3. Digital fusion: The digital retail experience now goes beyond just coupons with the concept of the endless aisle. At-home delivery options make shopping convenient, and retailers should leverage apps so consumers can meal plan and take inventory of their kitchens.

4. Localize: Shoppers want to feel a connection to their store and localizing your offerings and marketing messages can help them form a bond. A supermarket should be broadly appealing, yet reflective of its community.

5. Signature departments: Select a few particular categories to zero in on and amplify those areas to differentiate your retail offerings. If you think your customers will gravitate toward a robust pet section, for example, focus on diversifying your product offerings in this space versus an aisle they’re less likely to visit.

Read the full article… 

BOPUS Machines?

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that in ongoing efforts to improve the online shopping and pickup process,  Wal-Mart is testing a massive storage locker at a store in Rogers, Ark., that can distribute packages to online shoppers “in the manner of a vending machine.”

Known as a BOPUS (buy online pick up in store) machine, the device is being tested a Walmart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas.

According to the article, the machine allows for automated distribution of online orders and works in conjunction with a kiosk previously installed at the Rogers store where online shoppers can alert the company when they’ve arrived to retrieve orders made online.

A spokesman told SN Friday that Walmart was testing the device as a means of storing items ordered for pickup, and providing faster service to shoppers. It allows for such shoppers to retrieve orders without the help of a store employee, potentially providing further convenience for the shopper and a more efficient solution for Walmart.

Seems like the online shopping trend continues to move ahead…

Online Food Shopping Trend Continues to Grow

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that three sizable supermarket chains are enhancing their e-commerce offerings.

Albertsons is offering an introductory special in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for a program that involves a strategic partnership with Tom Thumb.  Shoppers will receive $10 off and free delivery for the first order placed online or via a Tom Thumb delivery app, with orders arriving at households within one-hour delivery windows.

Supervalu also announced that the company has been testing three e-commerce providers at its retail banners in separate markets, and that home delivery and click-and-collect options will be available by the end of the year in 25% of retail stores, which is about 50 stores.

Harris Teeter also announced plans to expand its e-commerce offerings through grocery delivery service Shipt to the Charlotte, N.C. metro area.

Charlotte customers who sign up for an annual membership with Shipt prior to the launch on Oct. 26 will receive $25 off their first order. According to the article, Shipt membership costs $99 per year for unlimited deliveries; delivery is free on all orders over $35.

It seems the trend toward online shopping is continuing to grow. While the vast majority of grocery shopping still takes place in stores, industry experts predict this pattern may change during the next decades.

Data provided by Statista indicate that this year approximately five-percent of U.S. consumers prefer shopping for groceries online. The total U.S. online grocery sales amounted to about 7 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 and are expected to rise to 18 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.

Driving Supermarket Shopping Experience: Aisle 411

You may be familiar with Aisle411, an indoor mapping, navigation and analytics tool which, according to the company web site, enables retailers to “get the most out of your mobile apps and physical venues… easily access data to make informed decisions, interact with guests and associates, and better plan your floor layout.”

The concept seems to have enjoyed some traction, as Supervalu, Schnucks and Walgreens (yes, Walgreens sells groceries!) are among the list of  featured customers on Aisle 411’s website.

The key premise is about improving the shopping experience and enticing shoppers to come into the store.

In a related video published in 2014, it is also suggested that the use of this mapping tool can increase basket size, and create a “whole new way to experience shopping in a store!”

Another example of how the customer experience is driving innovation and supermarket retail decision-making for engaging customers; and also how many supermarkets are preparing themselves to compete against some of the bigger or giant on-line sales organizations.

 

Investment in Online Shopping Continues, But…

Total funds raised for grocery delivery startups have exceeded $1 billion so far this year, according to research firm CB Insights.

But while American consumers are buying groceries online, they haven’t changed their food-buying habits as quickly as they have for other types of merchandise, according to US government statistics which show that consumers still prefer to stop into the supermarket to evaluate and buy fresh food , and many more continue to make weekly shopping excursions.

In addition, buying groceries online is convenient, but it still requires the same kind of meal planning of a regular shopping trip, and, according to a recent article published on Bloomberg.com, it often means shelling out a hefty fee for delivery.

In fact, delivery costs associated with online food shopping vary quite a bit and, surprisingly, online shopping giant Amazon is among the priciest options!

It will be interesting to see if online food shopping volume will spike over the holidays, especially if overall shopping volume goes-up again this year as many are predicting.

Is This the Future for Supermarkets?

robotsWhile several of our posts have discussed the emerging trend toward on-line grocery shopping options, a recent SupermarketNews article might be giving us an interesting glimpse into the future!

According to the article, self-driving robots capable of delivering groceries or restaurant meals are now being used in several European countries, and are also being tested in Washington, D.C.

Starship Technologies, an Estonian technology company established in 2014 by the co-founders of Skype, have developed the robots, which as you can see above resemble six-wheeled buggies.  Apparently these robots are capable of delivering up to 20 pounds of food, packages and goods to consumers within a short radius of their point of origin.

“They’re cost efficient, particularly for the kinds of small deliveries food retailers often find the most expensive,” said Henry Harris-Burland, Starship’s marketing and communications manager.

According to the article, the technology could cut costs to pennies per delivery, and allow for the delivery of even a single item to be profitable. Customers can place their orders on-line or through a mobile app, and a robot is dispatched to deliver in as soon as 15 minutes.

While this might all seem a bit futuristic, it strikes me as another step toward trying to cater to consumers’ demand for convenience, and toward providing a better, more customized shopping experience.

Thoughts?

Supermarket Shopping Experience Reinforced at “Supermarket Sense”

Continuing the “supermarket shopping experience” discussion from our previous post, a recustomerservicecent SupermarketNews article reported that it was aslso the theme at  Supermarket Sense, a food retail training conference that recently wrapped up just outside Atlanta.

“In today’s competitive environment, supermarkets can’t just sell food… they have to sell an experience,” the article said.

Sessions on saving the center store, reinventing the perimeter, tapping restaurant trends to drive supermarket sales and designing and merchandising delightful in-store spaces reflected grocers’ need to remain competitive amid unprecedented industry change.

Two data points offer a view of the challenges:

  • Online grocery sales in the U.S. grew 11% annually from 2011-2016, according to IBISWorld’s market research report. It’s now a $12 billion-a-year business.
  • Meanwhile, supermarket trip frequency decreased by 19 trips a year, on average, during that same period, according to global research firm Nielsen.

The solution, industry experts say, is engaging supermarket customers with an in-store experience that beats shopping online — or anywhere else!

Read the full article…