Innovation at H-E-B!

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that H-E-B has opened a state-of-the-art technology center in East Austin, Texas, that will serve as a “hub of innovation” for its digital team and Favor delivery service.

The article quoted Jag Bath, chief digital officer of H-E-B and CEO of Favor, who said, “The center will play an essential role in keeping both Favor and H-E-B as digital leaders.”

As we have previously shared, innovation and technology have become driving forces in the food industry. As summarized in an article posted on bouncepad.com, grocery shopping as we know it is shifting. Retailers are leveraging technology to target issues consumers have struggled with for years, now offering online shopping and home-delivery along with related offerings geared toward providing more convenience for busy shoppers.

In-store experiences have also begun to mold to the modern consumer, using integrated technology solutions and secure touch-points like tablet enclosures, which help supermarkets with cross-sell services, offer personalized deals, guide shoppers around the store and increase sales.

Click here for a slide show featuring H-E-B’s new technology center.

Raley’s Innovative Approach to Managing Shrink

Raley’s, a West Coast supermarket chain, has implemented Date Check Pro from Pinpoint Software Inc. to better manage shrink.

In a recent SupermarketNews article it was reported that Raley’s adopted the system after determining that a technology-based solution supporting inventory management would aid ongoing efforts to provide customers with the freshest and highest-quality products. Previously the chain took a more operational approach to flag out-of-code items by bolstering team member training and auditing processes to best manage disposal of expiring products.

Date Check Pro provides real-time updates and proactive notifications on close-dated inventory, establishing more consistency and accountability versus traditional rotation and spot-checking methods, in which out-of-date items can be missed by human error, according to Raley’s. In turn, the grocery chain said it’s able to ensure that it’s offering shoppers the freshest products and recoup savings on what would have been expired shrink

New Level of Customer Service Goes “Beyond” Home Delivery of Groceries

Walmart is expanding the online grocery shopping experience by going “beyond” home delivery. According to a recent SupermarketNews article, certain Walmart stores are delivering groceries not just to more homes, but also inside them.

This new service will be launching in the fall when associates will deliver groceries right to a customer’s refrigerator, or to other designated areas inside shoppers’ homes, such as garages or pantries. Various methods are incorporated into the process to ensure security and to allow customers to actually view the delivery from remote locations.

“Online grocery remains a meaningful contributor to e-commerce growth,” Walmart’s Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs is quoted to say in the article. “Customers continue to really appreciate our grocery pickup and delivery offerings as we scale them across the U.S., …they want product faster than ever before, and Walmart is the best-positioned in the industry to deliver grocery same-day.”

Unique Customer Service at Stew Leonard’s

While their approach to customer service and providing an enjoyable shopping experience may be anything but traditional, Stew Leonard’s has a tried-and-true motto: “The customer is always right!”

As reported in a recent SupermarketNews article, there are aisles filled with animatronic singing poultry and vegetables, stuffed creatures that flip, and a selfie station where customers can pose for pictures with Clover the cow in a replica of Stew’s milk truck.

Yesterday & Today
For those who have been customers over the years, these “extras” are common place. Ever since the first Stew Leonard’s opened in 1969 they’ve been tabbed as “the Disneyland of Dairy Stores.” Today the grocery still relishes the country-fair atmosphere.

But the zaniness has not compromised how vital customer service and product scouting are to the growing company. (There are now six Stew Leonard’s locations now in New York and Connecticut, with a seventh planned for New Jersey in the fall).

“Customers rule when it comes to choosing what products the stores sell,” says Stew Leonard, Jr., the president and CEO who took the business over from his dad in the 1990s. “You’ve got to listen to the customers really and hear what they have to say.”

Read the full article…

3 Strategies for Attracting “Moms” to the Supermarket

As Mother’s Day Approaches, a study showed that most moms prefer to shop at the supermarket versus online.

According to research recently completed by Valassis Communications, Inc., a Livonia, Michigan-based company that provides media and marketing services, when it comes to food purchases, 52% of moms do most or all of their shopping in-store, compared to 27% of dads. But when it comes to health and beauty care items (HBC), only 36% of moms opt for brick-and-mortar, compared to 24% of dads. Equally as revealing, the study showed that over half of moms want better solutions to save more time (53%) and money (58%).

A recent SupermarketNews article reported these findings, and also suggested three key strategies supermarket chains might consider in order to continue attracting “moms” to their brick-and-mortar locations:

  1. Provide a mix of savings and convenience. Over one in three moms are increasingly shopping via brick-and-mortar that offer the added convenience of delivery and pickup options. Just over half (51%) always or very often search online for coupons they can use during their shopping trips.
  2. Appeal to the evolving omni-channel shopper. As the digital and physical environments continue to blend, approximately one in five moms orders groceries online for delivery or in-store pickup. And as technology continues to integrate with the path to purchase, over one in four moms now use a smartphone app to scan barcodes as they shop, according to Valassis.
  3. Offer unique experiences. More than a third of moms (36%) have increased their shopping at stores that offer prepared foods/meals versus last year. The same percentage say they are doing more shopping at stores that focus on organic, natural and fresh products compared to last year.

E-Commerce Challenges for Supermarkets

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that E-commerce is transforming the grocery business, “bringing-about the need to overhaul operations and invest heavily in technology and talent to keep customers from straying to Amazon.com Inc. ”

“Not since Walmart Inc. first pushed into groceries in the late 1980s have traditional chains faced so many challenges,” the article states.

As an example, Kroger, a long-term, consistently successful chain, stayed focused on store sales long after competitors were investing in online-ordering technology and delivery services. But, according to the article, company leadership has recognized they are behind and have crafted a plan for more rapid transition to keep up with consumer preferences.

The article goes on to note that few American retailers have managed the online transition smoothly, citing early struggles experienced by Target and Walmart before improving their e-commerce operations, and the demise of Sears Holdings Corporation and Toys “R” Us in 2018.

This perspective is consistent with that of our previous post, noting that, while still in growth mode, the on-line grocery shopping experience requires improvement. It will be interesting to see how Kroger and other traditional chains address the emerging demand for online shopping while still satisfying the more traditional demand for low prices as well as a “unique” in-store shopping experience.

Online Grocery Shopping Growing But Needs Improvement

The latest research from Valassis was referenced in a recent SupermarketNews article, noting two interesting discoveries about the online grocery shopping experience.

  1. 68% of online grocery shoppers say that using coupons and discounts to save money is the most important factor when shopping
  2. The online grocery shopping experience still has room for improvement

According to the study, 63% of consumers still make all or most of their food purchases in-store. But online shopping has increased year over year by 44% for food; 40% for health and beauty products; and 38% for household items.

Among the greatest opportunities for improvement:

  • 64% of online shoppers miss the sensory experience of touching and smelling produce
  • 62% find it frustrating when they can’t use coupons or discounts
  • 62% are uncomfortable having someone else pick out their produce or other perishable items

Read the full article…

Schnucks Leverages Tech to Improve the Shopping Experience

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that St. Louis-based Schnucks has responded to customer feedback to help shoppers save time and more easily identify foods that are aligned with their dietary preferences.

The article quotes Schnucks Vice President of Marketing Ted Schnuck, “We heard our customers saying that they’re time-starved and also hungry for more health and wellness information. These new Schnucks Rewards features will make customers’ experiences in our stores more convenient and take the guesswork out of nutritional planning by placing wellness information right at their fingertips.”

The app shopping list organizes customers’ lists according to the layout of their designated Schnucks store and also makes it easier to identify pricing information. In addition, the wellness guide enables customers to see nutritional information and labels (i.e., heart smart or gluten-free, etc.), and indicates which products have been approved by various USDA programs.

Read the full article…

Publix Adds Telehealth Stations to Florida Stores

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Publix Super Markets Inc. plans to open three telehealth stations inside Publix stores in St. Johns County and a Publix Pharmacy at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine Florida.

According to the article, the telehealth stations will be housed in a private room where patients can speak directly with a doctor via video-conferencing. The physician will be able to direct patients to use on-site diagnostic tools such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and high-definition cameras, and to make a diagnosis or write any necessary prescriptions. Publix Pharmacy support staff also will be on hand to assist patients.

The chain has partnered with Flagler Health+, a Florida-based health network, to provide these and related retail pharmacy and primary care services.

Read the full article…

Innovation at Hy-Vee Reduces Food Waste

Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc. is piloting an innovative mobile shopping app that will reduce food waste, according to a recent SupermarketNews article.

The app is called Flashfood and is designed to let shoppers browse and buy food items nearing their “best before” date at significantly reduced prices. It was developed by a Toronto company of the same name.

“At Hy-Vee, we know it’s important that we do our part as grocers to reduce food waste,” said Jessica Ringena, Vice President of Innovation and Business Development.

Read the full article…