All posts by pdonehue

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!

Stores of the Future?

crystal ball

The pandemic has had a significant impact on how people shop, but these buying habits are quickly changing. As a result, today’s supermarket leaders are imagining what tomorrow’s stores will look like.

Based on information published by SuperMarketNews, five key product categories that have been impacted the most include:

  1. Produce. Consumers have been moving toward local produce in supermarkets for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand as customers are more inclined to help out their local producers in a time of need while feeling better about food safety when produce is coming from suppliers they know. That has driven more stores to beef up their efforts to offer local produce.
  2. Bakery. Fresh bakery departments were among the hardest hit sections of the grocery store, as due to the pandemic people were afraid to purchase anything that others could come in contact with. At the onset of COVID-19 bakery sales dropped considerably as shoppers pivoted to purchasing longer shelf-life items and focused on buying staples versus indulgence products. But since last summer and fall, retailers have ramped up safety and protective measures throughout their bakeries and are working to entice customers back.
  3. Meat. Possibly its position as a “comfort food” has kept meat sales at a high level throughout the pandemic. However, as people are going ‘back to work’ it is likely that they will have less time for meal planning and preparation, so value-added innovation with respect to meal prep is going to be a very important factor going forward. Frozen meats also became more popular during the pandemic, and many grocers expect consumers to continue buying this option now that their comfort level with it is high.
  4. Deli. Sales of deli meats have been very high during the pandemic thanks in large part to more lunch occasions at home. However, some shoppers have shied away from the deli area because they have been reluctant to stand around other people while waiting their turn. Consequently, ‘grab and go’ options have become more popular. Finding ways to make people feel comfortable and safe has been a priority, and the current availability of vaccines is expected to ease the problem.
  5. Frozen foods. Pandemic-related efforts for stocking up on grocery items drove a big increase in frozen food sales over the past year, but sales are expected to dip back to more normal levels going forward.

Albertson Companies Leveraging Tech to Engage Customers

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Albertsons Companies, operators of over 2,200 supermarkets, has launched a consumer loyalty and shopper rewards program using the app Fetch Rewards. The new program’s goal is to increase customer engagement levels and to extend the reach of its customer rewards.

The app will enable Albertsons to extend exclusive, individualized offers from its family of stores.

The article quoted Usman Humayun, vice president of digital marketing at Albertsons, who said, “We’re constantly looking at innovative and relevant ways to engage with our customers, and after seeing such strong results, we decided to expand the Fetch Rewards pilot to additional stores. This relationship is a win-win for our company and for our customers who use Fetch to earn rewards on grocery, retail and restaurant purchases.”

This is another good example of how retailers can leverage technology to provide greater levels of customer interaction and value. If our research and experience are on target, the fact that this type of program allows for “individualized” messaging and marketing will significantly increase its impact.

Read the full article…

All Politics (and Shopping) is Local!

Retailers must “readjust their strategies and find unique ways to lock in customers as business works its way back to equilibrium” suggests a recent SupermarketNews article.

While many parts of the country are moving faster toward recovery from the pandemic, many others are not. This variation will complicate larger chains as they attempt to modify programs, inventory, and policies going forward. Plus there are unanswered questions regarding the ‘pandemic-era’ behaviors that will stick versus those that won’t.

Three specific areas that are likely to complicate ‘business as usual’ for supermarkets are:

Supply Chain Fragility
COVID-19 has brought about severe backlog in the supply chain, affecting retailers and consumers alike. In addition, the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March further caused delays. And while the pandemic has also created ripple effects industrywide, these challenges have been especially felt by independent retailers, many of which have struggled to keep essential goods stocked.

Reimagining the Retail Calendar
While certain pre-pandemic consumer habits are reverting to ‘the way it used to be’ other habits established in 2020 will remain even as the seasons change. As consumer behaviors have changed, traditional seasonal demand is likely to be affected, and retailers will need to reimagine inventory and promotional strategies.

Prioritize Local Customers
Just as the saying “all politics are local” might apply to an election strategy, catering to the unique needs of local or regional customers will be a must for all retailers, who must rethink how they will go about creating a unique experience that will lock in their customers. Inventory must look different from store to store, and a knowledge of local consumer preferences must drive the overall approach to inventory / assortment management. Catering to specific needs or preferences is likely to become more important in the quest for customer loyalty as well – i.e., are people in the neighborhood cooking at home for themselves or are they now entertaining?

Read the full article…

What Supermarkets Can Learn from C-Stores

Several of our posts have focused on the importance of innovation and the customer experience, and how retailers must make continuous improvement in these areas a priority. Along those lines, a recent SupermarketNews article shared some interesting insights on the significant success the country’s 153,000+ convenience stores (c-stores) have experienced due to making ongoing improvements via “digital transformation.”

The piece quoted Scott Langdoc, a strategist specializing in the grocery chain, drug, and convenience/fuel retailing segments at Amazon Web Services, who said, “By focusing digital transformation efforts on supporting emerging customer journeys, optimizing product and service offerings, and prioritizing efficiency of retail operations, c-store retailers are working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to double down on innovation while recovering revenue and attracting new customers.”

The article went on to explain the different product fulfillment expectations at c-stores, which include fuel fill-up, basic snack and beverage purchases, buying prepared foods like pizza or sandwiches, a quick errand for a household necessity or a combination of those scenarios.

Langdoc also noted that, more frequently, customers expect a personalized experience regardless of how or where they engage in the c-store.

Examples given included:

  • While a customer pumps fuel, they order a slice of pizza at the dispenser via a voice-activated order system and use their mobile phone to pay for both the pizza and their fuel.
  • A shopper buys a fountain drink in a store and gets a personalized discount to buy fuel as an incentive because the customer hasn’t purchased fuel at that station in the last month.
  • A customer grabs the items they want to buy at an Amazon Go store and walks out without having to stand in line to pay at a traditional cash register.

The Bottom Line
While recognizing that fuel remains the top selling c-store product category, the article concluded by suggesting, “in-store product sales and an extensive prepared food menu represent the largest overall sales growth categories, and on average, they are the biggest contributor to overall gross profit.”

Therefore, retailers should focus on capturing the broadest spectrum of transaction details possible and applying the analytics and machine learning to generate hyper-accurate predictions of future demand.

“This transaction detail can help optimize category plans, profitable private label assortments, high-selling menu offerings, and better in-store stock availability,” the article said.

Read the full article…