All posts by pdonehue

Tech Driving Customer Experience at SpartanNash

SpartanNash is leveraging GPS location technology to improve curbside service in its Fast Lane online grocery pickup program. According to a recent SupermarketNews article, a number of the chain’s locations are now using Radius Networks’ location-based FlyBuy Pickup service with ShopperKit’s in-store grocery fulfillment software to bring out Fast Lane orders to customers as soon as they arrive at the store.

Referenced as a “click-and-collect platform,” the process begins when a customer places a Fast Lane curbside order. The order is fulfilled and the customer is notified when their groceries are ready for pickup. The customer can then share their location via mobile apps or a web browser to let their Fast Lane personal shopper know they’re heading to the store. That allows customers’ orders to be prepared and delivered to their vehicles the moment they pull into the pickup area.

“This new technology will completely change our customers’ experience with Fast Lane,” said Brian Holt, vice president of marketing for SpartanNash.

“Fast Lane already provides exceptional customer service, with overall satisfaction scores 30 points higher than the national average, as well as some of the nation’s leading fulfillment rates. And our new GPS location technology will only improve the ease and speed of the Fast Lane experience.”

This is another good example of how today’s supermarkets are leveraging technology and continuous process improvement to drive customer service and the shopping experience.

Pros & Cons of a 2020 Grocery Trend: Delivery

A recent article published by datecheckpro.com cited a Coresignt study indicating that “36.8% of internet-using adults polled bought groceries online in the previous 12 months, up from 23.1% in their 2018 study. That equates to approximately 93 million online grocery purchases using U.S. Census data.”

Interestingly, according to SupermaketNews, the majority of these purchases came from Walmart and Target, followed by Kroger. Walmart and Kroger have more than doubled their online grocery shopper numbers over the past 12 months, their report said. This alone translates to adding about 20 million and 6 million online customers, respectively. In addition, and as we all know, Amazon has become active in selling groceries. So, all things considered, it’s a fair assumption that online grocery shopping and home delivery are here to stay.

It’s also fair to say that, before long, consumers will demand online shopping and delivery from smaller independent stores as well.

For retailers, there are pros and cons to offering this service.

According to the article, top reasons in favor of offering online ordering and home delivery are:

  • It satisfies consumer demand for convenience.
  • It enables a retailer to get on the bandwagon of what is clearly a trending service in the industry.
  • Since the transactions are all digital, retailers get more insight into customer shopping habits and preferences – good data!

On the negative side:

  • Delivery is not easily accessible for all grocers, especially smaller stores in more rural America. Bigger chains like Walmart, Target, and Kroger have success with their grocery delivery services because they have the financial, operational and people resources to handle the complicated logistics.
  • The first “con” leads to the fact that smaller grocers will likely need to outsource the delivery portion of the equation, thus losing a good deal of the control associated with that piece.
  • Costly initial investment

Read the full article…

Interesting 2019 Center Store Trends… And One Not So Surprising

2019 Center Store Trends

A recent SupermarketNews article shared some interesting data on center store trends this past year, along with a supporting slide show.

International foods and private wine labels had a solid impact on inventory and merchandising decisions, as did offering health and beauty products containing cannabidiol.

“Health & wellness, “clean” products and authentic flavors were the drivers behind sales growth in center store in 2019,” the article said.

Not surprisingly was the biggest challenge faced by retailers: fighting off online retail.

View slide show…

Giant Eagle Pharmacy Customers: Just Ask Alexa!

According to a recent SupermarketNews article, Giant Eagle, a Pittsburgh-based food and drug chain, has formed an arrangement with Amazon’s Alexa virtual personal assistant to help keep pharmacy patients up to date on their medications. They are the first pharmacy retailer to offer the new medication management capability with Alexa.

The process appears to be straightforward, the article explains. “Under a collaboration with Amazon and medication management specialist Omnicell, Giant Eagle pharmacies now allow patients to set medication reminders and request prescription drug refills through Alexa. Users simply speak to an Amazon Echo device by saying ‘Alexa, manage my medication’ or “’lexa, refill my prescriptions,”’and the request is met using the patient’s prescription information at their designated Giant Eagle pharmacy.”

Aside from the associated convenience, the program’s objectives include helping people avoid non-adherence to prescription dosage plans (a major issue for some resulting in negative health care outcomes) and to simplify the refilling process.

“Integrating with Amazon Alexa makes it possible for patients to manage their medications by simply using voice, providing greater independence for older adults and the ultimate convenient, frictionless patient experience for everyone,” said Danny Sanchez, Vice President and General Manager of population health solutions at Omnicell.

Another example of how innovation and process improvement can enable grocery chains to enhance customer service and improve the supermarket shopping experience.

The BYOD Trend in Supermarkets: Pros & Cons

Pros & Cons of Emerging Trends

According to a recent article published by datecheckpro.com, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), a technology-driven trend, is permeating the retail space with its promise to simplify operations, boost grocery stores’ bottom line, and bring in more millennial employees.

The article cited a survey by MarketsandMarkets that said BYOD policy adoption in North America increased from 36% in 2017 to 50% by the beginning of 2018, and the trend is expected to rise again in 2020.

Simply stated, these policies allow employees to use their own devices (i.e., phones, tablets, laptops) at work to complete their job responsibilities.

Pros & Cons
Like most things, there are both pros and cons associated with BYOD. On the positive side:

  • The store can save overhead on purchasing technology
  • Convenient customer service opportunities for sales associates on the floor who use their phones to answer customer questions and to quickly research answers to questions they can’t answer themselves such as dates on store inventory
  • Saves employees time because they tend to be more familiar with the device that they’re using (instead of having to potentially learn a new operating system provided by the company). On average, workers save 81 minutes per week.
  • Increases employee engagement; by using their own devices, and 78% of workers feel BYOD supports better work-life balance.

On the negative side:

  • Risks of incorporating external devices onto the store’s network
  • Distraction if team members use their devices for personal reasons
  • Overworked networks

Supermarket “Automation”

Related to recent posts about the trend toward online grocery shopping is a recent SupermarketNews article featuring input from Brick Meets Click co-founder Bill Bishop.

The piece is part of a twice-monthly series in which industry executives, experts and other grocery players share their insights about the news, trends and issues that matter most to retailers and their business partners.

In this installment, which also includes a Podcast, Bishop lists five ways that automation will impact grocery retail, which include:

  • Supermarkets will become more productive and, in turn, more competitive
  • A more educated and/or engaged and productive workforce will be attracted to food retailing
  • Automated order selection systems will replace or reduce self-service retailing
  • Technical breakthroughs will drive significantly lower retail costs
  • Customers will see a more personalized shopping experience.

“The world around us is changing very rapidly. Consumers are using digital aggressively, and it’s changing their expectations. Of course, that’s particularly strong among younger shoppers. Beyond that, competition is putting significant pressure on margins today. This automation technology is a way to maintain profitability,” Bishop said.

“Now we see automation stepping in with the opportunity to replace large sections of the supermarket,” he later explained. “That automation is able to operate in a much smaller footprint, and there’s significantly higher productivity.”

Read the full article/listen to Podcast…

Demand for Home Delivery of Groceries Continues to Spread

As you may know, “If you build it, they will come” is a phrase popularized in a sports movie. But the concept might also apply to the grocery business as the following developments indicate.

According to a recent SupermarketNews article, Uber Technologies Inc. announced plans to acquire majority ownership of Cornershop, a leading online grocery provider in Mexico and Canada. The acquisition is planned for early 2020, subject to regulatory approval.

“Whether it’s getting a ride, ordering food from your favorite restaurant, or soon, getting groceries delivered, we want Uber to be the operating system for your everyday life,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber. “We’re excited to partner with the team at Cornershop to scale their vision, and look forward to working with them to bring grocery delivery to millions of consumers on the Uber platform.”

The Cornershop app or website enables customers to order groceries for delivery. Cornershop employees then go to participating grocery stores to pick and pack their orders. Customers are called at the end of each shop, and they can approve any replacements or request another item to be added to the cart.

In another report, Giant Food of Landover, Md., a chain of 163 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. announced the launch of an enhanced service they call “Giant Delivers.”

This refreshed version of a previous delivery program is part of Giant Food’s “The Little Things Are Giant” platform, “which is all about helping customers save time so they can get back to what matters most.”

The article went on to say that next-day home delivery from Giant Delivers is now available to over 6 million shoppers living in over 300 ZIP codes across the Washington, D.C., metro area. Same-day delivery is available within the downtown D.C. area, “offering a new way to fit shoppers’ busy schedules, especially those needing a last-minute ingredient or dinner solution.”

Giant’s grocery delivery service is available without commitment or subscription and offers customers the option to sign up anytime for unlimited deliveries for a one-time annual fee of $99, making weekly grocery delivery orders more convenient and affordable than ever, the article said.

Clearly the call for online grocery shopping options coupled with the convenience of quick home delivery continues to increase… and more supermarkets as well as related businesses are stepping-up to meet the demand.

Enhanced Shopping Experience at Seattle’s PCC Community Markets

A recent SupermarketNews article shared an impressive slideshow about PCC Community Markets’ “new and improved” store in Seattle.

As you may know, PCC is one of Seattle’s original grocers and the largest community-owned food market in the United States. The retailer reopened its West Seattle store in Seattle unveiling a new 24,000-square-foot store that is nearly twice the size of the previous space.

With a focus on the shopping experience, the new store features many new offerings, including an expanded produce department, an outdoor patio, café, taqueria, pizzeria, and self-serve grain bowls.

This location is also is the first grocery store in the world to pursue Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal Certification — the world’s most rigorous green building standard.

View slide show...

Wakefern Focusing on Process Improvement & Customer Experience

Wakefern Food Corporation, a Keasbey, N.J.-based grocery retail cooperative, is planning a 50-store test of a computer vision system that automatically identifies when product stock runs outs on shelves.

As reported in a SupermarketNews article, once out-of-stocks are flagged, the system helps store associates prioritize them as they occur and recoup the most lost sales as possible per labor hour to make the most customers happy. The system keeps track of both lost sales per hour (LSH) and frustrated shoppers per hour (FSH). The company said this information enables them to track an “out-of-stock hours” metric that makes it easier for them to rack on-shelf availability of products from store to store.

“Focal Systems’ out-of-stock detection through computer vision and artificial intelligence has enabled us to automatically identify shelf gaps,” Wakefern Chief Information Officer Cheryl Williams said. “This early success has encouraged our members to opt into a 50-store pilot expansion this autumn.”

Focal noted that its platform allows store associates to spend more time serving customers because it eliminates the need to manually scan for out-of-stock items.

“Customer expectations are high, and retailers want to deliver on those expectations,” stated Focal CEO Francois Chaubard. “Focal Systems provides the real-time data retailers need to run their stores efficiently…”

DogSpot at the Supermarket?

Happy Pets?

In case you haven’t heard, a DogSpot is a “smart sidewalk sanctuary, providing your dog a safe and cozy home away from home while you briefly go somewhere they aren’t allowed… without having to take risks like tying them up or leaving them in the car. “

According to a recent SupermarketNews article, Albertsons has become the latest supermarket chain to offer DogSpot. Other chains that have been testing the concept include Kroger and Stop & Shop.

“At Albertsons, we are always looking for ways to better serve our customers,” said John Colgrove, Albertsons intermountain division president.

DogSpot houses are app-connected and available on both iPhone and Android, offering customers quick and seamless access, according to the Brooklyn-based startup. Customers may reserve a house up to 15 minutes before use through the app if they’re anticipating a trip to the store or use an available house immediately upon arrival. The houses lock to allow only the customer’s specific app account access to the house while their dog is inside, to ensure the dog’s safety while the customer shops. They’re also temperature controlled with fresh air ventilation to keep an optimal temperature inside for the dog and equipped with UVC lights that sanitize the house automatically between each new session. Customers can monitor their dog through the DogSpot app’s puppy-cam feature while they shop. Cost is approximately thirty-cents per minute.

Another example of enhancing the shopping experience with higher levels of customer service and engagement!