Category Archives: Customer engagement

“Smart” Supermarkets!

According to an article published on LInkedIn, Wal-Mart recently opened its first “smart store” supermarket in Xin’an Wu Road, Bao’an District, Shenzhen.

We first read about the “smart supermarket” concept in a piece published by AgThentic, a sustainability and innovation consulting firm focusing on the food industry. In a 2016 article, they referenced the increasing popularity of online grocery shopping and click-and-collect services, and predicted the model was set to change how consumers “will do their weekly shop.”

The article went on to say, “Incorporating predictive technologies into the online shopping experience will allow consumers to access discounts on their favorite brands or re-order the same essential items each week without having to individually add them to a cart. These features have huge implications for convenience… By using data collected from your previous purchases, retailers can understand what you buy and how often you buy it, and send you friendly reminders when you’re running low. Say goodbye to the days of getting halfway home and realizing you forgot to buy toothpaste.”

In addition to helping consumers shop with ease, these same practices are also beneficial to supermarkets as they look to manage inventory and reduce food waste. “Consumers expect to see an overstocked display of cosmetically attractive produce,” the article said.  “To compensate, supermarkets throw out up to 40% of food before it even reaches store shelves.”

AgThentic predicted  retailers of the future will use consumer data to understand how to market and sell ‘unattractive’ or ‘imperfect’ produce, citing examples in Australia that are already doing so.

Read the full article…

Kroger in the News Again: New Technology You Might Love!

According to a recent Business Insider article, Kroger is once again taking a bold step forward in trying to enhance the customer shopping experience by “rolling out a new technology to nearly 200 stores,that could change grocery shopping as we know it.”

This new development, which is called Kroger Edge, will be installed on store shelves in place of paper price tags, and will digitally display pricing and nutritional information, and even show video ads and coupons for various products.

The technology will enable the chain to instantly change prices and activate promotions across its stores, thus freeing up employees who would otherwise change prices by hand.

In the future, the technology will communicate with customers’ smartphones to help them complete their shopping lists.

The e-Trend Continues: Saving Shoppers Time & Money

A recent “10 Items or Lessarticle posted by SupermarketNews identified steps taken by major food retailers that indicate the focus on e-shopping will continue to grow in 2017.

The article states that Wal-Mart Stores plans to have around 1,100 stores offering online grocery pickup this year, and that they are continuing with initiatives built around making fulfillment more versatile and/or efficient, such as offering discounts on online orders picked up in stores, and testing the idea of having store employees deliver orders to customer’s homes on their post-work commutes.

The piece goes on to report that Amazon said it was rolling out “Instant Pickup,” a free service offering its Prime members a curated selection of “daily essentials” available for pickup in two minutes or less. The service is available at five campus locations currently with plans to add more locations soon.

Even no-frills Aldi had issued a statement indicating it was getting into e-commerce for the first time through a partnership with Instacart in three cities.

“Our partnership with Instacart is another example of Aldi expanding our commitment to customer convenience and value,” Jason Hart, CEO of Aldi, said. “We know customers are looking for new ways to save time and money.”

As these new services are being rolled-out, it strikes me that supermarket chains will need to take an innovative approach to refining their work processes to reduce waste and cost.

See related article…about becoming more innovative.

“Checkout-less” Supermarkets: What’s Old is New?

The Seattle Times recently published an interesting and entertaining  article, which referenced the announcement made late last year by Amazon.com regarding the launch of an experimental convenience store in downtown Seattle where customers could skip the checkout line.

While the concept was presented as futuristic and technologically innovative,  a French retail chain, Monoprix, took issue with that depiction.

As the video showcased within the article explains (in a clever and somewhat humorous way), “Monoprix’s “Livraison à domicile +,” is their 10-year-old service that also allows shoppers skip the checkout lines – via a different form of innovation.

What’s old is new!

A New Era in Food Retail?

While possibly making less of a splash than the Amazon-Whole Foods deal,  Lindl US opened a new store in Virginia Beach, VA, signifying the beginning of what many have termed a new era in food retail.

According to a SupermarketNews article, hundreds of shoppers were waiting in a line that circled the parking lot early Thursday morning waiting for Lidl US to open the doors.

The big splash and anticipated disruption to the industry may be based on a number of factors, two of which truly stand out:

  1. Lindl US is committed to offering the lowest prices. “We will beat the best prices in the market,” Brendan Proctor, CEO says.
  2. Lindl US is basing decisions on the voice-of-the-customer. “It’s not about whether our model works in a market,” Proctor said during an interview. “It’s about what we have to do to adapt to the market.”

As they say, time will tell…

More “Food for Thought” Regarding Supermarket Customer Experience

A number of presentations at this year’s NRA Show in Chicago focused on how supermarkets and c-stores can build on some key elements of restaurant design to create a dining experience customers will seek out.

In other words, the combination of upscale design and finer dining options can be leveraged to make a supermarket or c-store a destination where customers feel welcome to stay, dine and enjoy.

“Consumers care about what the experience is like, and 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual,” Tré Musco of Tesser, a brand strategy design firm, said. “People form judgments instantaneously. In terms of design, perception is reality.”

But Tre Musco and other presenters also noted that, if a store is to become a place to enjoy a meal, customers must perceive it as such.

Some of the steps retailers will need to take in order to accomplish this include:

  • Lead with change… go beyond just “adding a few tables and chairs” and create a warm, comfortable, and alluring dining area.
  • Pay attention to details… such as food displays, lighting, and even restrooms. “Restrooms really matter,” Musco said. “Customers 100% judge your freshness and cleanliness on your restrooms.”

Read the full article… 

Trends Continue to Add Fuel to the Shopping Experience Fire!

In a recent article posted by Pan Oston, a customized retail fixture and display manufacturer, the following five supermarket trends were identified for 2017, adding more fuel to the “shopping experience” fire:

  1. Retailers Should Treat Their Stores Like a Home: Unique retail experiences are still very important to customers and reward retailers who provide them.
  2. Convenience Will Be Key: Push button product, services, payment and delivery will be come more and more prevalent.
  3. Brick-and-Mortar Stores Will Become More Integrated
  4. Niche Retailers Will Rise
  5. Brick And Mortar Drives Customer Experience: Driving the customer experience, brick-and-mortar stores will remain relevant in 2017.

Read the full article…

Service v Price in Supermarkets?

Various articles and reports are consistent: supermarket shoppers want more convenience and better service!

One SupermarketNews article reported how consumer demand for service impacted operations at Meijer and the curbside pickup option it launched in some stores in 2015. The article quotes Peter Whitsett, EVP of merchandising and marketing at Meijer, “…[data] has put a spotlight on the huge demand for convenience, and the challenge for the big retailer to wrestle it economically. As retailers we’ve done a reasonably good job of managing price for products, but what we’re learning to do is managing price for service.”

The piece goes on to explain that Meijer assumed curbside pick-up would primarily serve for fill-in trips, but the company soon realized they “were 180 degrees wrong. Customers said ‘do all my shopping for me.’”

Similarly, Euromonitor International, a world leader in strategic market research, published a white paper “The New Definition of Convenience in Retail,” which indicates that, “Thanks to time-pressed consumers, the need for convenience is paramount and retailers, in all channels, are deploying tactics to get consumers what they want as conveniently as possible.”

Of course, the convenience of online shopping and grocery delivery means different things to different people. For urbanites, many of whom opt to forgo car ownership, transportation to and from the supermarket might be the key issue. Yet for others, as noted above, time might be the driving force.

So, what does this mean for supermarkets?

First, as noted by Meijer’s Mr. Whitsett, supermarkets will need to go beyond managing price and find ways to streamline and improve the work processes for providing added services and convenience.

Secondly, online shopping is poised to become a bigger part of the overall grocery shopping equation going forward, and grocery providers must find ways to compete in this arena – against the likes of Amazon and Walmart, this will not be an easy task!

As noted in an article posted on fooddive.com, “Grocery retail value should be re-framed to emphasize non-price factors such as freshness, quality, customer service and the shopping experience. 2017 could become the year when retailers stop primarily selling products and instead start selling services, solutions, and quite possibly stellar shopping experiences.”

“Quick” Customer Experience Analysis

As you most likely know, “Omnichannel” refers to a type of retail that integrates the different methods of shopping available to consumers (i.e., online, in-store, phone…).

While some say the concept is just a fancier way of describing cross-channel sales, others profess that “Omnichannel” goes further to encompass the continuity of the shopping or customer experience (CX).

To further illustrate this perspective, Todd Leach
VP, Client Insights at Service Management Group (SMG), an organization that focuses on customer and employee experience, writes that Omnichannel is changing consumer expectations and, in one of his blog posts, suggests that “speed” is high on the expectation list.

“Above all else, speed means seamless,” Leach says. “…and the idea of seamless is the root of an Omnichannel experience. Customer information must be available across multiple touch points throughout the customer journey to help make interactions with your brand both efficient and effective. Remembering a customer’s most-purchased items makes checkout a breeze…  a push notification lets them open your app when they come near a store… one-click check-out saves customers from having to give the same information over and over again. These small details make a huge difference in a smooth and efficient customer experience—and that translates to a favorable brand perception and a boost in customer loyalty.”

It seems the online and in-store experiences are merging to better serve customers. The question is, will this ongoing evolution and the associated impact on the customer experience also drive customer loyalty?

 

Employee Engagement Might Be the Key Differentiator for Lidl

Based on statistics published by smallbusiness.chron.com,  employee turnover averages 100 percent in the grocery industry. Cashiers, order fillers and stock clerks have the highest turnover rates, and the cost of replacing just one supermarket cashier is at least $3,637.

But more troubling than the cost, this turnover has a negative impact on the customer experience.

This perspective is consistent with information shared recently on fooddive.com, which states, “Never mind store designs, or prices, or any of the other issues potential competitors have been concerned about: While those issues are all important, so are the ways employees are treated… retaining employees helps to build a cohesive team and a solid shopping experience.

The article goes on to cite the rapid growth of German grocery chain Lidl, whose accelerated U.S. expansion is making many take notice. The grocery chain’s first 20 stores will open this summer in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

But along the lines of engaging employees, the chain has a plan to attract and retain the best talent by offering one of the most generous benefits and compensation packages in the industry. “The program is designed to ensure that Lidl U.S. employees are recognized and rewarded for their talents, feel valued for their contributions and are motivated to continue to grow their careers with us,” the article said.

Store associates will receive starting salaries of $12 per hour, plus benefits, according to a Lidl press release.  Possibly more important than the robust pay rate is the robust benefits plan, which includes medical, dental and vision insurance with flexible spending accounts, a 401(k) and retirement plan with employer contribution, life insurance, disability insurance, an employee assistance program, paid time off, time off for volunteering, commuter benefits and company sponsored social and fitness events.

Clearly Lidl leadership has a strong appreciation for its workforce and values the concept of employee engagement. If the correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction proves true, which we believe it will, it will be interesting to see what happens over the course of 2017, during which time Lidl plans to open 100 U.S. stores.