Category Archives: customer experience

SCO or MCO?

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that the number of Self Checkout lanes (SCOs) in the U.S. has increased 10% in the last five years, estimating that they now account for nearly 40% of lanes in grocery chains in the U.S. 

Sharing data from shopper intelligence leader Catalina, the article also reported that more retailers are make shifts from manual to SCO lanes to offset “shrinking margins from inflation, respond to social distancing protocols triggered by the pandemic, and take advantage of automation technology.”

Based on a small local poll, we’ve concluded that shoppers most often prefer the self checkout option when:

  • Processing smaller orders
  • Processing orders without coupons
  • Processing orders without alcohol

Some additional insights presented in the article based on the Catalina data included 39% of shoppers used both lane types in 2021, depending upon their shopping mission. 49% of shoppers preferred the personal attention offered in the manned-only lanes (MCO), while only 12% of shoppers were steadfast SCO-exclusive fans. Breaking down the behavior of the hybrid shopper, their transactions were split 50-50 between MCO and SCO, with MCO accounting for 68% of sales and SCO for 32%.

Similar to our local findings, the study said SCO-only shoppers had smaller baskets and bought less than hybrid and MCO fans.

Generally speaking, it strikes us that offering a healthy mix of MCO & SCO options enables shoppers to leverage the technology to enjoy greater flexibility and convenience.

What’s your take?

Accelerating the Customer Experience?

SupermarketNews recently reported that Schnuck Markets will be providing 30-minute delivery with its “Schnucks Now” offering on smaller orders and fast delivery. 

“The new service allows customers to shop from a limited assortment of fresh groceries, pantry, household essentials, alcohol, meals, and snacks, with delivery in as fast as 30 minutes with no priority fees and lower delivery fees,” the article said.  

In today’s competitive marketplace, this seems like another step forward in providing an enhanced customer experience. As you may know, Schnuck’s has offered delivery and pick up options for some time, and has also partnered with DoorDash to provide prepared meal delivery.

The piece went on to quote Chace MacMullan, Schnuck’s Senior Director Digital Experience, who said, “‘It’s been something we’ve been talking about for a while. We partner with Instacart and together we’re always looking at different ways to innovate. Reach the customers where they are, and where they are in the delivery schedule.”

Inventory Issues Costing Supermarkets Dearly

SupermarketNews recently reported that, despite internal systems improvements, retailers continue to struggle with labor and supplier issues, costing North American supermarkets over $349 billion in total sales lossesmdue to out-of-stocks and overstocks.

Reports of consumer discontent are common, with shoppers claiming one-out-of-five items they want to buy are out-of-stock according to new research from analyst firm IHL Group the article said.

“While there have been considerable improvements in systems and processes in recent years, labor challenges and continued supply chain disruptions issues continue to frustrate both consumers and retailers,” said Greg Buzek, President of IHL Group. “In addition, challenges from theft, mistakes by employees, and spoilage cause retailer’s inventory counts to be off as much as 25%, resulting in consumers having a shopping experience where they left the stores without buying 1 in every 5 items they planned to buy.”

Ouch!

You can read the full article here.

Walmart Increasing Drone Delivery

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Walmart plans to roll out more drone delivery options for online orders to six states, encompassing 4 million households via the service.

The piece quoted David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation for Walmart U.S., who said, “Walmart aims to expand DroneUp delivery to 34 sites in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia by the end of 2022.”

According to the article, once implemented the move will give Walmart the ability to deliver more 1 million packages by drone annually.

In preparation, Walmart had made trial deliveries of COVID-19 home test kits, which demonstrated that drones could provide delivery in minutes rather than hours; and while it was initially expected that consumers would use the service for receiving emergency goods, they’ve found people are using it for the convenience, like a “quick fix for a weeknight meal.”

Another example of leveraging technology to initiate change that enhances online shopping, the customer service and the customer experience.

Will “Pay by Palm” Be the Next Thing?

A recent Progressive Grocer article reported that Austin Texas has become the first region outside the Seattle area where Whole Foods Market is offering Amazon One’s palm recognition service as a payment option.

In order to facilitate an easier and potentially faster check-out process, this new technology enables customers who have enrolled in the program to simply come to the checkout counter or point of sale, hover their hand over the Amazon One device for about a second or so, and the card linked to their palm will be charged for their purchase.

According to the article, “enrollment in the Amazon One service takes less than a minute, which involves linking credit/debit card info and creating palm signatures for one or both palms.”

The piece goes on to explain that a palm signature is created when a customer holds their palm over the Amazon One device, allowing the technology to evaluate multiple aspects of the palm. With no two palms alike, vision technology analyzes all aspects to select the most distinct identifiers on a palm to create a unique palm signature.”

Another example of emerging technology that can improve the grocery shopping experience.

7-Eleven introduces new subscription delivery program

As things continue to change and, hopefully, improve, in the retail grocery arena, 7-Eleven has taken a step forward in home delivery.

According to a recent SupermarketNews article, the convenience giant is improving its online delivery app with the introduction of 7NOW Gold Pass, a subscription program for $5.95 a month that will waive delivery fees for members.

“With the 7NOW Gold Pass subscription, there is no added fee for typically 30-minute delivery of more than 3,000 products, ranging from fresh food and drinks to household items, snacks and groceries,” the article said.

The piece went on to explain that the new service pays for itself in about three delivery orders per month.

Another example of how the customer experience is driving innovative ideas for continually improving retail grocery business practices.

Order lunch from the supermarket?

A recent SupermarketNews article announced Instacart is helping supermarkets better compete with restaurants with the rollout of Ready Meals, a new prepared meal ordering and delivery service for grocery stores.

According to the article, chains such as Publix Super Markets, Kroger and Ahold Delhaize USA’s Giant, Food Lion, Hannaford, Stop & Shop and Martin’s are offering customers the service via the Instacart app’s Ready Meals Hub, a new in-app destination for prepared foods.

Deliveries are made to homes or offices in as soon as 30 minutes, Instacart said.

Another good example of supermarkets finding innovative ways to provide a better customer experience!

Necessity & invention

As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

A good example involves the impact COVID has had on product sampling, a long-standing practice in supermarkets that came to a screeching halt due to concerns about safety.

“While some retailers and shoppers may be dipping back into onsite product sampling, the ongoing uncertainty about COVID-19 and the continual emergence of variants have put a proverbial crimp in plans to fully bring it back,” said Senior Editor Lynn Petrak in a recent Progressive Grocer article.

The good news is that digital product sampling platform Sampler has stepped in to bridge the gap through a newly-formed partnership with grocery wholesale distributor UNFI to send product samples right to consumers’ homes.

Users can create an account on the Sampler platform and identify preferred products, and then UNFI handles the delivery.

“UNFI sells over 275,000 unique products from thousands of national, regional and local suppliers,” explained company President Chris Testa. “Working with Sampler, we can help deliver a solution for brands wanting to generate greater trial and consumer awareness for their products.”

Another good example of improving the customer experience through innovation and resiliency!

Big Y, schnucks leveraging innovation for improving customer experience

Innovative improvements in retail operations, pricing, merchandising, and customer service have been the norm over the past eighteen months, and the trend is continuing at a rapid pace.

Progressive Grocer recently reported on two prime examples.

Big Y Foods, one of New England’s largest independently owned supermarket chains, is enhancing its fleet logistics with new trailers equipped with state of the art refrigeration units and an electronic platform for remote monitoring and control.

The eSolutions platform provides continuous visibility of Big Y’s cold-chain assets via a centralized data stream that monitors trailer temperatures, location and movement, and also enables remote control of refrigeration units. The platform also:

  • Provides notifications as trailers come and go from geofenced areas assigned to Big Y’s distribution center and key locations within its retail network.
  • Finds unused or underused trailer assets, including those dropped by Big Y’s third-party logistics provider at vendor partners, where they may be idle for a few days until loaded.
  • Monitors trailer precooling time to minimize fuel waste.
  • Optimizes refrigeration unit performance for fuel efficiency and product protection.
  • Helps avoid emergency call-out situations in which a refrigeration unit must be re-primed because it ran out of fuel. Fuel level monitoring sensors send dispatchers low-fuel alerts via eSolutions, and units can be programmed to automatically shut down before they run out of fuel.
  • Shortens refrigeration unit uptime through the use of continuous analytic and diagnostic information

On a different front, St. Louis based Schnuck Markets Inc. has announced that it will be the first grocer to use a Check In feature provided by GetUpside.

Shoppers can use the free GetUpside mobile app to take advantage of personalized cashback promotions of up to 20%. The new Check In feature will make it easier for customers to earn cash back as, instead of snapping and submitting a picture of a receipt, they can just click “Check in” and GetUpside will verify each transaction.

These innovations are just two examples of how many of today’s supermarket chains are leveraging innovation and technology to improve processes and to provide a better customer experience.

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.”