Recent Progressive Grocer articles have highlighted a variety of examples of how supermarket chains are leveraging technology and innovation to make ongoing improvements in operations and the customer experience.
For example, Save Mart Cos., based in Modesto, Calif., is investing in robots that automatically audit store shelves to ensure that products are stocked and in the right location. The initiative involves a partnership with Simbe Robotics of San Francisco. The robots, named “Tally,” will first be deployed in seven stores. They are able to scan up to 30,000 products a day, helping retailers “reduce out-of-stocks by up to 30% and redirecting store staff to personally interact with shoppers.”
Another example of innovative thinking in response to shifting consumer shopping habits involves new products designed to improve curbside pick-up, which many industry leaders believe is here to stay. FlexPost® helps retailers manage traffic and keep people safe during curbside pickup trips. These flexible signposts and bollard systems can claim to reduce parking lot repair and maintenance costs, and also minimize the impact of minor collisions with customer vehicles.
Finally, in honor of Earth Day a number of organizations have come out with announcements this week about their sustainability efforts, ranging from waste reduction to regenerative farming to net zero energy use.
Among those we found most interesting are:
Four Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts are piloting a Flashfood mobile app that shares sales pricing on perishables that are close to their best-by date. Stop & Shop has a goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.
Given concerns about package waste associated with home delivery services, HelloFresh reported this week that it is teaming up with Pratt Industries to switch to cardboard packaging made of 100% post-consumer recycled content for its HelloFresh and EveryPlate meal kits. The company estimated that the move will help reduce GHG emissions by 6,800 tons and save more than 115,000 trees a year.
C&S Wholesale Grocers outlined several areas in which the company is preserving the environment, working to eliminate waste and reducing its carbon footprint. Among those sustainability steps, the C&S reports that it is improving fuel efficiencies in its fleets, including piloting trailer reefers on zero emission technology and tractor fleets on non-fossil fueled power in key markets.
Our previous few posts have focused on technology in supermarkets, used both by the stores themselves and the shoppers.
Along the same trend, as reported in a recent SupermarketNews article, Walmart will literally launch a “technology-driven” pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2021.
The new plan involves a partnership with self-driving car company Cruise to operate an entire fleet of all-electric delivery vehicles powered with 100% renewable energy. The project will support the retail giant’s initiative to reach zero emissions by 2040.
As part of the pilot, customers can place an order from their local store and have it delivered, contact-free, via one of Cruise’s all-electric self-driving cars.
“Technology that has the potential to not only save customers time and money but also is helpful to the planet is technology we want to learn more about,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product, Walmart U.S.
“This year, we’ve had our foot on the accelerator expanding our pickup and delivery services, so customers can get the items they need quickly and safely,” he continued.
The pandemic has changed the way people shop and what they care about most, says strategy-business.com. And most likely for the long term.
So, as a result, retailers’ strategies must also change.
“Whether the trip they’re looking to win is inside a store, curbside, or at a customer’s front door, emerging from the crisis on a strong footing will require retailers to plan around this new normal. Those that are best at sensing demand and responding quickly with engaging and brand-defining experiences will “win the trip” and see the highest return on their investments in those experiences, or return on experience (ROX),” the article said.
The piece goes on to suggest that retailers have likely seen growth in demand for certain categories, including food and beverage, personal care and wellness, home improvement, and pet care, as most of life’s activity has shifted to the home. Consequently, extra care (and inventory) in those categories will be necessary. Supermarkets also have an opportunity to “compete for trips — real and virtual — and reinforce their brand leadership by offering shopper resources, such as recipe ideas and educational content, in these categories.”
The authors suggest these four key ways that retailers can compete in the new marketplace:
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.
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!
Giant Food Stores, a chain that operates in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia under the Giant and Martin’s banners, has been taking a more personalized approach to improving its loyalty program.
According to a recent SupermarketNewsarticle, they have been testing an enhanced program that focuses on providing a more personalized customer experience, more paths to rewards, and a more engaging digital experience.
The article goes on to quote Giant President Nick Bertram as saying, ““We have been trying a lot of different things to connect closer to customers… we’ve partnered with our sister company PDL [Peapod Digital Labs] to try to get more digitally savvy… it was time to start changing and get ready for the way families are shopping now.”
Sounds like a good example of decision-making based on customer service and the overall shopping experience, which one would think should lead to greater levels of customer engagement and loyalty.
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.
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.
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.