Category Archives: Customer Service

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?

Process Improvement at Kroger Stores Aimed at Better Customer Service

A recent SupermarketNews article announced that the Kroger Co. is working with Itasca Retail, an inventory tech company, to deploy a new software system for receiving deliveries.

The “Magic DSD” solution will be installed in nearly 2,800 Kroger stores enabling a direct-store delivery system that automates various receiving tasks for products such as bread, dairy, beer and soft drinks, which will be delivered directly to the stores rather than to distribution centers.

The piece went on to share a statement that this approach reduces out-of-stocks and saves labor costs, and also gives associates more time to focus on serving customers.

Read the full article…

Supermarkets Among America’s Best Retailers

A recent SupermarketNews article reported several supermarkets have been recognized as being among the country’s best retailers.

Based on a survey of more than 10,000 U.S. consumers who have shopped in-person inside retail stores in the past three years, Newsweek’s 2022 America’s Best Retailers list ranks companies according to five criteria:

  • Products
  • Customer service
  • Atmosphere
  • Accessibility
  • Shop layout

In addition, the survey also asked about the likelihood of the respondent to recommend a retailer to friends and family. Overall, over 150,000 evaluations were collected on retailers in 39 categories. The top three to 10 retailers (based on category size) receiving the highest scores in each category were recognized as America’s Best Retailers for 2022.

Wegmans Food Markets, Publix Super Markets, and Harps Food Stores garnered the top ratings for supermarkets, followed by Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market.

Top finishers in the discount supermarket chains list included Trader Joe’s, 99 Cents Only Stores, and Aldi.

Read the full article… 

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!

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.

Walmart’s Innovative Delivery Plan

“Helicopter, nylon, radar, jet engine, canned beer, sunscreen—all these inventions are the legacy of the Great Depression of the 1930s,” wrote Alex Petrunenko, Product Evangelist at Creato. “We might not know all the innovations of the coming years brought by the COVID-19 crisis, but we know for sure there will be more companies leveraging low-code technology across different industries.”

A good example of innovative improvements such as those listed above was reported in a recent SupermarketNews article, which announced that Walmart plans to pilot an Internet-of-Things (IoT) “smart box” from startup HomeValet for home delivery of perishable foods.

According to the article, the “smart box” test will begin this spring in Bentonville, Ark. Participating customers will be able to receive deliveries from their local Walmart store in a temperature-controlled box located outside their home. Three temperature zones inside the box will allow for storage of frozen, refrigerated and pantry items.

The “smart box” can interact with the courier’s mobile device to provide access and complete “hands-free” fulfillment of the order.

“This gives customers the ability to receive secure, contactless deliveries with peace of mind, knowing their grocery items will stay fresh,” explained Tom Ward, Senior VP of Customer Product at Walmart U.S.

Supermarkets Providing COVID Solutions

As reported in several Supermarket News articles, supermarkets are stepping-up to help customers more easily protect themselves from the pandemic.

Some specific examples of what might be considered an “extra” component of the customer experience:

  • Publix expanded COVID-19 vaccinations to over 100 pharmacies, expanding their collaboration with the state of Florida to 12 counties.
  • H-Vee expanded its coronavirus diagnostic services, and is planning to offer COVID-19 rapid antibody testing at more than 250 pharmacy locations.
  • Ralphs launched a program for administering COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Meijer partnered with the state of Michigan and will administer COVID-19 vaccine at select stores in Wayne County to patients 65 or older.
  • Wegmans has partnered with state and local government officials to offer the COVID-19 vaccine at select pharmacy locations in New York State, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
  • H-E-B has launched a registration portal on its website for people who are looking to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and is administering doses as supplies last.
  • Walmart will start providing inoculations in the city of Chicago as well as in Indiana along with six other states. The company has already been providing vaccinations in New Mexico and Arkansas.

DoorDash Now Offering On-demand Grocery Delivery

According to a recent article published by Restaurant News, “last-mile” food delivery provider DoorDash is now offering on-demand grocery delivery arena, led by the launch of its new DashPass service.

DashPass enables customers to place orders with participating grocery retailers at DoorDash.com or via the DoorDash mobile app and have their groceries delivered directly to their homes by DoorDash.

Defined as the movement of goods from a transportation hub to the final delivery destination, the focus of “last mile delivery” is to deliver items to the end user as fast as possible.

DashPass delivery service is provided via a $9.99 monthly subscription, for which members receive unlimited free deliveries and reduced service fees for orders of at least $12. Customers also can order groceries via DoorDash on a per-order basis for a $3.99 standard delivery fee (depending on the service area), with no minimum order amount.

In a separate article published by SupermarketNews, it was reported that DoorDash, which recently became publicly-traded, built its reputation as the country’s top food delivery provider by strategically going after suburban markets.

As consumers continue to exhibit an increasing demand for convenience as well as quality and choice, retailers and their strategic partners continue to respond with innovative solutions such as this.