Category Archives: Supermarket competition

Customers King at Kroeger?

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Kroger has launched a new improvement initiative to accelerate changes in assortments and better customer service.

While Kroeger has been in the news lately for considering the sale of its convenience stores, the new  “Restock Kroger” improvement initiative seems to be the bigger story. It will involve “an accelerated and more data-driven effort around pricing, personalized communications with customers, and a revamp of product assortments,” the article said.

“We will change the way people eat in the U.S.,” said Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO. “If you are eating, we want to serve you. Unless you are eating in a white tablecloth restaurant, we want to be able to provide that meal for you.”

Read the full article… 

“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…

Different Grocers Top Different Lists!

A recent Reuters article focused on “low cost” grocery leaders, noting that the German grocery chain Aldi Inc is trying to outdo the world’s biggest retailer (Walmart).

Aldi currently boasts 1,600 U.S. stores, but only accounts for about 1.5 % of the U.S. market.  A company spokesperson referenced in the article says Aldi is growing at 15% per year and plans to open 400 new locations by the end of next year; he also said Aldi’s prices are 21 % lower than its lowest-priced competitors.

Walmart, on the other hand, currently controls about 22 % of the market and its U.S. sales are estimated to grow about 2 % this year, according to analysts; and, of course, Amazon continues to grow Amazon Fresh while feverishly testing brick-and-mortar stores.

At the same time, in a race based on customer satisfaction and shopping experience, MediaPost reported the results of a Top Grocer’s survey done by Market Force, a market research company based in Louisville, Colorado. Their customer loyalty index is based on responses from some 12,700 consumers, the article said, and the top slots were awarded to:

  1. Wegmans and Publix (tie for 1st)
  2. Trader Joe’s
  3. H.E.B.

Ironically, Walmart came in last in the Market Force survey… which makes one realize that price does not necessarily guarantee customer loyalty.

Amazon “Pick-up” Stores Free for Some

According to a recent SupermarketNews article, Amazon has released information about new “click-and-collect” sites in Seattle.

Called “AmazonFresh Pickup,” the new concept will provide a full selection of grocery and household items available for online ordering and pickup, free to its Prime members.

The prototype sites are currently open only to Amazon employees. While Amazon did not specify any time-frames or plans, the article quoted an analyst at Wolfe Research, who said he expected Amazon will open as many as 30 such outlets this year.

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.”

3 Trends Impacting Supermarkets

In a recent article published by ECRM, a support organization that provides business solutions to retailers by integrating process, vision and technology, three key trends were identified as having a significant impact on the grocery retail field:

“The U.S. food retailing business has never been more competitive, the article said. “A number of trends are putting pressure on food retailers of all stripes…”

The article went on to suggest that the food retail business is evolving and “the customer is king!” Data from a study done by Packaged Facts was also shared, identifying three key trends as “shaping” the food and beverage retail market:

  • The incursion of e-commerce onto the food retailing landscape
  • The evolution and expansion of contactless payment options
  • The rise of the smaller store formats

Read the full article…

In-store v. On-line Shopping?

33% of all grocery shoppers will shop online this year, according to a recent article posted on retailcustomerexperience.com, which shared data from the 2017 Grocery eCommerce Forecast from Unata and in partnership with Brick Meets Click.

The article notes that ‘egrocery’ is gaining greater consumer attention and 31 percent of shoppers are likely to order online, up from 19 percent last year.

The article also states that seventy-five-percent of shoppers will switch grocers if there is a better shopping experience to be had, and sixty-eight percent of shoppers who had shopped online the previous year are “somewhat” or “very” likely to switch to a grocer offering a better online shopping experience.

However, when looking at retail in total, a Modern Consumer survey shows that fifty-six percent of U.S. consumers prefer a brick and mortar shopping channel, and 93 percent of customer journeys involve multiple channels. The survey, which polled 1,000 U.S. shoppers, also revealed that over seventy-percent browse for products online before buying in a physical store, and only 10 percent of shoppers mainly shop online.

So while it seems that shoppers in general lean more toward the in-store buying experience, many more leverage on-line shopping in advance and an increasing number of grocery shoppers are trending toward the on-line experience, at least some of the time.

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.

Supermarkets of the Future Fast Approaching!

Several past posts have shared details about radical new changes that are being tested by various supermarket chains.

Well, the trend seems to be continuing according to a recent NY Post article, which gives the scoop on Amazon’s latest innovation: a two-story, automated grocery store in which a staff of robots on the floor upstairs grabs and bags items for shoppers below!

The “futuristic prototype” is based on the recently unveiled “Amazon Go” convenience store, “with a bigger layout that could span anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 square feet.”

The article goes on to explain that Amazon’s plan is to stock these bigger stores with items people prefer to see before buying. In addition, these bigger stores are expected to operate with fewer  employees – possibly as few as 3 to 10 workers per shift!

Read the full story…