Category Archives: Process improvement

Sam Walton & the 5th “P”

In a recent article published by the International Speaker’s Bureau, author Michael Berghdahl referenced Sam Walton’s retail success, noting that Walton intuitively knew that retail marketing is all about the “4-P’s,” which are having the right products, price, placement, and promotion.

However, the article goes on to say that Sam Walton knew the “4 P’s” were not enough; that he was not satisfied to simply apply traditional methods, but rather always out to do more… to try new ideas.

“You might say he [Sam Walton] embraced change like a welcomed friend,” Berghahl wrote. “Never complacent, he sought ways to improve every aspect of the Walmart success formula each and every day.”

As part of this approach to continuous improvement, Walton figured out the key to creating a sustainable competitive advantage in the retail marketplace was by adding a “5th P” to his success formula: PEOPLE. Success required fully-engaged people working together as a high performing team, and serving his customers.

This perspective is consistent with the latest research on the critical importance and value of an engaged workforce.

But beware! Traditional efforts to engage employees have not been fruitful!!  These unsuccessful attempts have been haphazard at best, and have largely focused on trying to make employees happy.  Unfortunately, research and experience has proved that happy workers are not necessarily more productive workers.

Clearly a more strategic approach to engagement is needed, yet few retailers or organizations of any type have a formalized engagement strategy.

If you would like to create such a strategy, here are ten behaviors  you might initiate, which are based on research and experience that shows productive employees tend to be engaged employees, not the other-way-around.

Read more… 

Food Waste!

In a recent video report, Phil Lempert, “Supermarket Guru,” referenced a United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization statement indicating one-third of food gets spoiled or wasted.

That translates to approximately $1 trillion per year, or double the dollar volume of the grocery industry as a whole!

As you are most likely aware, to reduce food waste we have to control environmental conditions including temperature, moisture levels, and UV exposure all across the supply chain including on shoppers homes.

The Spoon reports that a group of researchers led by Giovanni Salvatore at ETH Zurich have developed a biocompatible microsensor that can be directly applied to food and is safe to eat. The sensor is made from a combination of edible materials such as magnesium and a compostable polymer made with corn and food starch.

But there is a problem – making them is currently very expensive, compared to pennies or even fractions of pennies for traditional RFID tags.

However, Salvatore predicts that these biodegradable sensors will be part of our everyday lives within 5 to 10 years.

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… 

Groceries Delivered & Put-Away in Your Home?

According to a recent posting on techcrunch.com, Walmart has announced that it will begin testing a new service that will allow customers with August smart home devices, like the August doorbell and security cameras, to have their packages and groceries delivered inside their home instead of left on the doorstep. Grocery orders won’t just be placed inside the house like the packages, but will be put away in the fridge and freezer, when appropriate.

The retailer says it will soon start this test in the Silicon Valley area with select customers who have opted into to try the new service.

Sounds like continuous process improvement and the trend toward innovative customer service continues!

Read the full story…

Robots in the Aisles?

A recent video and report by Phil Lempert, founder of supermarketguru.com, shared information about “Tally,” a robot that will be working the aisles at Schnucks looking for items that are out of stock and checking on prices.

The robot is being tested at a store in the Richmond Heights area of St. Louis, the article says. A second will be tested at another store in the Kirkwood area. The tests are expected to last about six weeks.

Tally weighs about 30 pounds and stands at 38 inches tall and has sensors to avoid bumping into things like shoppers and carts. It scans the shelves and notifies the store personnel when quantities are running low.

A new component of the digital trend?

“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!

Can Digital Resources Solve Grocery’s Inventory v. Profitability Dilemma?

“The biggest challenges that grocery retailers face is excess inventory and profitability,” says Randy Evins, Senior Principal for Food, Drug & Convenience at SAP.

In a recent SupermarketNews article,  Evins explains that grocers face the dilemma of keeping their margins low by spending less while still delivering quality products. More labor requires higher costs, but without the additional attention to fresh foods, products will not be up to standards.

The solution: Grocery retailers should leverage digital resources and process improvement to more easily monitor, plan and execute their efforts.

“It’s critical that grocery free themselves from the constraints of doing everything manually.” Elvin says.

“Automation of simple tasks can help ensure manpower is used in more critical roles rather than routine monitoring and conditions management.”

The article goes on to present ways in which digital information can help supermarket management better-understand what products are most popular and what are consistently undersold, as well as which processes are the best candidates for streamlining. They would then be able to better manage some of the more challenging yet vital areas of the business, such as the fresh foods and perishable sections, which typically comprise up to 50 percent of sales and more than 60 percent of profits.

In addition to leveraging technology to improve operational efficiency, Elvins also stresses the importance of using data to better-understand customer preferences, and to drive the customer experience (CX).

“Stores must differentiate from online by taking advantage of consumer senses, drawing consumers into the store, and using experiences to convert the sale,” he writes.

In-store events like wine tastings, and providing local product representatives and vendors throughout the store to offer expert opinions, are often popular offerings that aren’t possible online, thus creating greater brand-and-store loyalty as well as a competitive edge over online retailers.

Artificial Intelligence Driving Faster Shopping Trips?

As you most likely are aware, Instacart provides shopping and home delivery in a variety of stores.

In an ongoing effort to generate more precise shopping trips — i.e., a faster way of shopping for its employees, who are shopping on behalf of customers — the San Francisco-based company has been testing various ways to determine how people might most efficiently shop for items on a list, ranging from:

  • an alphabetical list
  • a route-based approach
  • an artificial intelligence (AI) approach that uses data from the company’s most efficient shoppers to predict a sequence of picks that would be the most efficient

The article states that people are using AI to solve hard problems more and more… and the algorithms used for more traditional problem solving are not so different from those that can determine how a human would pick-up specified items in a store. In fact, Instacart is able to “guess” the next item a shopper will pick 60% of the time with the AI solution!

“It’s not 95%,” said Jeremy Stanley, VP of data science at Instacart. “But there’s room for variance and error. When we look at the overall sequence it mimics what the shopper does very closely, and usually only reverses a few items per trip.”

Might there be an application for using this AI approach for you and me to enhance our food shopping experience?

If so, how might retailers view this developing use of technology, considering it might make shoppers less susceptible to impulse buying because they will do less wandering through the aisles?

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.”

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…