Category Archives: Process improvement

Tech Driving Customer Experience at SpartanNash

SpartanNash is leveraging GPS location technology to improve curbside service in its Fast Lane online grocery pickup program. According to a recent SupermarketNews article, a number of the chain’s locations are now using Radius Networks’ location-based FlyBuy Pickup service with ShopperKit’s in-store grocery fulfillment software to bring out Fast Lane orders to customers as soon as they arrive at the store.

Referenced as a “click-and-collect platform,” the process begins when a customer places a Fast Lane curbside order. The order is fulfilled and the customer is notified when their groceries are ready for pickup. The customer can then share their location via mobile apps or a web browser to let their Fast Lane personal shopper know they’re heading to the store. That allows customers’ orders to be prepared and delivered to their vehicles the moment they pull into the pickup area.

“This new technology will completely change our customers’ experience with Fast Lane,” said Brian Holt, vice president of marketing for SpartanNash.

“Fast Lane already provides exceptional customer service, with overall satisfaction scores 30 points higher than the national average, as well as some of the nation’s leading fulfillment rates. And our new GPS location technology will only improve the ease and speed of the Fast Lane experience.”

This is another good example of how today’s supermarkets are leveraging technology and continuous process improvement to drive customer service and the shopping experience.

Wakefern Focusing on Process Improvement & Customer Experience

Wakefern Food Corporation, a Keasbey, N.J.-based grocery retail cooperative, is planning a 50-store test of a computer vision system that automatically identifies when product stock runs outs on shelves.

As reported in a SupermarketNews article, once out-of-stocks are flagged, the system helps store associates prioritize them as they occur and recoup the most lost sales as possible per labor hour to make the most customers happy. The system keeps track of both lost sales per hour (LSH) and frustrated shoppers per hour (FSH). The company said this information enables them to track an “out-of-stock hours” metric that makes it easier for them to rack on-shelf availability of products from store to store.

“Focal Systems’ out-of-stock detection through computer vision and artificial intelligence has enabled us to automatically identify shelf gaps,” Wakefern Chief Information Officer Cheryl Williams said. “This early success has encouraged our members to opt into a 50-store pilot expansion this autumn.”

Focal noted that its platform allows store associates to spend more time serving customers because it eliminates the need to manually scan for out-of-stock items.

“Customer expectations are high, and retailers want to deliver on those expectations,” stated Focal CEO Francois Chaubard. “Focal Systems provides the real-time data retailers need to run their stores efficiently…”

Innovation at Hy-Vee Reduces Food Waste

Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc. is piloting an innovative mobile shopping app that will reduce food waste, according to a recent SupermarketNews article.

The app is called Flashfood and is designed to let shoppers browse and buy food items nearing their “best before” date at significantly reduced prices. It was developed by a Toronto company of the same name.

“At Hy-Vee, we know it’s important that we do our part as grocers to reduce food waste,” said Jessica Ringena, Vice President of Innovation and Business Development.

Read the full article…

Forbes Was Right: 4 Ways Your Grocery Store Might Change this Year

This past December Forbes published an article suggesting we should expect to see more changes at the grocery store this year as the industry adapts to various competitive pressures and emerging shopping habits.

“The last year has been a trying one for supermarkets that face not only changing technology and consumer demands but heightened competition on price,” the article said.

The article predicted four key trends for 2018, which were:

  1. More online shopping options
  2. Mobile payment acceptance
  3. Meal kits
  4. In-store drinking and dining

At the half-way-or-so point, it seems these predictions are on track. And clearly all four predictions focus on improving processes as well as customer service and the shopping experience!

Guess we can all stay-tuned to see if these trends continue…

 

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!