Tag Archives: continuous improvement in supermarkets

Leveraging Technology to Improve Processes at Walmart

A recent SupermarketNews article said that Walmart plans to roll out warehouse automation that will improve speed and efficiency at regional distribution centers.

The plan involves activating robotics technology in 25 of Walmart’s 42 distribution centers, which will include a fleet of fully autonomous robots and proprietary software to improve throughput while boosting warehouse capacity,

“This move will fundamentally alter how products get to stores,” said Joe Metzger, executive vice president of supply chain operations at Walmart U.S.

“Right now, product arrives at one of our regional distribution centers and is either cross-docked or warehoused until we need it. The products are moved or stored manually… This system uses a complex algorithm to store cases like puzzle pieces using high-speed mobile bots, operating with a precision that speeds the intake process and increases the accuracy of freight being stored for future orders. By using dense modular storage, it also expands building capacity. And by using high-speed palletizing robotics to organize and optimize freight, it creates custom store- and aisle-ready pallets, which take the guesswork out of unloading trucks.”

Another good example of improving processes to drive the customer experience while keeping costs down!

Albertson Companies Leveraging Tech to Engage Customers

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Albertsons Companies, operators of over 2,200 supermarkets, has launched a consumer loyalty and shopper rewards program using the app Fetch Rewards. The new program’s goal is to increase customer engagement levels and to extend the reach of its customer rewards.

The app will enable Albertsons to extend exclusive, individualized offers from its family of stores.

The article quoted Usman Humayun, vice president of digital marketing at Albertsons, who said, “We’re constantly looking at innovative and relevant ways to engage with our customers, and after seeing such strong results, we decided to expand the Fetch Rewards pilot to additional stores. This relationship is a win-win for our company and for our customers who use Fetch to earn rewards on grocery, retail and restaurant purchases.”

This is another good example of how retailers can leverage technology to provide greater levels of customer interaction and value. If our research and experience are on target, the fact that this type of program allows for “individualized” messaging and marketing will significantly increase its impact.

Read the full article…

What Supermarkets Can Learn from C-Stores

Several of our posts have focused on the importance of innovation and the customer experience, and how retailers must make continuous improvement in these areas a priority. Along those lines, a recent SupermarketNews article shared some interesting insights on the significant success the country’s 153,000+ convenience stores (c-stores) have experienced due to making ongoing improvements via “digital transformation.”

The piece quoted Scott Langdoc, a strategist specializing in the grocery chain, drug, and convenience/fuel retailing segments at Amazon Web Services, who said, “By focusing digital transformation efforts on supporting emerging customer journeys, optimizing product and service offerings, and prioritizing efficiency of retail operations, c-store retailers are working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to double down on innovation while recovering revenue and attracting new customers.”

The article went on to explain the different product fulfillment expectations at c-stores, which include fuel fill-up, basic snack and beverage purchases, buying prepared foods like pizza or sandwiches, a quick errand for a household necessity or a combination of those scenarios.

Langdoc also noted that, more frequently, customers expect a personalized experience regardless of how or where they engage in the c-store.

Examples given included:

  • While a customer pumps fuel, they order a slice of pizza at the dispenser via a voice-activated order system and use their mobile phone to pay for both the pizza and their fuel.
  • A shopper buys a fountain drink in a store and gets a personalized discount to buy fuel as an incentive because the customer hasn’t purchased fuel at that station in the last month.
  • A customer grabs the items they want to buy at an Amazon Go store and walks out without having to stand in line to pay at a traditional cash register.

The Bottom Line
While recognizing that fuel remains the top selling c-store product category, the article concluded by suggesting, “in-store product sales and an extensive prepared food menu represent the largest overall sales growth categories, and on average, they are the biggest contributor to overall gross profit.”

Therefore, retailers should focus on capturing the broadest spectrum of transaction details possible and applying the analytics and machine learning to generate hyper-accurate predictions of future demand.

“This transaction detail can help optimize category plans, profitable private label assortments, high-selling menu offerings, and better in-store stock availability,” the article said.

Read the full article…

Ideas for Improving Online Grocery Shopping

Markus Stripf is the CEO and co-founder of Spoon Guru, a digital health innovation partner to leading grocery retailers around the world.

Citing statistics that indicated online grocery sales in the U.S. grew to $5.3 billion in April, compared to $4 billion in the previous month, and that online grocery will grow by 100% this year, Stripf has some specific thoughts on how retailers can improve online grocery shopping.

His list of “fresh ideas,” which were featured in a recent SupermarketNews article, included:

  • Offering customers designated delivery times to improve convenience
  • Providing more curated experiences based on consumers’ dietary preferences
  • Utilizing the power of personalized nutrition technology to enable healthy food exploration
  • Transparency to better enable purchasing decisions on specific dietary needs
  • Review and reinvest to ensure the simplicity and usability of user interface platforms

Read the full article…

Necessity & Innovation

Nearly everyone we ask says that they want to be innovative — the best returns come to those who are first to market with a new product; those who innovate new and better processes can provide much better quality at much lower costs; those who can create a management system or culture that constantly is clicking on all cylinders can have a powerful advantage.

But how often do they happen, and why?

In our experience and research, we find that innovation is truly enigmatic:

  • Large organizations have more wherewithal to invest in systematic innovation, but smaller organizations seem more capable of capitalizing on innovative ideas.
  • Most innovations come not from visionaries at the top but from people closest to the work. Yet paradoxically, strong leadership and vision at the top of the organization are required to create an environment that fosters innovation and risk taking. Without strong leadership, organizations become bureaucratic and risk-averse.
  • Outsiders often have the most innovative ideas, but insiders’ know-how and buy-in are required to get them implemented.
  • And possibly most relevant during the current pandemic, adversity or “necessity” often brings about innovative solutions.

A recent SupermarketNews article notes that current world challenges have been exceptionally tough for supermarkets, and that the associated difficulties have brought about significant and innovative improvements in how stores are being run… now and possibly in the future!

“The first hint of the virus reaching our communities ignited the shock of an overwhelmed supply chain,” said Randy Evins, Senior Principal and Industry Advisor.

“A couple of weeks later, the consumer experience was further diversified with online pickup services, home delivery and special hours reserved for vulnerable shoppers. Some local grocers have also installed plexiglass protectors around their checkout stations and added floor markers to help ensure shoppers are standing six feet apart while waiting in line.

“There’s unquestionably a lot of ingenuity happening in supermarkets right now. But there is one area of the business that still requires attention — especially if grocers want to continue surviving this constantly evolving time as well as the eventual rebound to come.”

The article goes on to stress the importance of leveraging digital technology to ensure that all variables are considered in “real time” when making inventory management and ordering decisions.

“Digital strategies must go even deeper to cover the entire value chain — addressing the need for connected processes, real-time transactional data and immediate visibility into store-level inventory,” Evins said.

“Supermarkets can no longer afford to order new products and additional inventory blindly. They need to know what is available on their store shelves, store backrooms and distribution centers — by SKU and quantity and in light of forecasted demand.”

In support of this perspective, the article cites predictive data indicating that 25% to 30% of a grocer’s sales volume will consist of digital orders by 2025, compared to 6% to 10% today.

Evins went on to say that the use of technology, as described, will enable store employees to “have the visibility and insight they need to work more efficiently, safely and productively while keeping consumers happy and coming back over and over again.”

Certainly, given today’s circumstances, necessity has truly been the “mother of invention.”

Read related newsletter…

BOPUS Machines?

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that in ongoing efforts to improve the online shopping and pickup process,  Wal-Mart is testing a massive storage locker at a store in Rogers, Ark., that can distribute packages to online shoppers “in the manner of a vending machine.”

Known as a BOPUS (buy online pick up in store) machine, the device is being tested a Walmart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas.

According to the article, the machine allows for automated distribution of online orders and works in conjunction with a kiosk previously installed at the Rogers store where online shoppers can alert the company when they’ve arrived to retrieve orders made online.

A spokesman told SN Friday that Walmart was testing the device as a means of storing items ordered for pickup, and providing faster service to shoppers. It allows for such shoppers to retrieve orders without the help of a store employee, potentially providing further convenience for the shopper and a more efficient solution for Walmart.

Seems like the online shopping trend continues to move ahead…

Grocery Stewardship Certification – Saving More than Just Money!

The Grocery Stewardship Certification Program (GSC) helps grocers enhance their operational sustainability with a proven methodology that provides for consistency and accountability. The key objectives are to review store-level practices and equipment with an eye to increasing energy efficiency, boosting revenue and lowering costs.

According to a recent post on LinkedIn’s Grocery Executive Network,  two retail chains – Hannaford Supermarkets and Weis Markets – have enrolled all of their stores in the program.

“Weis Markets has used the Grocery Stewardship Certification program to engage with our employees in new ways and as a tool to show our customers that we are always looking to adopt new sustainable practices,” said Patti Olenick, sustainability director for Weis Markets.

“Hannaford has found tremendous benefit from our work with the Grocery Stewardship Certification program,” said George Parmenter, Manager of Sustainability, Hannaford Supermarkets. “Using the workbooks for the second time, we’ve found a number of areas where our staff and procedures have significantly improved. Through assessing our work, the GSC has helped us to quantify our sustainability efforts as saving us more than $23 million per year.”

The article goes on to state that while there are a number of programs that focus on high performance buildings, the GSC program is the only certification program to expand into employee practices and procedures to engage all stores within a chain.

Who Likes Supermarket Self-Checkout – and Why?

Millennials like self-checkout according to a recent article on PYMNTS.com —and they’d like it even more if they could use mobile payments there, according to results from survey commissioned by location-based mobile marketing vendor Retale.

According to the article, Millennials were more likely to have used self-checkout (91 percent, versus 81 percent for age 35 and up) and more likely to say they liked self-checkout because they “don’t like interacting with cashiers,”

Other common reasons for choosing self-checkout included:

  • A limited number of items (72 percent)
  • No line or waiting (55 percent)
  • “I prefer to keep my transactions and financial information private” (13 percent)

Click-And-Collect Connecting With Shoppers at Loblaws

clickcollectA recent article in Canadian Grocer  describes how Loblaws is launching click and collect online with over 20,000 items available.

For the retailer, the beauty of click and collect online is that no delivery is required. In Loblaw’s case, the customers pick up their grocery order at a drive thru lane at the supermarket.

Other retailers use a depot where customers can pick up their orders. Many potential online ordering customers worry about the produce that a store associate might pick for their order.

Interestingly, customers can specify the condition of an item in their order — for instance, “green bananas.”

Best of all for the consumers, Loblaw’s is only charging $3 to $5 for the service.   In click and collect online, Loblaw’s has anticipated the reasons why customers might be reluctant to use the service….and planned for them. Sounds like a winner.

Successful Retailers Engage Customers With the “Social” Component of Social Media

Customer service and loyalty are the primary focus areas of this blog, and we came across some interesting perspective on how some supermarkets are making prudent use of social media for these purposes.

But the use of social media must be strategic and, as Simon Uwins writes on the IdeaXchange, “…can not be used as just another marketing channel to broadcast their latest promotions, products and the like.”

Hi article goes on to suggest that the power of social media lies in its ability to connect and strengthen relationships — the “social” rather than the “media.”

“Approached this way, it can strengthen loyalty and encourage customers to spread the word for the brand,” Uwins explains.

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