Tag Archives: supermarket innovation

Supermarkets Leveraging Technology & Innovation to Make Continuous Improvements

Recent Progressive Grocer articles have highlighted a variety of examples of how supermarket chains are leveraging technology and innovation to make ongoing improvements in operations and the customer experience.

For example, Save Mart Cos., based in Modesto, Calif., is investing in robots that automatically audit store shelves to ensure that products are stocked and in the right location. The initiative involves a partnership with Simbe Robotics of San Francisco. The robots, named “Tally,” will first be deployed in seven stores. They are able to scan up to 30,000 products a day, helping retailers “reduce out-of-stocks by up to 30% and redirecting store staff to personally interact with shoppers.”

flex postAnother example of innovative thinking in response to shifting consumer shopping habits involves new products designed to improve curbside pick-up, which many industry leaders believe is here to stay. FlexPost® helps retailers manage traffic and keep people safe during curbside pickup trips. These flexible signposts and bollard systems can claim to reduce parking lot repair and maintenance costs, and also minimize the impact of minor collisions with customer vehicles.

Finally, in honor of Earth Day a number of organizations have come out with announcements this week about their sustainability efforts, ranging from waste reduction to regenerative farming to net zero energy use.

Among those we found most interesting are:

  • Four Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts are piloting a Flashfood mobile app that shares sales pricing on perishables that are close to their best-by date. Stop & Shop has a goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.
  • Given concerns about package waste associated with home delivery services, HelloFresh reported this week that it is teaming up with Pratt Industries to switch to cardboard packaging made of 100% post-consumer recycled content for its HelloFresh and EveryPlate meal kits. The company estimated that the move will help reduce GHG emissions by 6,800 tons and save more than 115,000 trees a year.
  • C&S Wholesale Grocers outlined several areas in which the company is preserving the environment, working to eliminate waste and reducing its carbon footprint. Among those sustainability steps, the C&S reports that it is improving fuel efficiencies in its fleets, including piloting trailer reefers on zero emission technology and tractor fleets on non-fossil fueled power in key markets.

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.

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…

“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!

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… 

Check-Out Free Stores?

A December 5th SupermarketNews article shared insights on the latest — and potentially most disruptive — development from Amazon: Amazon Go.

This new convenience store concept will offer consumers grocery essentials, convenience items and prepared foods-to-go without requiring them to check out.

The 1,800-square-foot test store, located in Seattle, is currently open to Amazon employees using the store in a beta test. It will open to the public early in 2017, the Seattle-based retailer said.

According to the article, these new stores will use proprietary technology allowing shoppers to take items from shelves and simply walk out with them to be billed later — “…a potentially big step toward meeting shopper demand for convenience while relieving Amazon the burden of costly  fulfillment as it pursues a greater impact on food retailing.”

“Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart,” the company said in a release. “When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.”

Amazon Go — reportedly known inside the company as “Project X” — has been the topic of considerable speculation in recent months. Recent reports said the company was eyeing the potential to add as many as 2,000 such stores in the coming decade following a test period in major markets before 2018.

Wow! We didn’t see this one coming, but it is certainly a good example of customer-driven decision-making! And as some in the industry are wondering, might this be then next big “game changer?”

Future-Markets?

futureA recent Supermarket News article posed the question, “What will a grocery store look like in 50 years?”

Well, as the article explains,  a New York-based food design agency intends to find out, and sooner than you might expect. The group, known as Studio Industries, next year intends to open a “pop-up” store in New York that envisions a grocery store in the year 2065.

The Future-market will include “smart shelves” that will display a unique offering to every shopper based on an embedded “Food ID” chip; and featured products will include limited varieties of “single origin” chips resulting from food manufacturers having embraced crop rotation and other sustainable agricultural practices.

Sounds interesting… and what might we think “future” customer service will entail?

Read More… | Comment…