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The Lookout

Scanning the horizon for opportunities & challenges created by new uses of technology in retail.

How and why retailers need to find a role in the sharing economy

How and why retailers need to find a role in the sharing economy The “sharing economy” is not a fad according to research studies, and in fact it’s becoming a larger part of the way many people around the world buy and access goods and services. Nielsen recently found that more than half of those surveyed in the US were “willing to share or rent personal assets for financial gain” and more than 40% would be willing to lease goods and services. 

Shipping container solutions that deliver in more than one way

Shipping container solutions that deliver in more than one way What happens to ecommerce shipping cartons after they’ve done their job? Some shoppers are looking for value beyond just price and assortment when choosing where to buy online, and to them, the impact of the packaging may be important. These other “sources of value” (beyond price and assortment) are likely to become increasingly important in appealing to different customer segments as online competition increases.

Instacart and the demand for on-demand food

Instacart and the demand for on-demand food A lot of the initial digital “innovation” in food marketing and distribution focused on applying technology to the usual suspects. So digital circulars, coupons, and shopping lists replace paper ones, and shoppers may place online orders but often still One.Item.At.A.Time. Here’s someone who’s thinking about needs and opportunities in a much bigger way.

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Omnichannel: The destination is in sight

Omnichannel: The destination is in sight Since the dawn of ecommerce, retailing pundits have been asking, “Are brick and mortar stores still relevant?” Now we have answers. A.T. Kearney’s new report quantifies shoppers’ channel preferences for each step of the journey: discovery, trial, purchase, pickup and return -- and there’s good news in the data for physical stores.

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Walmart & Target: Big boxes go small format

Walmart & Target: Big boxes go small format Every news story about Walmart's new US division chief featured the giant big-box retailer's strategic emphasis on small-footprint stores and ecommerce integration. Performance in the US has been sluggish for the past 5 or 6 quarters, and these store formats are all about figuring out how to drive growth by meeting the emerging needs of consumers.

What grocery leaders can learn from Bill Marriott's view of the future

What grocery leaders can learn from Bill Marriott's view of the future When management takes responsibility for the future of the business the way Bill Marriott does, it’s worth a serious look. The Chairman of the $19 billion dollar hotel management company is making bold moves to ensure his business is ready for its next wave of customers – 60% of whom will be Millennials in just four years.

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Publix pilots personal: Why others should follow

Publix pilots personal: Why others should follow When enough people believe something, sometimes it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. Grocery customers now believe that their supermarkets know enough about them to give them personal offers. Publix is responding with a personalized offer program – and other food retailers will need to think about following on. This is an increasingly common shopper expectation.

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How far can Aldi really grow?

How far can Aldi really grow? Aldi’s primary appeal to shoppers is low prices – 30% below the supermarket – but that’s not the only reason they’re enjoying strong same store sales growth in an otherwise flat market.  Known originally as a limited assortment store, Aldi has maintained most of those strengths while also developing a more well-rounded shopper value proposition that’s proving hard to beat, at least for now.

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Relay Foods: Specific suggestions smooth transition for customers

Relay Foods: Specific suggestions smooth transition for customers Putting the customer first is a winning strategy in today’s intensely competitive market. Relay Foods and Whole Foods are ending a 5-year partnership in Virginia, and the positive and helpful way Relay has approached helping its customers through the transition is worth learning from. Relay does six notable things in this email they sent to customers in Charlottesville and Richmond.

Kroger buys Vitacost: shows where they are placing their bets

Kroger buys Vitacost: shows where they are placing their bets Supermarkets need to find new ways to grow, but until now most of the ideas haven't really taken off.  First, it was Whole Health and meal solutions - more recently in-store clinics looked like they had potential. Kroger’s purchase of Vitacost.com shows where they are placing their bets, i.e. in fast-growing categories such as healthy living at a lower cost and new channels e.g. ecommerce.

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Two ways for offline retailers to grow

Two ways for offline retailers to grow The retail stats compiled in a recent Business Intelligence report drive home the fact that “online retail is growing faster than offline retail,” but closer interpretation is required if you want to really understand what’s going on. For one thing, offline retailers probably have more opportunity to capture business than the buzz suggests.

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Customer service: The back office makes a difference too

Customer service: The back office makes a difference too We know that it costs a lot more to acquire a customer than to retain one and that customer turnover is a major expense for retailers. But are we putting enough resources and thoughtfulness into customer retention? I was reminded of this challenge by a personal experience in which a little more investment in customer retention could have resulted in a big increase in the lifetime value of a customer.

Accelerating beyond Ominchannel: Look out for Total Retail!

Accelerating beyond Ominchannel:  Look out for Total Retail! An approach called “total retail” is overtaking omnichannel as the high-water mark for successful retailers. Whereas the last big upheaval required retailers to multiply the number of channels where they made themselves available, the next one looks like it will require them to “rebalance that store portfolio” with the customer at the center of the picture, and include their physical stores in the innovation mix. One reason this is going to be so important is that the average shopper now wants to limit the number of retail brands they interact with, especially online.

Is Walmart's Savings Catcher the first of many bigger and better shopping tools?

Is Walmart's Savings Catcher the first of many bigger and better shopping tools? The Savings Catcher program that Walmart rolls out nationally this summer gives the retailer a way to create a new digital CRM program without involving a card and discounts. For us, the really big idea is that Walmart leveraged all the new price transparency data into a value added service for their customer.

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Moving beyond high tech vs. high touch to better shopper connections

Moving beyond high tech vs. high touch to better shopper connections It’s time to reconcile high tech and high touch in food retailing. The two can complement each other better than ever today. Bob Wheatley’s blog "Supermarkets: Do you know me, love me?" made me thoughtful about just how far we’ve come in terms of how technology can help us better understand and serve our customers.

Watching Walmart test and try new strategies

Watching Walmart test and try new strategies Walmart offered a vision of where food and grocery retailing is headed at its annual meeting that includes smaller formats and increasing ecommerce integration. Watching the largest retailer in the world test and try out different strategies to address changing shopper needs and behaviors raises some fascinating questions for the rest of us as we struggle to re-invent go-to-market strategies.

NEW FEATURE!!! Audio insights from Bill Bishop. CLICK HERE  to hear what Walmart's experiments mean for other grocery retailers.

Relay Foods raises the bar on the shopping experience

Relay Foods raises the bar on the shopping experience Online grocery has to be economic to work, but real success depends on delivering a superior shopping (user) experience. This is where the phrase “retail is detail” goes virtual, and Relay Food’s new website is a great example. Their commitment to a unique shopping experience is clear in a recent letter to users.

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In-store digital touchpoints: What do shoppers really want?

In-store digital touchpoints: What do shoppers really want? New digital touchpoints like iBeacon dramatically increase the opportunities for retailers and brands to communicate with and better serve customers and consumers. But, they also raise a key the question: What are shoppers really looking for –  promotions and savings or better customer service?  There’s a good chance that some of the connections will be wasted if they aren’t used to deliver customer services as well.

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Poncho: Narrowcasting shopper marketing efforts

Poncho: Narrowcasting shopper marketing efforts The Poncho app, now in pilot with Duane Reed, caught our eye because it nails the requirements for effective shopper communication. Shoppers want information that’s personalized and relevant ­– timely, interesting and useful for the task at hand. Messages that don’t meet these criteria won’t have much impact and risk being irritating.

Learning from Taiwan's convenience stores

Learning from Taiwan's convenience stores Taiwanese convenience stores use a success formula that retailers as diverse as Trader Joe’s and The Container Store have tapped into. It’s about having a different value proposition than other stores selling the same types of products, and about finding ways to “engrain” themselves into the communities serve. It's the same thinking that's laid out in the NACS/CCRRC Playbook for Success.

SMS-based loyalty programs can be seamless and effective digital touch points

SMS-based loyalty programs can be seamless and effective digital touch points Retailers who are looking hard at the ROI from loyalty programs may want to give texting a second look, particularly if they’re looking for a low-cost way to encourage more visits and deliver special offers. Eighty percent of the customers who signed up for the text-reward program evaluated in this Convenience Store Decision article also opted in to receive the retailers’ exclusive offers.

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Farm Drop's effective online distribution system

Farm Drop's effective online distribution system It’s easy to come up with the idea of selling local food online. It’s  harder to get farmers, retailers, and consumers all “singing from same sheet of music” in order to create a cost-effective food distribution system. The beauty of Farm Drop – a new, UK-based online market that connects farmers directly to consumers – is that it simplifies the challenge with innovative approaches to compensation and distribution.

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