segments

The Lookout

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

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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Managing store by store to optimize profit

Managing store by store to optimize profit Spending on food is growing slowly and new competition continues to enter the market, so retailers need to look for new ways to sustain profits, but they also need to carefully consider how they evaluate growth. Focusing more attention on the main retail asset – the store itself – can be one of the keys.

Online grocery scorecard: Is anyone doing it right?

Online grocery scorecard: Is anyone doing it right? A recent report prepared by Fluid and Wells Fargo scores customer experience at online grocery sites on a wide range of criteria. What surprised us was how much higher Fresh Direct scored than the rest of the pack which included Safeway, Google Express, Amazon Fresh, Peapod and three other big players in the US.

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Lunds & Byerly's Kitchen: Food-for-now sells food-for-later

Lunds & Byerly's Kitchen: Food-for-now sells food-for-later Here’s a new concept that’s worth a look. Food retailer Lunds and Byerly’s has turned the “grocery store with a prepared foods department” on its head. They’ve opened a restaurant to promote their online grocery shopping option and carry-out food offerings. The restaurant also serves as a pickup point for online orders.

Kroger's RSI enterprise IT system: digitizing the store

Kroger's RSI enterprise IT system: digitizing the store Given the challenges facing today’s retailers, it’s worthwhile shining a light on Kroger’s leadership role in developing a new Retail Site Intelligence (RSI) enterprise IT architecture. It will serve as the foundation for a broad range of retail innovations that give Kroger the ability to digitize the store and improve the shopping experience.

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Alibaba's Tmall supermarket unlocks possibilities

Alibaba's Tmall supermarket unlocks possibilities Alibaba’s Tmall Supermarket is a good example of how much creative flexibility is possible when a retail business model is built out on the internet. Partly, this is because it’s possible to reconfigure a virtual operation quicker and at a lower cost than brick and mortar, but the real headroom is found in making changes that deliver greater value to customers – and some of these possibilities aren’t even imaginable until a retailer begins to think differently about the possibilities.

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The personalization challenge: Moving beyond the transactional

The personalization challenge: Moving beyond the transactional Scale is a challenge for retailers when it comes to personalization using digital connections: How do you reach enough shoppers to have a measurable impact on sales?  We found some specific ideas about how retailers can personalize WITH shoppers vs To shoppers. These ideas can create better implementation and ultimately help realize a lot of the value missed by just staying with a transactional/product focus.

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ShoppingScout: Truly targeted promotions and price info personalized for shoppers

ShoppingScout: Truly targeted promotions and price info personalized for shoppers Sooner or later someone was going to make it easy for grocery shoppers to take greater advantage of their new-found market power, and the free price comparison app ShoppingScout may have cracked the code.  Sara, the app's personal shopping assistant pictured to the left, automatically looks up the prices for all the items on a customer’s grocery list, in all the stores they shop, and shows them the lowest prices.