Understanding the Age of ‘i’

Gary Hawkins, CEO, Center for Advancing Retail and Technology

Look about and you see that the world is becoming increasingly tailored to you, your interests, and your needs. We have come to take for granted the personalization and relevancy in the digital world, no longer thinking about our customized news feeds. We give no thought to the complexity of systems and algorithms driving the process of sorting through nearly 600 million products sold by Amazon, or the thousands of movies available on Netflix. The work behind the scenes provides us with relevant recommendations. We simply see the suggestions put in front of us and, more often than not, make a purchase. AI Drives Customization The recent growth of artificial intelligence is powering yet more customization in the digital world. It is AI powering the voice-enabled digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. Amazon is intent on making Alexa ubiquitous in our lives, available not just in our homes but in our cars, offices, libraries, and even hospitals. The digital world is ours for the asking, any time, any place.  Forgot something for the dinner party tonight? Just ask Alexa to order it while you’re driving to work. And Alexa is getting smarter. Amazon recently received a patent tied to Alexa’s ability to recognize a user’s physical and emotional states and respond to how you’re feeling. Alexa can now tell if you’re suffering from a cold and suggest ordering chicken soup from Whole Foods to be delivered in the next couple hours. If you want to shop by voice, you’re not limited to Amazon; Kroger recently joined Walmart, Walgreens, and other retailers providing consumers the ability to use Google Assistant to place online orders simply by speaking. Growing numbers of retail merchants are integrating to the predominant digital assistants, those provided by Amazon, Google, and Apple. It is AI-powered voice recognition that is enabling a new world of services. Woebot is your virtual therapist available 24x7 through your smartphone. No need for a couch, no meds, and no dredging up childhood memories. Have a problem? Feeling sad or depressed? Just ask Woebot. And if exercising is better than going to a therapist, Vi is at your service. Vi is your virtual personal trainer, accessing your workout data from your smartwatch, smartphone, and IoT-enabled equipment in the gym to provide realtime guidance — run faster! lift more! — communicated to you through your wireless headset. Increasingly, the personalization found in the digital domain is manifesting in our physical world. 3D printing technology is helping drive this as shoes and clothing are created to our own individual specifications. Similar technology is being used to ‘print’ body parts and even organs. Nike’s Configurator enables shoppers to customize their shoes, selecting colors and even materials. BareMinerals Made-2-Fit’s app leverages the iPhone’s camera and processing power to enable a user to scan their skin and get a custom makeup foundation delivered to their home with their name on the bottle, backed by a 100% Shade Match Guarantee.   And when the makeup is delivered to your home, you’ll know it as you lie on the beach, receiving a notification on your phone. Opening the app, you can see and communicate with the driver through your smart doorbell. Voice-powered digital assistants connected to IoT devices enable you to customize your home to your desires simply by asking. While driving home you can ask Alexa to turn on the lights, warm the oven, and put some music on to greet you upon arrival. A growing number of smart appliances are connected to Amazon’s automated replenishment service so you no longer have to be bothered to remember to reorder laundry detergent; your smart home can take care of that for you. Kroger is working to make the brick and mortar store personalized to you. The company is deploying a new digital shelf display; one of its features will be lighting up relevant products for you as you walk down the aisle. Kroger is not only calling out relevant products as you shop but also personalizing the price to entice you to buy. Online shoppers are increasingly able to tailor the delivery of products. You can have products delivered to your home, your office, the trunk of your car, available for pickup at the store on your way home, and more. You can reserve clothing online and find it waiting for you in the store’s fitting room when you arrive. With Amazon’s Key service you can even have the delivery person put your groceries in the refrigerator at home while you’re at work. The world is increasingly your way. And what is perhaps the ultimate in personalization, medicine and healthcare are rapidly becoming tailored to the individual, using the person’s genome and other bio-markers. The use of technology to gather realtime health data from wearables, combined with a person’s genomic blueprint, can help doctors assess an individual’s disease susceptibility and develop personalized treatment plans. This movement is already underway. The Isala Hospital in the Netherlands is using 3D food printing to customize meals to ensure that each person receives the nutrition needed to get them better faster. Retailers Slow to Adapt So we have a world increasingly customized to each individual, not only in the digital world, but increasingly in the physical world. And yet much of the retail industry goes to market and operates largely as it did fifty years ago with weekly ads filled with mass promotion, the same products, services, and prices for all.  At the core of this tumult is technology-fueled innovation. Retail executives are used to brick and mortar competitors of all types, from low cost, limited assortment stores like Aldi, Save-A-Lot, and Family Dollar, to more highbrow operators like Wegmans and Whole Foods. What retail executives are not accustomed to is competing with some of the world’s largest and most powerful technology companies and a plethora of nimble, young startups gunning to transform a lethargic industry. This is an entirely new playing field where disruption is the new normal. Retail executives are poorly prepared for this new world, accustomed to a slow-moving industry and a time when retailers dictated industry change and innovation. Today, retail companies are adrift in a world of increasingly fast change across the supply chain as consumers rapidly adopt new technologies and new competitors spring forth at a bewildering pace. Too many retailers are dealing with the symptoms of innovation rather than addressing the underlying forces. And this approach is dangerous, leading executives to make short-term tactical decisions without benefit of understanding the larger battle being waged. Consumed with the nuts and bolts tactical execution required to simply stay alive in such an intense, high volume, low margin business, retail leaders are challenged to step back and understand the vast forces at work.  And yet they must. Welcome to the Age of ‘i’.  An excerpt from Retail in the Age of ‘I’. Available on +MORE

CART Weekly Report 5/9/19


THE RETAIL APOCALYPSE HAS CLAIMED 6,000 STORES IN 2019 SO FAR, MORE THAN THE NUMBER THAT SHUT DOWN IN ALL OF 2018 | Business Insider Gary’s Take: Grocery retail has not yet been swept up in the Retail Apocalypse in a major way but I don't believe that is going to last. As eCommerce sales grow it is inevitable that grocery stores will close. But it is the disruption caused by Amazon, and increasingly by Walmart and Kroger, as they invest heavily in new innovation that is going to drive competing supermarket retailers out. Even large regional supermarket chains simply do not have the resources to bet on new innovative, disruptive capabilities that the largest players do. Regional retailers need to focus more limited resources on gaining awareness to new innovation, understanding what capabilities to focus on, and reimagining the shopping experience using new technologies to personalize each engagement to the individual customer and deliver exciting new services. RETAIL SUCCESS DEPENDS ON HOW YOU ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS | Winsight Grocery Business  Gary’s Take: There is a fundamental shift underway in retail away from mass marketing to focusing on each individual customer and providing meaningful savings on relevant products. This shift requires significant data and intelligence to help power that contextual relevancy. H&M WILL CEASE PRINTING IT’S CATALOG AFTER 39 YEARS | RetailWire Sterling’s Take: It’s the right move. Not just for sustainability reasons, but it gives H&M the chance to rethink processes to improve customer experience all around. It’s less about online/offline and more about curating the right content via the right channels that make sense to their customers. WILL A STRATEGY BUILT AROUND CHAING PEOPLE’S LIVES TRANSFORM LULULEMON’S BUSINESS? | RetailWire Sterling’s Take: I’m not sure Lululemon has ever been playing purely a price-based game. They’re not worried about commodities. How else could a premium yoga brand grow selling $150 yoga pants during a recession? This seems like an extension of Chip Wilson’s culture and purpose driven mission. Their future relies on people buying into the vision and lifestyle, just like it always has. INFLUENTIALS: TOP MOVERS AND SHAKERS IN RETAIL 2019 | RIS News​ FEATURED BLOG OF THE WEEK: RECLAIMING RETAIL'S CUSTOMER HERITAGE by Gary Hawkins, CEO CART HAPPENINGS: OUTLOOK LEADERSHIP - August 11-14, 2019 in Asheville, NC  The convenience industry’s premier, invitation-only event, that you cannot afford to miss. In a world of accelerating change, where we are going and how do we build our organizations to thrive there? Sterling Hawkins will take attendees on a retail journey. C-Store operators can register today at using Invite Code: power GROCERYSHOP - September 15-18, 2019 at the Venetian in Las Vegas   Preliminary Agenda Speakers CREATING ROI IN THE FUTURE OF AR/VR IN RETAIL: HOW RETAILERS ARE USING VR/AR TO ACHIEVE GROWTH, PROFITABILITY, AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE GOALS  Questions? Contact Retail and eCommerce Committee Event Co-Chair,​ Sterling Hawkins DISRUPTIVE LEADERSHIP & THE SELFCARE REVOLUTION​, Boston Immersion Event  Apply to present at Retail Tomorrow Labs: Boston - Applications due June 15th, 2019 Full Agenda Get on the Inside - CART Community  Become part of the epicenter of retail innovation exclusive network. The place where retail decision makers and solution providers come together to advance retail into the future. FOR RETAILERS>> Proven programs to advance your business FOR SOLUTIONS>>Your growth engine into retail VIEW ALL SOLUTIONS HERE CONTACT US TELL ME HOW TO GET MY SOLUTION ADDED TO CART Get the CART Weekly Report delivered to your inbox. Sign up here. +MORE

Reclaiming Retail’s Customer Heritage

Gary Hawkins, CEO, Center for Advancing Retail and Technology

Today will be the slowest pace of change in your lifetime. Consider that for a moment. The ubiquitous iPhone was introduced just a decade ago, and today we take the app store and all the capabilities we have in our hand for granted. It seems like only yesterday that robots were the realm of science fiction, yet today we find them roaming store aisles, autonomous pods delivering groceries, and automated warehouses fast becoming the norm. Even the production of food itself is being transformed as meat is grown in factories and greens are grown in trailers alongside the store. The fast moving consumer goods retail industry is in chaos and the shift online is only the tip of the iceberg as disruption sweeps across every part of the supply chain. And this disruption is only just getting started. Technologies are converging, triggering even greater growth in world-changing capabilities. And even industries are converging as new technologies, consumer interest, and economic forces come into play. Many retailers are being whipsawed by the shift online and the explosive growth of innovation, not knowing where to focus next. Amidst this chaos, some retailers are trying to do everything while others are overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. And all retailers are moving too slowly, often not understanding the underlying forces at work driving this new world. Five year plans, a staple of management, are obsolete before the save button is clicked as new capabilities, new competitors, and new consumer demands arise almost daily. To bring order to the chaos retailers need to focus on the one constant that is ever-present: The customer. We have entered the Age of ‘i’. This is a time of quickening innovation; expanding intelligence powered by artificial intelligence feeding off big data, and immersive experiences provided by augmented and virtual reality, with all of it increasingly focused on making the world all about each individual person. Retail in the Age of ‘i’ reclaims the industry’s heritage of customer focus growing from the days of the corner store. Today, retailers have the ability to leverage vast new technologies to once again focus on the individual customer, partnering with each customer as we journey forward. And beyond technology, retailers have an opportunity to inject humanness into a shopping experience that is at risk of becoming an automated, people-free process of replenishment. The retail industry is rapidly approaching a crossroads. One path is leading to an efficient, cost-effective, yet sterile, shopping environment ruled by automation. The other is positioning technology in service to customers, taking advantage of automation to redirect human associates to engage with shoppers in either the physical or virtual environments, and fostering the personal relationships between the merchant and the customer that were a part of life decades ago.   “Throughout history, human beings have inherently been social creatures. For millions of years we’ve genetically evolved to survive and thrive through the “togetherness” of social groups and gatherings. Today, modern communication and technology has forever changed the landscape of our human interaction, and as such, we often decline without this type of meaningful personal contact. Today’s highly individualistic, digitally remote, and material driven culture is now challenging all of this, as we turn to science to unlock the mysteries of human connection and wellness in a digitally connected world.” I believe there is business opportunity in doing the right thing for people and our communities. That people today, staring into their digital screens for hours at a time, interacting via Facebook or Twitter, and being drawn to every new shiny piece of tech, actually covet human connectedness. Retailers, especially food retailers, are in a unique position to deliver this powerful human experience given that people still need to eat daily and, as we’ll see later in the book, the growing connectedness between food and health and wellbeing. From a business perspective, every customer interaction, whether in the digital realm or the physical store, is vital to acquiring, growing, and retaining customers. Focusing on each individual customer forces retailers to think beyond generalizations - investing in a health and wellness program is good for my shoppers - to focus on leveraging technology to serve the individual; ‘how can I help Sasha improve her life by providing products and services contextually relevant to her?’. This involves not looking at Sasha as representative of a cohort, but - literally - building a relationship with Sasha as an individual.  Not only is the customer the only constant in today’s world of non-stop disruption, but customers are expecting, even demanding, that the world be made relevant to them. And why not? Consumers take for granted the personalization and relevancy in the digital world, and expect the same from brick & mortar retailers. An excerpt from Retail in the Age of ‘I’. Available on +MORE

CART Weekly Report 4/25/19

CART, Advancing Retail

AMERICA'S BIGGEST SUPERMARKET COMPANY STRUGGLES WITH ONLINE GROCERY UPHEAVAL | Wall Street Journal Gary’s Take: Two key things I would call out relative to this Kroger story by Heather Haddon from WSJ. The first is that while Kroger, like all other grocery retailers, is being challenged by the move online, has an asset few others do: Years of accurate customer purchase data. That data is the fuel for helping Kroger understand their customers and powering up more efficient customer growth and retention. While Kroger does a good job with personalization, they can always do better, especially leveraging the latest AI and machine learning approaches. The second call out: while Kroger is working to innovate at a growing pace, they are resource-challenged to deploy new tech like their digital shelf edge solution fast enough. If a Kroger with their resources is having a tough time, it makes you wonder about the future of the regional and independent retailers. HOW GROCERY RETAILERS CAN REINVENT THEIR LOYALTY PROGRAMS | Progressive Grocer  Gary’s Take: So this article on retailers reinventing their loyalty programs fails to understand what retail loyalty programs are all about… DATA. Sure, the value proposition is important - points, fuel rewards, 2-tier pricing, etc. - that’s what drives shopper enrollment and participation. But the author is suggesting that retailers can be successful by dropping traditional loyalty and concentrating on customer service and developing a unique niche like a Trader Joe. In a world of consumer expectation for personalization and contextual relevancy, customer data is not optional. Just having great service or a unique product niche is not enough. Its all about data - just ask Kroger, Amazon, and many others. Retailers without data will be increasingly challenged to remain relevant in the Age of ‘I’, as the world is increasingly tailored to each of us individually. WILL AMERICA’S LOVE FOR COUPONS EVER DIE? | RetailWire Sterling’s Take: It’s worth looking at the whole experience not just the paper coupons; there’s a cycle of distribution and redemption that’s sometimes just easier with paper. Digital has a little work to do. I don’t think consumers “want” paper coupons — they just accept them as a known, simple experience. Separately, Valassis conducting a paper coupon survey is kind of like cigarette companies funding cigarette studies in the ’50s and early ’60s :). IS AI’s IMPACT ON DEMAND FORECASTING MORE HYPE THAN REALITY | RetailWire Sterling’s Take: AI will significantly transform most aspects of our lives. By 2045 (or so) a $1,000 USD processor will buy you the processing power equivalent to all human beings alive — about 9 billion people. It’s hard to fathom the kind of impact that’s going to have on our businesses or our lives; however, I imagine shoring up at 32% forecasting error will be positively impacted sooner than later. HOW TO FIX CORPORATE TECH STRATEGY | Innovation Excellence Sterling’s Take: There is no silver bullet to ensure a company commercializes its next great technology, product or service. Key disruption to current processes can significantly improve the odds because it’s about the people and about the culture. Ensuring connectedness, simplifying analysis, and increasing agility will help any company better invest its resources as it tries to invent the future. FEATURED BLOG OF THE WEEK:  4 WAYS AUGMENTED REALITY IS REDEFINING THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE by Alexa Marino, Glance Creative HAPPENINGS COMMERCE IN THE CONSUMER AGE: HOW HUMANITY AND TECHNOLOGY COME TOGETHER TO CREATE A NEW VISION FOR RETAIL - Criteo Commerce Forum May 9, 2019  CREATING ROI IN THE FUTURE OF AR/VR IN RETAIL: HOW RETAILERS ARE USING VR/AR TO ACHIEVE GROWTH, PROFITABILITY, AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE GOALS - May 14, 2019 Questions? Contact Retail and eCommerce Committee Event Co-Chair, Sterling Hawkins via DISRUPTIVE LEADERSHIP & THE SELFCARE REVOLUTION​, Boston Immersion Event  Apply to present at Retail Tomorrow Labs: Boston - Applications due June 15th, 2019 Full Agenda Get on the Inside - CART Community FOR RETAILERS>> Proven programs to advance your business FOR SOLUTIONS>>Your growth engine into retail Become part of the epicenter of retail innovation exclusive network. The place where retail decision makers and solution providers come together to advance retail into the future.  VIEW ALL SOLUTIONS HERE  CONTACT US TELL ME HOW TO GET MY SOLUTION ADDED TO CART Get the CART Weekly Report delivered to your inbox. Sign up here +MORE

CART Weekly Report 4/11/19

CART, Advancing Retail

SURVEY: GROCERY STORES NEED TO ‘ENTER THE MODERN AGE’ | Supermarket News Gary’s Take: Fascinating survey that finds 51% of shoppers believe if supermarkets don’t ‘enter the modern age’ people will find other ways to buy food. Consumers read about new innovation in shopping nearly every day in the news - from the Amazon Go store to automated delivery vehicles. It is no wonder that shoppers experience a disconnect between what they read about and experience with Amazon and their local grocery store. Many supermarket companies are trying to innovate but simply are challenged to move fast enough. As the pace of innovation grows exponentially, change is occurring at an increasing rate, and traditional retailers are having a tougher time keeping up. And yet, as the survey calls out, they must. WALMART AND GOOGLE FORGE VOICE ORDER ALLIANCE TO BATTLE AMAZON | ZDNet Gary’s Take: Voice based commerce is poised to grow fast with millions of Amazon Alexa devices already in homes and Google coming on fast, especially with its recently announced partnership with Walmart. Walmarts voice ordering system will work across more than one billion Walmart Assistant devices. Digital commerce continues to advance quickly while many supermarket retailers are still working to get online. The innovation gap continues to grow. 18 RETAILERS WITH THE BEST LOYALTY PROGRAMS | Business Insider Gary's Take: So here's a list of the top 18 retail loyalty programs as compiled by Business Insider... and there is not one supermarket retailer on the list. At a time when shoppers expect, even demand, marketing relevancy, supermarket retailers are missing in action. Customer identified purchase data provided by loyalty programs is the fuel for marketing personalization and yet 27 of the top 50 supermarket retailers lack loyalty and the resulting data. Yes, there's a path to personalization via eCommerce and other digital engagement, but it is a much slower path to meaningful levels and business impact. Supermarket retailers need to focus on digital customer engagement and utilize new innovative technologies to provide new services and experiences to their customers. Retail today is powered by data, customer data, and grocery retail needs to get moving.  SHOULD UNIFORM PRICING BE THE NORM FOR LARGE CHAINS? | Retail Wire Sterling’s Take: As soon as we all pay the same for airline tickets and credit card interest rates we should look at generalized pricing. Different customers have different economic value and personalization customizes that. There are technological and operational kinks at some retailers that reduce benefits, but that doesn’t mean scrap the program. We should be looking at how to improve it or use technology differently. FEATURED BLOG OF THE WEEK:  GROW REVENUES USING THESE DIGITAL STRATEGIES by Yehudis Milchtein, Senior Account Manager, Harvesting Media HAPPENINGS CREATING ROI IN THE FUTURE OF AR/VR IN RETAIL: HOW RETAILERS ARE USING VR/AR TO ACHIEVE GROWTH, PROFITABILITY, AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE GOALS - May 14, 2019 - 2pm EST  Questions? Contact Retail and eCommerce Committee Event Co-Chair, Sterling Hawkins DISRUPTIVE LEADERSHIP & THE SELFCARE REVOLUTION​, Boston Immersion Event  Apply to present at Retail Tomorrow Labs: Boston - Applications due June 15th, 2019 SPRING 2019 RETAIL INNOVATION PITCH EVENT, hosted virtually on May 23, 2019 Get on the Inside - CART Community FOR RETAILERS>> Proven programs to advance your business FOR SOLUTIONS>> Your growth engine into retail Become part of the epicenter of retail innovation exclusive network. The place where retail decision makers and solution providers come together to advance retail into the future.  VIEW ALL SOLUTIONS HERE   HOW CART WORKS CONTACT US     TELL ME HOW TO GET MY SOLUTION ADDED TO CART +MORE

CART Weekly Report 4/4/19

CART, Advancing Retail

MCDONALD’S ACQUISITION OF DYNAMIC YIELD TELLS US ABOUT DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION | ZDNet Gary’s Take: McDonalds is getting into the customization and recommendation game with its recent acquisition of Dynamic Yield. The idea is that McD’s will customize the menu in realtime based upon weather, time of day, food trends, and more. While a step in the right direction, where McD’s should be looking is personalizing the menu based on the individual customer in front of it at the drive through or at the self-ordering kiosk in store. Contextual relevancy is what’s called for in the Age of ‘I’ - it’s all about tailoring the experience to the individual customer.  WITH FACIAL RECOGNITION, SHOPLIFTING MAY GET YOU BANNED IN PLACES YOU’VE NEVER BEEN | CNET.COM Gary’s Take: The use of facial recognition is exploding, increasingly used by governments around the world, and also used by retailers. This article calls out the use of facial recognition for identifying shoplifters; once a shoplifter has been caught in one store, digital cameras across all the retailer’s stores can be watching for the same person. We are already seeing a growing use of the technology related to payment and there are more applications coming, especially around identifying customers (repeat shoppers, etc.). AMAZON CUTS MORE PRICES AT WHOLE FOODS | WSJ Gary's Take: I think the more interesting question is what happens at Whole Foods when Amazon goes stealth, unleashing its recommendation technology on the vast repository of (Prime) customer identified transaction data it is accumulating at WF and personalizing promotions and pricing to the individual customer? Kroger has leveraged personalization to great impact over the past decade. Amazon / Whole Foods is positioned to take the strategy far beyond what even Kroger is doing because Whole Foods is not reliant on brand manufacturer marketing funds like traditional retailers are. WHERE ARE GROCERS FAILING ON IN-STORE EXPERIENCE? | RetailWire Sterling’s Take: Getting in and out isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive with positive human contact or visually appealing displays. I do think that speed is a necessary condition for most stores and not every retailer needs to be a Wegmans. But there’s strong competition in some markets and coming soon to others that necessitates grocers take a step to compete.  WHICH DATA SOURCES SHOULD BE DRIVING PERSONALIZATION? | RetailWire  Sterling’s Take: Time-relative consumer feedback/requests really should be #1. How can you be more relevant than that? But I don’t think this is just about data sources. It’s about the quality of the personalization. Making two or three segments for offers is far different “personalization” than a more advanced AI that customizes offers and even prices for everyone. I’m with Nikki here that all of it is a value prop — if there’s enough perceived value, consumers will engage and respond. FEATURED BLOG OF THE WEEK:  SMARTER, FASTER RETAILING WITH ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, Guest blog by Ed Porter, VP – Customer Insights and Product Strategy Pristine Infotech HAPPENINGS CALL FOR PRESENTERS FOR VR/AR ASSOCIATION RETAIL & eCOMMERCE MAY WEBINAR DISRUPTIVE LEADERSHIP & THE SELFCARE REVOLUTION​, Boston Immersion Event Apply to present at Retail Tomorrow Labs: Boston - Applications due June 15th, 2019 SPRING 2019 RETAIL INNOVATION PITCH EVENT, hosted virtually on May 23, 2019 Get on the Inside - CART Community FOR RETAILERS>> Proven programs to advance your business FOR SOLUTIONS>> Your growth engine into retail Become part of the epicenter of retail innovation exclusive network. The place where retail decision makers and solution providers come together to advance retail into the future.  VIEW ALL SOLUTIONS HERE   HOW CART WORKS CONTACT US     TELL ME HOW TO GET MY SOLUTION ADDED TO CART +MORE

CART Weekly Report 3/28/19

CART, Advancing Retail

"PRESCRIBING" FRUITS AND VEGGIES WOULD SAVE $100 BILLION IN MEDICAL COSTS | Fast Company Gary's Take: The massive food and healthcare industries are converging, driven by healthcare costs, widespread chronic conditions, the growing understanding that food is medicine, and all enabled by technology. Read about iRetail comes to Healthcare in my latest book, Retail in the Age of 'I' available on Amazon. 50,000 WAREHOUSES TO USE 4 MILLION ROBOTS BY 2025, SAYS REPORT | Robotics and Automation News Gary's Take: Automation is exploding across distribution centers as more than 4 million robots are projected to be deployed in 50,000 warehouses by 2025. That's more than a 10x increase from the 4,000 warehouses using automation in 2018. The growth of eCommerce is driving more automation as companies are focused on efficiency and accuracy in order fulfillment. At the core of the rapid increase in robotics across the supply chain are growing capabilities enabled by AI. To stay competitive, retailers and wholesalers must look to the use of automation, both in existing distribution centers and new warehouses. This trend creates big opportunity for retailers to redirect resources into customer-facing roles to improve service and customer-focus. WILL RETAILERS BE READY WHEN AR ADOPTION TAKES HOLD? | RetailWire  Sterling's Take: AR or VR (or any technology) is not the answer. It should be the result of finding better ways to deliver more value to the consumer. As we’re able to create meaningful experiences that use AR/VR, something like 65% of shoppers expect it will change the way they shop, so they’re ready and willing to engage. ARE AMAZON'S PRIVATE LABELS FALLING SHORT OR JUST GETTING STARTED | RetailWire Sterling's Take: The key that Amazon has is that they've built into their culture the ability to learn, adjust and change. Even with limited success, I'm sure they're not only capturing all the data, but understanding exactly what is happening and why for their next iteration. Instead of worrying, other retailers and brands can focus their efforts on developing their people and their cultures to continually learn how to deliver increased value to the shopper. FEATURED BLOG OF THE WEEK: IT'S INDEPENDENT RETAILERS WHO ARE BETTER POISED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY, Guest blog by Chris Cialone, Director of U.S. Sales Operations, Wonder Rewards​ HAPPENINGS CALL FOR PRESENTERS FOR VR/AR ASSOCIATION RETAIL & eCOMMERCE MAY WEBINAR DISRUPTIVE LEADERSHIP & THE SELFCARE REVOLUTION​, Boston Immersion Event Apply to present at Retail Tomorrow Labs: Boston Immersion Event on July 17-18 SPRING 2019 RETAIL INNOVATION PITCH EVENT, hosted virtually on May 23, 2019 ​Get on the Inside - CART Community FOR RETAILERS>>  FOR SOLUTIONS>> Become part of the epicenter of retail innovation exclusive network. The place where retail decision makers and solution providers come together to advance retail into the future. +MORE


Gary Hawkins, CEO , Center for Advancing Retail and Technology

CART’s Innovation Program, done in partnership with Retail Tomorrow, is a unique offering that works for retailers and solution providers alike. Designed for national and larger regional retailers, the CART team works with the retailer’s executive team to identify 2-3 specific areas of interest like automation, in-store experience, etc. With interests established, the team then goes to work identifying the leading solution providers in each area, filtering through and curating the most appropriate capabilities. That process often entails talking with each solution to ensure applicability and set expectations. Amongst the many factors we evaluate is making sure the size and scale of the retailer is aligned with the solution provider’s resources. Connecting a young solution to a massive retailer might sound exciting, but if the solution provider lacks the resources to pilot and then scale deployments it leads to frustration on all sides. Once the appropriate solution providers have been identified we all go on-site to the retailer’s HQ to spend a day with their executive team focused around education as each solution is given an opportunity to present to the group and talk about what they do. The format allows for Q&A along with opportunity to start building relationships as everyone networks over coffee breaks and lunch. From the solution provider’s perspective, the opportunity to get time with the senior exec team from prominent retailers is invaluable. Once a solution provider is selected to participate, the CART team will work with you to review your presentation materials to make sure you’re providing the most powerful and relevant message possible about your company and what you do. The CART team will provide some coaching for the presenters to make sure you deliver your message in the time allotted (these events are pretty tightly scripted to accomplish everything).  Expectations are clearly identified on all sides early in the process. From the retailer, CART is looking for executive level commitment and engagement with the process, the executive team’s commitment to spend the day with in the on-site meeting with all the solutions, and a commitment to seriously consider piloting appropriate solutions. From solution providers, CART is looking for new innovative capabilities to help the retailer address challenges they have or provide new capabilities that are beneficial to the retailer. This involves having a good understanding of retail and how retail works and helping educate everyone in the meeting as to the technologies involved. Retailers interested in learning more about the CART Innovation Program can get more information here Solutions interested in participating can learn more here +MORE

CART Weekly Report 3/21/19

CART, Advancing Retail

CART’S INNOVATION PROGRAM​ - CART’s Innovation Program, done in partnership with Retail Tomorrow, is a unique offering that works for retails and solution providers alike.​ STUDY: THE OMNICHANNEL FEATURES CUSTOMERS WANT MOST ARE... Gary's Take: This article highlights the importance of providing the seamless and cohesive shopping experience I talk about as so important in my latest book, Retail in the Age of 'I'. Too many retailers are challenged by capability silos arising from the different solutions they've cobbled together over the years. Digital demands contextual relevancy to the individual customer along with a seamless user experience. SHOPKO LIQUIDATION: BANKRUPTCY PLAN NOW CALLS FOR ALL STORES TO CLOSE BY SUMMER Gary's Take:  Shopko is the latest victim of the disruption sweeping supermarket retail as the industry moves online, marketing moves from mass to household to the individual customer, and Amazon continues its relentless march to growing share. Too many retailers don't yet understand that retail success today requires embracing a true customer-first perspective. Fast moving consumer goods retail is no longer about products - CPG products are commodities, increasingly available anywhere and everywhere. Retail success demands a customer focus; it's not about what products the brand or the retailer wants to promote. It is about what products each individual customer wants to buy. Welcome to Retail in the Age of 'I'. RETAIL IN THE AGE OF 'i'  Gary's Take: Retail in the Age of ‘i’, is not the next consecutive step in the product-to-customer continuum. Rather, Retail in the Age of ‘i’ represents a complete upending of the industry’s journey, beginning, not with products, but with the individual customer. The massive FMCG retail industry needs to seize control of it's destiny by disrupting itself, rather than attempting to respond to new outside competitors positioned to change the very business model the industry has operated on for decades.   SUGGESTED READING SHOPTALK 2019: WHAT'S NEXT FOR RETAIL | MR MAGAZINE STAFF INSTAGRAM COULD TURN PICS INTO CLICKS | WSJ  Shoppable ads offer a new avenue of growth for image-heavy internet platforms SHOPTALK 2019 QUICK HITS: 7 TAKEAWAYS FROM THE RETAIL TECH SHOW | TWICE - The customer journey is zigging and zagging throught retail   FEATURED BLOG OF THE WEEK:  SURVEY RESULTS - EXPIRED PRODUCTS HURT SALES, NOT JUST SHRINK Guest blog by Andrew Hoeft, CEO, Pinpoint Software, Inc.  In 2018, Pinpoint completed a market study surveying grocery shoppers on actions they take upon finding expired food items at a grocery store. This post will examine a particular finding from the survey. In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting additional insights from the survey. If you want to read the survey in its entirety, download it here. LEARN MORE>>     HAPPENINGS CALL FOR PRESENTERS FOR VR/AR ASSOCIATION WEBINAR IN MAY We're looking for presenters for the next VR/AR Retail & eCommerce Webinar we are planning for May. Any great VR or AR tech you've heard of? Retailers or brands seeing great results with it? Message about joining. The retail industry is expected to spend $1B on VR/AR solutions in the next year   SAVE YOUR SPACE! Spring 2019 Retail Innovation Pitch Event, Hosted Virtually on May 23, 2019 This webcast is designed to act as an accelerator for the broader retail industry, especially important now that retail innovation is being increasingly driven from outside forces such as rapid adoption of consumer technology and new competitors like Amazon / Whole Foods and Google.  APPLY NOW Applications close Monday, March 25, 2019 ATTEND THE WEBCAST GET ON THE INSIDE. Become part of the epicenter of retail innovation exclusive network. The place where retail decision makers and solution providers come together to advance retail into the future.  CART Community Newsletter Innovation Programs Pitch Events  Accelerator Educational Content For Retailers and Wholesalers  For Solution Providers  +MORE

CART Weekly Report 3/14/19

CART, Advancing Retail

TECHNOLOGY DISRUPTORS ARE CAUSING INDEPENDENT SUPERMARKETS TO INNOVATE | RETAIL WIRE Gary's Take: Good discussion flowing from this article about the focus on technology at the recent NGA Show. I spoke to retailers wanting brand manufacturers to fund offers & promotions used in personalized marketing initiatives, not retailers expecting someone else to pay for the underlying technology. Retailers of all sizes - including independents - have an unprecedented opportunity to use cloud-based, affordable digital engagement capabilities to personalize each and every customer engagement, building relationships with their customers at scale. Retailers who make use of these capabilities AND who take responsibility for their marketing - not depending on brand marketing funds - can leapfrog larger competitors by providing meaningful savings on products relevant to each individual customer. Independents have long been short-changed by brand manufacturers when it comes to marketing funds, this is nothing new and is simply a fact of life. Independent operators simply have to be more creative and make their marketing spend work harder. It can be done. THE TRANSFORMATION OF RETAIL - 75 WAYS RETAIL WILL CHANGE IN THE NEXT DECADE | THE ROBIN REPORT Gary's Take:  A big shout-out to Shoptalk 2019 for another great event! Shoptalk is at the cutting edge of retail industry transformation, bringing together thought-leaders and new innovative capabilities for powerful discussions and connections. RETAIL IN THE AGE OF 'i'  Gary's Take: The fast moving consumer goods retail industry is rapidly approaching a crossroads. One path leading to an efficient, but coldly barren, shopping experience ruled by automation. The otherputs technology in service to retailers, helping them reclaim their customer heritage. Retail in the Age of ‘i’ returns the individual customer to center-stage, supported by big data intelligence, deep systems integration, immersive shopping experiences, and constant innovation. Amidst the tumult and disruption, Retail in the Age of ‘i’ provides retailers a path forward by focusing on the one constant: The customer.    SUGGESTED READING 3 MYTHS ABOUT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE INDEPENDENT GROCERS SHOULD IGNORE | GARY SAARENVIRTA, DAISY INTELLIGENCE HERE'S THE OPPORTUNITY SHOPTALK IS MISSING | GARY HAWKINS  STORES SEE A FUTURE WITHOUT 'MAY I HELP YOU?' (THEY'LL ALREADY HAVE YOUR DATA) | SAPNA MAHESHWARI     FEATURED BLOG OF THE WEEK:  MEET YOUR POINT OF SALE SOLUTION: MODULAR NOW™ Guest blog by Amy Pulcini, Marketing Manager, Innovative Workspaces Innovative is pleased to have shown their Modular Now™ product line; a customizable mount solution for point of sale at The NGA show 2019. With various pole heights and mount styles, extension arms, and accessories; Modular Now ™ is the perfect solution for any point of sale environment. Expert engineering and a thoughtful production process means Modular Now™ is one of... LEARN MORE>>    HAPPENINGS Los Angeles Immersion Event - March 19-21  INFLUENCER MARKETING AND STORY-TELLING IN RETAIL  The fifth Retail Tomorrow Immersion will take us to LA and put you in the middle of the latest thinking in storytelling, “influencing” in its many forms, and how both are impacting retailers and brands. We’ll do a deep dive on this subject at Google and YouTube’s glittering new campus at the historic former Howard Hughes airfield.  Event details   SAVE YOUR SPACE! Spring 2019 Retail Innovation Pitch Event, Hosted Virtually on April 25, 2019 This webcast is designed to act as an accelerator for the broader retail industry, especially important now that retail innovation is being increasingly driven from outside forces such as rapid adoption of consumer technology and new competitors like Amazon / Whole Foods and Google.  APPLY NOW Applications close March 25, 2019 ATTEND THE WEBCAST GET ON THE INSIDE. Become part of the epicenter of retail innovation exclusive network. The place where retail decision makers and solution providers come together to advance retail into the future.  CART Community For Retailers and Wholesalers   For Solution Providers +MORE

Here's the Opportunity Shoptalk is Missing

Gary Hawkins, Center for Advancing Retail and Technology

So Shoptalk 2019 is a wrap! Over eight thousand people from around the world in the retail industry converged on Las Vegas for an intense three days of workshops and learning as retailers and technology providers shared insights activities.  Many of the workshops and many of the technology exhibitors focused on eCommerce and the growing use of automation to enable operational cost efficiencies. I found it interesting though, that while retailers are focused on online shopping and robotics, they are missing a  major opportunity to bring humanness into the shopping experience. As I wrote about in my recent book, Retail in the Age of ‘i’, retail is approaching a crossroads: One path leading to an automated, efficient, people-free process of replenishment, the other path putting technology in service to people with retailers building relationships with customers at scale.  Nearly everything I heard and saw at Shoptalk focused on using technology to sell more products, either online or in the brick & mortar store. Selling products is what retail is all about - its how retailers and manufacturers keep score. But I would suggest the the time has come to flip that paradigm and view retail from a true customer-led perspective. That means keeping score by customers: Reporting how well the retailer acquires, grows, and retains customers.  I commend Shoptalk for reinventing the staid industry trade show, creating a sense of excitement and dynamism during the several days. And its good to hear from retail executives across different channels and gaining an understanding of what they are doing and what they are focused on - albeit with the understanding no significant retailer is going to go on stage and share trade secrets. Hearing from different technology companies is informative; retailers are challenged to know what capabilities are out there. The Shoptalk team is not standing still. They recently announced a new venture called Retail Club. The idea is to foster networking of retail industry executives at a local level. The first Retail Club meetings will start in New York City and then expand into other locales. I think there is one more ingredient Shoptalk can weave into its program as the show evolves, and that is some thought leadership. We hear a lot about what retailers and tech companies are doing today, yet not nearly enough about where leaders think retail is going. Here’s an idea: Maybe Shoptalk should organize a track or a workshop on what retail is going to be in five years and have retail and tech executives share their thoughts about what the future holds.  I will be so bold as to suggest that Shoptalk has a responsibility to the industry to provide a forum for thought-leadership. Yes, Shoptalk has done a truly great job evolving the trade show and helping bring together retailers, brand manufacturers, and technology companies that are transforming the industry. But enabling powerful networking and having executives share what they are doing today is no longer enough. Many retail executives are engulfed by transformation and disruption, and are focused on the next earnings call, leaving little time to create the future.  Just as the retail industry is transforming at an increasing pace, Shoptalk can continue to evolve and be the place to network, learn, and envision the future. +MORE

CART Weekly Report 3/7/19

CART, Advancing Retail

AMAZON PLANNING TO OPEN DOZENS OF GROCERY STORES, WSJ REPORTS | BLOOMBERG Gary's Take: While supermarket retailers are focused on the shift online, Amazon represents a much more significant threat as it is poised to disrupt the very business model that drives US supermarket retail. And on top of that, Amazon is deftly bringing the pieces together as the food industry and healthcare converge. This and more is discussed in my latest book "Retail in the Age of I". AMAZON TO LAUNCH NEW GROCERY BUSINESS | WSJ Gary's Take: Amazon represents a threat to traditional supermarket retail far beyond the move online. Amazon is poised to truly disrupt the business model that all but a few grocery retailers rely on to power sales and profits. My latest book, "Retail in the Age of 'I'" (available on Amazon - where else?) explores this threat and more.  A New Podcast about “Technology, Innovation, and the Independent Retailer” | Retail Tomorrow with host Kevin Coupe From the floor of the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show in San Diego, “Retail Tomorrow” host Kevin Coupe engages with a power panel of retailers and experts in a discussion of the unique technology challenges and opportunities facing independent retailers, which often are without the resources available to larger competitors, but that often have the cultural flexibility to experiment and innovate. Lauren Johnson, CEO/President, Newport Avenue Markets, Bend, Oregon. Lisa Mangino Swanson, Communications Director, Hugo's Family Marketplace, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Sterling Hawkins, Co-founder, Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART). Tom Furphy, CEO/Managing Director, Consumer Equity Partners. Glen Terbeek, the retired force behind Anderson Consulting’s Smart Store initiative (who brings uncommon sense and historical perspective to the conversation).   NEW BOOK! Retail in the Age of ‘I’ - A New World View for the Retail Industry | by Gary Hawkins now available on Amazon   Suggested Reading:  GIVING INDEPENDENT GROCERS AN ECOMMERCE BOOST By Jim Dudlicek, Progressive Grocer  ARE ROBOTS COMPETING FOR YOUR JOB? | The New Yorker   Featured Blog of the Week:  TRANSPORTATION OPTIMIZATION - A SILVER BULLET TO SOLVE "LAST MILE DELIVERY?"   Guest blog by Ted Matwijec, Managing Director, ACT Operations Research - Raleigh, NC  Learn how knowing your constraints and customer demands feeds sophisticated algorithms to provide optimal routing and balance delivery vs costs...  >>LEARN MORE   INFLUENCER MARKETING AND STORY-TELLING IN RETAIL - Los Angeles Immersion Event - March 19-21 The fifth Retail Tomorrow Immersion will take us to LA and put you in the middle of the latest thinking in storytelling, “influencing” in its many forms, and how both are impacting retailers and brands. We’ll do a deep dive on this subject at Google and YouTube’s glittering new campus at the historic former Howard Hughes airfield.  Event details RETAIL TOMORROW LABS: Los Angeles - Apply to Present  We help incubate ideas, concepts, products, services and other solutions with our community of retailers, brands, suppliers, innovators and other thought leaders to improve the overall shopping experience for the consumer.  Join us for the Retail Tomorrow LA Lab* during the Retail Tomorrow Los Angeles Event on March 21st. We're bringing together a highly exclusive group of 40+ retailers and brands. You'll have 10-15 minutes to present 1 on 1.  *fees apply   DON'T DELAY!! APPLICATIONS CLOSE MARCH 11 FOR THE SPRING 2019 RETAIL INNOVATION PITCH EVENT +MORE

CART Weekly Report 2/28/19

CART, Advancing Retail

WILL THE NGA SHOW 2019 CHANGE THE COURSE OF GROCERY SHOPPING? Gary's Take: We believe the hashtagsupermarket industry is approaching a crossroads. One path leading to an efficient, automated, but sterile, shopping experience where people only interact with technology. The other puts technology in service to people, helping retailers provide the personalized shopping experience of yesterday, while providing new services as the digital and physical worlds of shopping fuse together. Retailers attending the CART Event will be given a methodology for charting a course forward, helping evaluate existing capabilities and identify needed innovation, all with a focus on the customer. hashtagiRetail is a methodology to help hashtagretailers achieve their purpose: to acquire, grow, and keep customers through building relationships, using hashtagtechnology fueled innovation to personalize shopping at scale, emphasizing the importance of people and brick & mortar stores. GIVING INDEPENDENT GROCERS AN ECOMMERCE BOOST By Jim Dudlicek, Progressive Grocer  New Book! Retail in the Age of ‘I’ - A New World View for the Retail Industry | by Gary Hawkins now available on Amazon Suggested Reading:  The 15 Pioneering Retail Tech Companies Presenting at Shoptalk’s Startup Pitch 2019 From AI to Robotics and Beyond, Here are 40 Exciting Technology Companies You’ll Learn About at Shoptalk Featured Blog of the Week:  CART INNOVATION - SHOPTOCOOK...DIGITAL CUSTOMER CONNECTIONS MADE EASY!! Guest blog by John Thompson, President/CEO, ShoptoCook, LLC RETAIL TOMORROW LABS: Los Angeles - Apply to Present  We help incubate ideas, concepts, products, services and other solutions with our community of retailers, brands, suppliers, innovators and other thought leaders to improve the overall shopping experience for the consumer.  Join us for the Retail Tomorrow LA Lab* during the Retail Tomorrow Los Angeles Event on March 21st. We're bringing together a highly exclusive group of 40+ retailers and brands. You'll have 10-15 minutes to present 1 on 1.  *fees apply DON'T DELAY!! APPLICATIONS CLOSE MARCH 11 FOR THE SPRING 2019 RETAIL INNOVATION PITCH EVENT +MORE

CART Weekly Report 2/21/19

CART, Advancing Retail

What is your CLV Score? | Fox 5 Atlanta Gary’s Take: Customer Lifetime Value is the way retailers can measure the effectiveness of their efforts to acquire, grow, and retain customers. Daniel is speaking at the CART Event, Sunday, Feb. 24 at 1pm, kicking off the NGA Show, where I'm releasing my new book, Retail in the Age of 'i'. CLV is one of the tools retailers can use to keep score as retailers embark into the future. Hope to see you in San Diego! Grocers Aim to Capture More Advertising Dollars from CPG’s | Grocery Dive Gary’s Take: It's easy to understand retailers chasing after incremental revenue streams such as that offered by digital ad spending from CPG brand manufacturers. But, in an age of personalization, every customer engagement - especially digital engagement - needs to be contextually relevant to to the individual customer. Every interaction can impact, positively or negatively, the lifetime value of that customer. Getting ads on my mobile for brands that are only mildly relevant, or worse, completely irrelevant to me, are not going to help maintain my loyalty. Retailers have a long history of chasing CPG marketing funds instead of focusing on their customers. Let's hope this is not another repeat. 15 Mind Blowing Stats about Mobile | Gary’s Take: The importance of mobile to the retail industry continues to grow as already a third of consumers have used mobile AR, app download and use continues to explode, and 5G connectivity is poised to radically transform and disrupt areas as yet unimagined by retailers and retail marketers. Retailers too often look at having a mobile app as just another item to check off on their to-do list, giving short shrift to the importance of user experience and capability. Mobile is the nexus of the physical and digital worlds of retail converging, opening the door to new customer services and experiences.  Retail in the Age of ‘I’ - A New World View for the Retail Industry | by Gary Hawkins now available on Amazon Gary’s Take: Retail needs a way to bring order to the chaos of innovation as it disrupts nearly every activity across the supply chain, a beacon to fix upon and navigate through the growing storm. That beacon is the customer. And not just ‘the customer’ generically, but each individual customer you have shopping with you. As we proceed along the ever-rising growth curve of technology, five-year business plans become less and less reliable as we increasingly don’t know what what’s coming next. But there remains one constant in retail: The customer. Learn more about Retail in the Age of 'i' in my new book and by coming to the CART Event at the NGA Show 2019 this Sunday, Feb. 24, in San Diego. Everyone attending will receive a free digital copy of the book! Look forward to seeing you there! Suggested Reading:  Kroger, Microsoft partner on retail-as-a service platform | Supermarket News Shoptalk Presents 75 Ways Retail Will Change in the Next Decade | Zia Daniell Wigder, Chief Global Content Officer at Shoptalk and Co-Founder at GroceryShop Featured Blog of the Week:   INDEPENDENT GROCERS: THRIVING IN UNCERTAIN TIMES Guest blog by Venu Gopalakrishnan, Founder and Global CEO of Litmus7 Systems Consulting RETAIL TOMORROW LABS: Los Angeles - Apply to Present  We help incubate ideas, concepts, products, services and other solutions with our community of retailers, brands, suppliers, innovators and other thought leaders to improve the overall shop ping experience for the consumer.  Join us for the Retail Tomorrow LA Lab* during the Retail Tomorrow Los Angeles Event on March 21st. We're bringing together a highly exclusive group of 40+ retailers and brands. You'll have 10-15 minutes to present 1 on 1.  *fees apply +MORE


CART, Advancing Retail

Ex-Walmart exec says ‘fairy-tale’-like Amazon Go won’t win the future of retail | Business Insider Gary’s Take: In a world of exponential growth in computer processing power and innovation I believe we must be careful of pronouncing that technologies like Amazon Go won’t win the future. While today the technology is challenged to scale to larger stores with tens of thousands of products, to state that it will never get there is shortsighted. The Amazon Go store was opened to the public only a little more than a year ago and already there are many young startup companies focused on bringing similar tech to the retail industry. It wasn’t that long ago that robots roaming store aisles was science fiction. Yet today Walmart, Ahold, and others are deploying the technology across hundreds of stores. Technology is moving increasingly fast, bringing with it new capabilities never before envisioned. Visit Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART)to keep pace. Retailers Push To Convert Data Into Ad Dollars | Morning News Beat Gary’s Take: A growing number of retailers are seeking to leverage their data and shopper traffic to sell digital ads, creating an incremental revenue stream. As Kevin rightly calls out, retailers need to be careful going down this path. As I call out in my upcoming book, Retail in the Age of 'I’, every interaction with a customer is a make or break moment and digital ads need to be contextually relevant to the individual customer. Retailers have long looked to brand marketing funds to support their profitability but that becomes more challenging when the focus is growing the lifetime value of each individual customer. Beyond the Core: Supermarket Service Needs Attention - Retail Feedback Group’s Brian Numainville reflects on lessons from the Supermarket Experience Study | Winsight Grocery Business Gary’s Take: Great article from Brian at Retail Feedback Group calling out the importance of customer service in retail. As we’ll discuss in the CART  Event at the upcoming NGA Show on Sun. Feb. 24, the future of retail lies in leveraging technology to build relationships with each individual customer. And as automation continues to move into the store, smart retailers will redirect some of those labor savings to investing in their people and delivering superior service. Look forward to seeing everyone in San Diego! Suggested Reading:  5 Technologies That Are Reshaping Customer Experience | CMO  'Hey Alexa, what’s the future of voice ordering for groceries?'Analysts say voice shopping will begin to mature in five to 10 years but still has too much friction for convenience-seeking customers. | Food Dive Could Flipkart’s Hagglebot help bring personalized pricing to US ecommerce? | Brick meets Click  Featured Blog of the Week:  Why Your Grocery Store Needs the Latest Scanning Technology | POSRG Applications Now Open for the CART-Winsight Grocery Business Spring 2019 Retail Innovation Pitch Event. You can learn more about it and apply here. Join the LIVE WEBINAR  April 11, 2019  | 11PT, 2ET. Join CART in making San Diego the Epicenter of Retail Innovation on Sunday afternoon February 24, 2019 in a special event kicking off the NGA Show 2019. The event is designed to give mid-market regional retailers and progressive independent operators a framework for navigating fast paced innovation while retaining a focus on the importance of people and physical stores as we move into the future. A discussion into the world of iRetail featuring industry thought leaders and retail executives sharing experiences and case studies  Dive into the five ‘i’ framework to evaluate existing capabilities and incorporate new technologies into your businessHow to develop an innovation culture within your company Showcase and demonstrations of the latest technologies transforming retail. Register to Attend: +MORE

Measuring Innovation

Gary E. Hawkins, CEO, CART

You read every day about the pace of innovation increasing, but how do you actually quantify or measure it? One way is to look at patent filings. And that activity tells a very clear story. As of March, 2018, Amazon held 7,717 US patents, obtaining 1,963 of them in 2017 alone. Walmart, the most patent-prolific traditional retailer, has 349 patents. That’s nearly 38 patents per week for Amazon in 2017; and it’s a fair bet that the company has not slowed down in the time since. Compare that to Walmart’s 349 patents, which even if all were issued in one year, would have a pace of less than 7 patents per week. At that rate, Amazon is nearly six times more innovative than Walmart if measured by issued patents. Amazon’s patent filings cover the spectrum, from AR goggles to make order fulfillment more efficient, to more order-picking robots, a realtime accent translation app, to voice-driven drones. In the company’s 2018 Q3 filings, Amazon released 42 major product or service offerings… in one quarter! How many major product or service announcements does the typical traditional retailer make in a year? A fraction of that. And patents don’t tell the full story. In 2017 Amazon spent $22.6 billion in research and development (up 41% from the prior year). That was more than any other U.S. company, beating Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, and even Apple. This is what traditional brick & mortar retailers are up against.  The good news? There are countless solution providers, some established, many of them startups, that are helping arm traditional retailers in this innovation arms race. Here again, though, is a challenge for retailers: How do you keep pace with this explosive rate of tech-fueled new capabilities? And just being aware is not enough. Retailers have to actually test, pilot, and deploy new capabilities to keep up with Amazon and Walmart. We suggest that retailers follow a five step path to getting - and staying - in the innovation game. The first is understanding your capability gaps. Historically, retailers would focus on competing retailers and their capabilities to identify what to implement next. Today, that competitive set includes Amazon and other tech companies encroaching on the grocery space. Here’s the problem: If you as a retailer are looking at what the competition is doing and using that to guide their innovation focus, you’re already behind. In a world of ever-increasing change you need to look ahead, you need to skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is. Identifying the capability gaps between where you are today and where you need to be creates the foundation for a roadmap and prioritizing what capabilities you need to put in place.  With a roadmap in hand, attention can turn to identifying potential solution providers. This is where we strongly urge retailers to put in place a formal innovation process for gaining awareness of new technologies. CART reviews an estimated 1,000 new solutions flowing into the retail industry each year. CART has partnered with GMDC’s Retail Tomorrow group to create an Innovation Program for larger retailers, wholesalers, and brand manufacturers based around curating new capabilities aligned with the retailer’s needs. Gaining awareness of new tech though isn’t enough. Retail industry companies need to develop a culture of innovation, usually beginning with the executive team and then flowing across the organization. It is an organization’s resistance to change and to new ways of doing things that is oftentimes a larger impediment than actual resources to test and deploy new capabilities. And lastly, even an innovation culture is not enough to succeed. Increasingly, the Agile philosophy that is used in software development is being applied across organizations. This methodology breaks large projects down into smaller bites, and uses work ‘sprints’ to get things done along with frequent communication and continuous reassessment. Everyone in the retail industry needs to move faster. Given the importance to retail, innovation must be managed in a more structured process. For retailers to survive, let alone thrive, understanding of where you’re going and how you are going to get there is no longer optional. Nor is reacting to the competition. Retailers must be proactive in how they view and manage innovation, and there is no time to waste. +MORE

Litmus7 Ecommerce Acceleration Program (LEAP)

Litmus7 Systems Consulting

Litmus7 is a first ever, grow together technology venture capitalist partnership model that enables access to technology at no cost for aspiring and emerging retailers, so that their businesses get fast tracked to the next level and digital revenues are accelerated. +MORE



Venu Gopalakrishnan, Founder and Global CEO, Litmus7 Systems Consulting.

There is this independent, silent yet powerful grocery segment awaiting massive disruption. The addressable market size 25% OF THE RETAIL GROCERY INDUSTRY SALES $131 BILLION IN ANNUAL SALES 1% OF THE UNITED STATES’ GDP *Source NGA annual report 2018 Question is how prepared are they to embrace the future with a smile? In the past, the wars for power and trade on land got small nations to unite and defend themselves. Now those wars are being fought in the invisible digital space; in order to survive, a purpose-driven consolidation of like-minded business is inevitable. The wars, which will be fought in these invisible spaces today, will become far more intense tomorrow! It’s time to get the act ‘together’. The territorial understanding The intelligence of today’s consumers will be exponentially superseded by the future consumer’s intelligence and awareness levels. In this new age of total consumer awareness, TRUST and GENUINENESS are going to be a scarce commodity. Consumers of the future will be much more sensitive to their health than today. To cite an example,Thanksgiving 2018 witnessed the sale of large-sized Turkey going down by 8.3% from previous year's sales, whereas Toms’ went up by 6.5%. One of the key reasons cited is that people have become more informed about industrial farming;hence they're a little turned off by practices like antibiotics and caging necessary to produce a 30-lb Turkey. So, the point is, the industry will see more responsible consumers than their predecessors. To illustrate the point about trust, consider this: I have Amazon Prime on my phone, I also have a Safeway and Traders Joe's within a mile, but I prefer Traders Joe’s despite the fact that they are totally ignorant about both the conventional digital conveniences and traditional loyalty programs. I go there because I trust them, I go there because I get to feel their value is rooted in their efforts to ensure the right food for the right people and the fact that they’ve managed to bring enough joy to the faces of their store agents. Understanding the threat dimensions for Independent Retailers 1. Consolidation of business: Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger will continue to increase their market shares, forcing pressure on independent business. 2. The likes of Instacarts who shields brands from consumers and such intermediaries themselves are susceptible to consolidation. 3. Lack of preparation and response from independent supermarkets to embrace the emerging digital future of retailing Preparing for the uncertain times (the 7 milestones) Combining the genuineness of independent retailers with the possibilities of what digital future can offer will help this unstructured segment thrive in the age of uncertain times. Here are some ways of doing it: 1. Purpose driven consolidation: Unlike the equity-based alliances, independent retailers will be collaborating on a larger purpose which has a market size of $130Bn and is the first step towards uniting the distributed segment, which the NGA can facilitate. 2. Reimagining business for frictionless retailing: a.  All business as stores b.  Delivering unified consumer experience across the consortium c.   All connected feeder businesses as services to help design business agility, way beyond any technologically advanced businesses can ever achieve. 3. Connected consumer: Connecting isolated consumers for a better cause and their health. a.  Re-visioning the purpose around‘Genuineness’ (cause and delight) and therefore establishing ‘Trust’ that can never be broken. b. Connecting the decentralized consumer community through “Farm-To-Table-Green” Loyalty Program designed specifically for driving good health programs. The NGA can lobby and influence the Congress to get those consumers capitalize their sustainability score to get discounts on their utility bills. c. Green Score (Sustainability): Driving awareness around sustainability among consumers through the Green Score. Today, only the relatively rich can afford electric cars and renewable energy and they are even given subsidy for their sustainable quotient. However, that community is probably less than 10% of the total population. The NGA can be that agent who drives the sustainability quotient to the rest of the world and become the world’s first agent to lobby and help their consumers get subsidies on utility bills for supporting farm-to-table efforts of NGA grocers. 4. Driving convenience together: a.   Businesses connecting to Instacart for delivery than consumers choosing them b.   “You Won’t Run Out of Stock”! Grocers know what their consumers bought and have the ability to track and replenish their home inventory c.     Always delivering convenience ahead of industry 5. Value beyond grocery. Beyond delivering grocery, help consumers with insights into their lifestyle through the following services: a.  Dietary check b.  Food budget check c.   Sustainability score d.   Subscribe to events and meet-ups 6. OneSystem® model to drive efficiency: Forget the cost of running a digital platform; long back, businesses used to build systems right from scratch, but today it is more around COTS applications and SAS models. All the systems were designed and built primarily to play around with the intelligence of consumer data and product data. But in the future, what if such information transcends to become the basic right of every business? What if brands and retailers can access such information from a common platform? Today, independent grocers can bring that future closer to them by on-boarding to a one system model, which is managed through a shared OPEX pool, essentially helping them to secure a Digital future more powerful than amazon. 7. ConsumerX (Intelligent Consumer): Delivering extreme consumer experience by converting today’s transactional consumer into an intelligent one. State of intelligence designed around intents, relationships, historical transactions and product knowledge.  Shift 'right', to think one step ahead of the curve to understand ConsumerX. The demographic shifts a) The shift to ever-smaller average household size. The 2010 census showed the average US household size at 2.58 inhabitants; it is believed that number has gone down since.  b) Ethnic mix and its impact on food choices  Conscious shift  a) At upper income and educational levels – to a greater interest and awareness of health, food quality, and food provenance. b) Shift in internet shopping - with its demands for O2O capabilities such as BOPUS and BOSFS Shift towards TRUST a) Protection of data.  b) Authenticity of products/services/value proposition.  c) Consistency of operational delivery. Aligning with these 7 milestones or more around those lines can save the genuine independent grocers to thrive in the future. So what does it all mean? If all of these independent retailers stand united to deliver 'one experience' across multiple channels, we are talking about 21000 stores and $131 billion overall business forming 25% of United States' grocery market! Does it not stand qualified to challenge the biggies?  If yesterday was all about the size, tomorrow would be all about intelligence. But the people have always loved peace and compassion! Care for them and they will protect you and your business! All businesses flourish when consumers love a brand or service! The NGA can help independent grocers enter the new age with a smile.  Embracing the models designed for the intelligence of a consumer in the 1960’s won’t help win the hearts of consumers of the future. Stand united for a Grocery Revolution. Let your consumers adore you and protect you. +MORE

Mobile App Pain Points

John Kangas, CEO, FwdMbl Solutions

Your current in-house system works great within your four walls.  The pain starts when you walk out that door and it can give you a full-on business migraine by the end of the day. We can ease the pain by targeting these five major sources when your workforce hits the road. Breakdowns in Communication When an Account Manager, Sales Rep, Delivery Driver, or Customer directly needs information, they need it NOW!  It should not require phone calls, strings of emails to and from the office or multiple warehouse locations to find product, invoice information, aging or account information, upcoming orders, etc. It’s frustrating and time consuming for everyone involved.  You should not require an Internet connection to give this to your customer when you are standing in front of them. FwdMbl Solutions gives Account Managers, Sales Reps, Delivery Drivers all this information right at their fingertips. It is available without the need for Wi-Fi or a cell signal and can be printed, emailed or faxed right there. There’s no need to track down items or pricing, looking up inventory and pricing is immediate. Pricing Errors Let’s face it, pricing can be complicated. If updates in pricing don’t make it to the ones that are selling in the field you can lose money. If incorrect information is given it can turn into an embarrassing situation.  Pricing can be different per customer given contracted pricing or discounts. Sales may be given leeway to adjust pricing on the fly within reason.  There are many scenarios as there are companies.  Pricing needs to be up-to-date and correct each and every time FwdMbl Solutions handles all pricing scenarios. All pricing updates can be real-time saving you money and confusion. Workflow Issues The system you are using doesn’t match your workflow.  You need to hunt for your tasks and weed through things you don’t use.  You are jumping from one item to another just to complete these tasks.  This takes precious time and leads to frustration. FwdMbl Solutions gives you role-based programming.  It gives you only your work for the day and one task seamlessly flows to the next. It’s so efficient, before you know it, your day is complete with time to spare! Internet Connection/Equipment Problems I see it almost every day while going to the grocery store, convenience store or my favorite restaurant.  Account Managers, Sales People, and Delivery Drivers trying to connect to Wi-Fi, or get any Internet connection.  Once they do, connection is slow and they have wait for webpages to display on their screen.  When it does finally appear, the information is hard to read or cannot be given to the customer. Printers disconnect or jam. Old devices just giving up the ghost. FwdMbl Solutions’ Apps are native apps that work connected or disconnected. They are not merely a webpage you are trying to display on your phone.  We use our unique technology to make sure your employees are never waiting for the information they need.  Once the information is pinpointed it can be printed, emailed or faxed to give immediate access to your customer. Training is Difficult FwdMbl Solutions’ Apps are robust, yet simple and elegant.  The screens are not busy or hard to read.  The workflow is intuitive and training is a breeze. The PAIN IS REAL!  When your software is in your employees’ hands and doesn’t work disconnected, has missing or inaccurate customer or order information, has printer or scanner malfunctions, or is cumbersome to use it is a recipe for unhappy employees and unhappy customers. At FwdMbl Solutions we can enhance your customer experience and improve employee satisfaction with our Mobile Apps and Portals.  We do this by connecting to your existing systems, so there is no need to change everything you do, only what they see.  We interface to your backend ERP, POS or other systems and display your information in a Mobile App or Portal that is fast and truly mobile. It is easy to use and best of all, it runs on the mobile phone you already own. Don’t own a phone? You can use an affordable Android device from our hardware partners. +MORE

The Growing Role of Data Intelligence in eGrocery

Michael Demko, CEO and Founder, Locai Solutions

2018 was marked by many advancements in the various applications of data intelligence – the ability for computers and apps to gather information, and use it to give customers a truly personalized experience – setting the stage for the next-level in convenience. Shoppers are now less resistant to the idea of individualized product suggestions, which creates a new dynamic of customer service: people expect products to be presented to them in an easy, personalized, and intelligent way.  A great user experience is an imperative part of any eCommerce offering, but the underlying logic, algorithms, and intelligence that bring depth and relevance to the user experience is where the real innovations are occurring. In 2019, personalization and AI will grow from being merely promotions and product recommendations to a set of  tools that help retailers sell time-saving solutions. By 2020 45% of retailers plan to utilize artificial intelligence to enhance the customer experience. Currently, many platforms generate lists that you can buy from, but with machine learning you can now deploy solutions that provide higher levels of convenience for your customers.  What exactly does the customer experience? A more frictionless buying experience. Upon initial sign in to an app powered by an engine like eGroceryIQ, customers answer questions about their dietary preferences, portion sizes, and favorite items. After each purchase, the order details are collected and used to modify that user's next shopping experience. If the customer reviews an item, that information is also integrated into future product and recipe recommendations. eCommerce platforms embedded with AI powered solutions will take all this customer data, integrate it with what is currently in their shopping cart, and provide them with a highly personalized and engaging shopping experience. These smart apps, using segment-of-one personalization, create a unique interface for each customer. Instead of having to sift through an entire catalog, shoppers are presented with their favorite items right away, as well as similar product suggestions – foods they might like based on past purchases.  Other applications for data intelligence include capabilities that provide shoppers with information to problem solve for quantity and product type. Customers can filter and scroll through listings to compare nutritional information and see what items fit with their dietary preferences or restrictions. AI solutions  can sift through recipes, parse ingredients, map them automatically to a retailer’s assortment and systematically scale the amounts needed for a family of 4 or a single serving enabling customers to use tools such as meal planning to maximize use of products already in their virtual shopping cart. As machine learning continues to evolve, the possibilities become endless.. Is it worth the investment? All that value for your customers translates to higher sales. Intelligent solutions mean higher basket sizes, improved loyalty & retention, increased conversion rate, and higher purchase frequency.  Furthermore, data intelligence can be used to advance your merchandising, logistics, and fulfillment efforts. According to Tech Emergence, "the predictive capabilities of AI may play an important role in forecasting inventory needs, determining prices of products based on internal and external factors, analyzing customer behavior, loss prevention, delivery services–and potentially much more."  Equipped with volumes of data about your customers, new platforms will emerge to enable you to more easily pivot your business strategies, optimize your interfaces, and offer a catalog of high selling products.  The bottom line? More convenience equals greater customer satisfaction and more revenue. Intelligent solutions for today and tomorrow According to Forbes magazine, almost half of Americans now buy groceries online. Recent surveys by Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Nielsen show that 49% of US consumers had bought CPGs (consumer packaged goods) online in the past three months, up from 23% in 2016. The rates were higher among younger demographics – 61% for millennials and 55% for Gen Xers. As these rates continue to increase, experts predict that AI will continue to expand to meet the growing needs of both grocers and shoppers. Without AI, traditional grocery stores will have a difficult time meeting consumer behavior and demands. Many are finding that simply adding an online catalog is not enough to satisfy their customers, nor drive higher sales. The key is increasing value through efficiency and continuous learning about your customer. Solutions embedded with machine learning are designed to meet the needs of both the retailer and the consumer – giving the consumer an engaging, personalized experience, and the retailer a comprehensive, sales-driving and scalable platform. In order to succeed digitally, a broad set of components are needed and we’re beginning to see more and more partnering between grocers and technology solutions. As Yeal Cosset, Chief Digital Officer of Kroger said, “Personalization based on available data will not work. If the filter of the data is only good you will become obsolete, but if it is great you will have success.” Investing in flexible platforms that enable integration with the best in class consumer and operational features will become necessary, as a wide host of 3rd party application providers continue to emerge as the industry evolves. +MORE

Five Predictions for Retail Transformation in 2019

Gary Hawkins, CEO , Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART)

As we begin 2019, tomorrow is no longer going to resemble today. The pace of tech-fueled innovation continues to grow, bringing with it increasing change across the supply chain and greater impact on traditional retail operations and models. 2019 is going to be a year of even greater change. Here are five key areas to watch this year: Frictionless shopping: The Amazon Go store with its cashier-less shopping experience has gotten the industry’s attention and this year we will see a great deal of activity in this space. There are several tech companies working to bring similar capabilities to the retail industry along with cost-effectively scaling the technology to work in traditional supermarkets. I believe the proliferation of retailers’ mobile apps having some kind of self-shopping capability - the shopper scanning their products as they shop using their smartphone and then an expedited payment process - is an interim step to a completely frictionless shopping environment. The whole idea of the Amazon Go store is to make buying products as easy as possible; the shopper having to use their app to scan and pay makes it easier to buy but not as easy as just walking in, picking up what you want, and walking out. Automated fulfillment: Kroger’s partnership with Ocado to build and operate twenty automated grocery eComm fulfillment centers is on track. We are seeing several other retailers enter into agreements with Takeoff Technologies to build mini automated fulfillment centers that can sit in the backroom, automatically fulfilling high-velocity packaged goods ordered online. Walmart is working with a partner to build an automated fulfillment center that is designed to sit alongside their stores, fulfilling high-volume products. In 2019 we are going to see even more activity in this space as other retailers will be forced to follow these leaders as automation brings efficiency and lower fulfillment costs, opening up a productivity gap. We will be seeing other technology providers step into this space as the market expands. Automated delivery: Kroger’s partnership with Nuro to use automated, driverless delivery vehicles to deliver online orders to the shopper’s home is already in pilot. Udelv and other solutions will be gaining more interest as retailers begin to focus more attention on the final mile delivery. While many retailers have signed deals with Instacart or Shipt to handle actual delivery, we’re going to see growing interest in Uber and other services to handle deliveries and fast growing interest in automated solutions like Nuro and Udelv in search of cost efficiencies. Health & Wellness gets personal: The wearables market is growing fast as Apple’s Watch and similar devices provide even more functionality to monitor key health indicators in realtime. The explosion in health data coming from these wearables will become increasingly tied to food guidance, helping the individual understand what specific food products to purchase and consume based upon the individual’s health condition and realtime data. As an example, Dexcom recently released a device that provides realtime glucose monitoring for people with diabetes. The ability to use knowledge of an individual’s glucose levels at that specific time - for example, while they are standing in front of the shelf - will inform guidance to beneficial foods. This movement is already underway as the massive food and healthcare industries converge, driven by Amazon’s ownership of Whole Foods, PillPack, and other activity in healthcare. Kroger’s Opt-UP app enables the shopper to easily understand the quality of the foods they are buying and easily filter the store’s product selection based upon the shopper’s interests, needs, and preferences. Look for a lot more activity around this space in the coming year. Melding of digital and physical retail: While most industry activity has been focused around eCommerce and automation of fulfillment and delivery of orders, I believe we are going to see growing attention to the melding of digital and physical shopping. This encompasses bringing augmented reality into the store and shopping experience; we’ll also see growing activity in virtual reality shopping as VR tech gets better and cheaper. Digital signage will spread across the store and get smarter, not only using demographic info to present messaging relevant to the person standing in front of the screen, but engagement will be far more personalized. Kroger’s new shelf Edge system is moving in this direction, lighting up as a shopper moves down the aisle to call out relevant products. Obviously there are many more areas where technology is going to transform retail but these are five key areas to watch. Each of these fundamentally changes the game: Frictionless shopping and automating fulfillment and delivery remove significant costs and will put growing pressure on competing retailers as companies using these technologies scale deployments.  Personalization will move quickly, not just in marketing but in linking an Individual shopper’s health to her favorite store’s product assortment, guiding the shopper to products to improve her wellbeing.  Lastly, shopping is about to become far more interesting and truly immersive as technology really begins to impact the shopping experience, whether you are in the brick & mortar store or sitting at home. +MORE



Our Retail Services  The most sophisticated retailers in the world trust our technology services to power up their mission critical systems.  Digital Commerce Litmus7 specializes in setup, customizing and upgrading of eCommerce Platforms such as ATG, Oracle Commerce and IBM Sterling Commerce. We provide an end to end service across all systems and technologies required to operate a high performing retail business.  Services Implementation Retailers today are dependent on an ever growing number of inter-dependent services. Litmus7 excels in making sure that the highest quality and performance is maintained as our customers scale.  High-End Engineering As more and more retailers are becoming technology companies that are in the business of retail, our services are allowing their teams to develop and deploy faster than ever. Infrastructure Services We help some of the world's largest and most stable eCommerce websites achieve %99.999 up-time and support billions of visitors around the world.  Consulting & Research We hire the best experts from all disciplines of retailers. Their wide experience allows us to look at a customer's business and potential from all angles, to conduct root cause analysis as well as identify growth opportunities.  User Journey & Experience We take great pleasure creating the best and most innovative user experiences in the world and tracking how they increase our customer's conversions as well as shopper satisfaction.   +MORE


Pseudo Customer Centricity: Fool’s Gold

Gary Hawkins on Winsight Grocery Business, CART

Retailers must employ a customer-first philosophy into organizational culture Many regional retailers are (at last!) intent on becoming customer-centric, more than a decade after The Kroger Co. led the way and more than two decades after early loyalty pioneers proved the value of a true customer focus. But too many retailers believe that customer centricity can simply be bolted on to their organizations without realizing that true customer centricity is far more involved. Like the intrepid gold miners of the 1840s, these retailers awaken to the realization that what they’ve taken for retail gold is in actuality a false promise, seduced by the fools gold of pseudo customer centricity. I can recount meetings with senior executives from well-known retailers who espouse their customer centricity efforts; spending massive sums on consultants and solutions powered by a decade’s old approach based on customer segments integrated to the retailer’s category planning processes, and even personalized offers to shoppers. Countless of these retailers remain anchored in a product-focused world, even those who tout using technology to discover what products should be put on offer to their customers rather than starting with a vendor-funded offer pool.  True disciples of customer centricity deeply embed a customer-first philosophy into their organizational culture, extending it to every part of the enterprise. These companies realize that providing savings on products relevant to the shopper is only the beginning. Leading companies such as Amazon and Kroger are investing heavily in taking customer centricity to the next level: comprehensive, seamless user experiences across channels and devices, integrating personalized product recommendations with an understanding of the individual shopper’s specific health conditions, and laying the technology foundation for immersive shopping experiences melding the physical and digital worlds. Customer first disciples understand the dynamic flow of customers and their shopping behavior over time, putting in place capabilities and processes attuned to providing contextual relevancy inside and outside the store. And personalization—driven by past purchases and recommendation algorithms—is fast evolving to what I think of as strategic hyper-personalization, leveraging vast intelligence about each individual shopper to power a mix of recommendations to win the shopping trip, grow baskets, maximize retention, and foster customer advocacy—one customer at a time, in real time. Many regional retailers are based in more rural areas where company executives believe their shoppers are less tech savvy, relieving pressure on digital imperatives. According to Pew Research, 95% of Americans own a cellphone in 2018, with 77% of Americans owning a smartphone. Pew also calls out that in 2018, 89% of Americans use the internet. Location is no longer a proxy for customer technology illiteracy.  This year, Amazon is projected to realize over $258 billion in U.S. retail sales, an estimated 49% of all online retail spending in the United States. With this kind of penetration, and the ability to ship products anywhere overnight, traditional supermarket retailers would do well to remember that their shoppers are increasingly expecting (demanding!) the seamless and comprehensive user experience provided by Amazon, and increasingly by Kroger and Walmart. Yet, too many retailers remain mired in digital purgatory, constrained by capability silos and the inability to bring piecemeal capabilities together in a seamless fashion for shoppers.  Lastly, many seasoned grocery executives have spent their careers being rewarded for following, letting someone else bring innovation to market and only following when it has been proven successful. Years ago IT executives would buy IBM, even if it wasn’t the best choice, but because it was the "safe" choice. This practice continues today as retailers sign deals with "established" providers because they believe it is the safe choice, failing to understand that today’s environment rewards fresh, forward-looking thinking. Retail executives need to look beyond yesterday’s approach to customer centricity to capabilities and platforms that actually position the retailer for future success. The cost of failing to provide a seamless shopping experience, for failing to provide true individual shopper personalization, and failing to provide real time contextual relevancy, can rapidly obliterate any savings or security from yesterday’s "proven" approach. Tom Furphy, a former Amazon executive and the originator of Amazon Fresh, in a recent interviewspeaking to the challenges retailers face today, especially a reliance on past practices, says it all: “What seems safe is actually destructive. That’s a recipe for longer term disaster.” This article originally appeared on Winsight Grocery Business and can be viewed here +MORE

The Top Five Ways Retailers Benefit from Industry Trade Shows

Courtney Muller, Chief Corporate Development & Strategy Officer, Clarion UX

When was the last time you attended a retail or food and beverage trade show? If you have to pause to think of the answer – or know immediately that the answer is, “Never” – then it might be time to find a show or expo near you. Trade shows are the best places for those within the industry to get out of their stores and network; find new products and stay abreast of the cutting edge technology offerings; and gain invaluable education in the areas you need it most. In short, even if you spend time every day trying to stay current, you could never see it all – or know what to search for. There is no better place than a trade show … from seeing new products, meeting new people, becoming educated on a new way to engage your customers, or finding out about technology … this is the place to find what you don’t know!   Here are some of the top reasons you should attend a trade show this year: Network with Decision Makers When you think of networking, perhaps the typical “mixer” scenario comes to mind with people you don’t know awkwardly milling about a bar or restaurant, trying to strike up conversations with random people in the hopes that you might be able to benefit one another in some way. Networking at a trade show couldn’t be any more different. As an attendee, you can specifically find exhibitors with the products you seek; attend educational sessions that pertain to topics you are interested in, therefore attracting other audience members who share the same challenges; and be assured that your peers in the same industry as you are seeking similar solutions as you.  And you might even run into a colleague you haven’t seen in years! Find New Products and Foods You subscribe to industry periodicals and get Google Alerts in your inbox every day, but have you seen that new robot that identifies out of stock items and potential slip and fall hazards? Have you read about leveraging data to establish loyalty and trust with food delivery customers? A trade show is the perfect venue to scope out all that is new in the retail world from tech products to new foods and services – all in one place – to help you use technology to create a seamless customer experience. As you look for new technology innovation to keep you competitive, you may find the perfect partner for online ordering, rapid delivery, or rapid checkout through customer’s smartphones.  No matter what you want to go to a trade show to find, you will likely be pleasantly surprised by discovering even more than you thought along the aisles. See New Trends in Action Are vegan offerings a must-have? Should you offer chef demonstrations to showcase meal ideas? Are international flavors high on consumer’s minds? What chef dishes are they trying replicate at home? Be on the front line of this year’s and next year’s trends so you can bank on what your customers will be looking for in the near future. You’ll walk away with new products and great ideas you can implement immediately in your store operations. You may even realize that you are on the verge of creating an entirely different trend yourself that has yet to appear on the market – good information that you can capitalize on in the year to come. Receive Best in Class Education If school is a distant memory – or perhaps you learned hands-on in a family business and worked your way up the ranks – one of the best perks of most trade shows is the educational content provided to attendees and exhibitors alike. Whether you’re interested in operational excellence, developing your workforce, building bigger baskets, or sessions dedicated to those hot new tech trends we previously mentioned, trade shows like The NGA Show (presented by the National Grocers Association) in San Diego this coming February will have you covered on all fronts. What’s more, you can connect with presenting industry specialists to gain even more valuable insight into the topics that interest you most. Gain Immediate, Actionable Ideas The bottom line … your time is valuable and you want to spend any time out of your store obtaining the cream of the crop ideas - from new products, growth strategies and tech trends. Hear what the experts have to share, sample emerging products, uncover new technology, and refresh your enthusiasm for the business. You’ll walk away with a plan to bring all of these new ideas and initiatives into your store operation to drive profits, growth and innovation.   No matter where you are in your retail career, a trade show will no doubt provide you with opportunities, education and inspiration as you progress in the business. Interested in learning more? Check out the upcoming NGA show: National Grocers Association Show, San Diego, CA, February 24-27, 2019,  Each year, The NGA Show brings together independent retailers and wholesalers, food retail industry executives, food/CPG manufacturers and service providers for unparalleled opportunities to learn, engage, share, network, and innovate.  Given today’s ever-changing marketplace and evolving advancements in innovation occurring in the food retail industry, The NGA Show is a must-attend event, providing over 40 educational workshops, an expo floor featuring innovative and game-changing products and solutions and countless networking opportunities.  Registration is open at – early bird registration rates in effect through December 10, 2018.  +MORE

NGA Show 2019: The Epicenter of Grocery Industry Innovation

CART, Advancing Retail

In a special event leading up to the opening of the new NGA Show 2019, CART will bring together unique education, an impressive line up of speakers, and cutting edge innovation to make San Diego the epicenter of grocery industry innovation during Feb. 24-27, 2019. With a focus on regional retailers and dynamic independent operators, the CART team will present an innovation tour de force designed to help attendees not only stay in the game but help them win. CART is coming together with leading retailers through-out the industry to provide attendees a new worldview for the future of retail where transformation and disruption are the new normal: iRetail. Focused on five ‘i’s, iRetail will give attending executives a framework for evaluating their existing capabilities and provide a roadmap to closing the innovation gap. In a time of declining and disappearing industry events, the NGA Show has become a beacon of light for the industry as it has grown each year, even outgrowing its longtime home in Las Vegas, spurring the move to San Diego this coming February. CART has had a long time partnership with NGA and is taking the relationship to a new level this year, building on the success of CART’s Innovation Event at last year’s show.  Make sure to put Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, on your calendar and plan to attend the CART special event at the new NGA Show! +MORE

Technology's Profound Impact on the Supermarket Industry

Peter Larkin, President & CEO, National Grocers Association

Often cited as the one of the greatest catalyst of change within the retail grocery industry, technology is an area that independent supermarket operators must understand, and embrace.  Technology continues to have a profound impact, where virtually every detail of the supermarket industry is being touched by new solutions and platforms. I see three technology threads, each entwined with the other. One is the explosion of mobile applications and programs that are turning grocery shoppers into high information consumers. According to Pew research, smart phone adoption among Americans has more than doubled since 2011. Not only are shoppers becoming more sophisticated, but they are using technology as a way to gain more information, transparency, and convenience. At the touch of a mobile screen, consumers can instantly access to updated information on locally sourced perishables, competitive promotions, price checks and recipe ingredient lists. In turn, this migration to the digital space is shaping customer relationships with retailers. Today’s shopper does not want to be talked to but instead wants to be a part of the conversation. Consumer product manufacturers and marketers make up a second technology thread. By analyzing large chunks of customer data and retail sales, manufacturers, retailers and service suppliers are exploring innovative ways to touch their target audiences. Big data though can be vast and hard to harness. Whether it’s social media, a mobile payment system, or loyalty programs, technology can effectively create many new opportunities for savvy retailers to learn about and to connect with their shoppers to better serve their needs. A good place to see and learn about a number of these innovative solutions is right here at The third thread is in the store itself, where technology is increasingly employed to improve overall store productivity to program more effective lighting, to boost checkout efficiency, to track shopper traffic flows to improve layout and sales per square foot, or to offer customers immediate cost savings via real time wifi connections as they shop. A great, and very recent, example of this is Sedano's Supermarkets launch of a “robotic supermarket,” which entails an automated fulfillment center where AI-enabled robots will assemble full supermarket orders of up to 60 items. While the landscape is quickly evolving, many independent grocers are taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies to engage with their shoppers, find efficiencies, and reach new and existing customers where, how, and when they want. Independents have been making their move into digital. They are hiring dedicated staff, dedicating marketing budgets to digital initiatives, more effectively leveraging social media platforms, and integrating the latest technologies into their business strategies.  With the dramatic pace in which new apps and tech solutions are coming on to the market, it can all seem a bit overwhelming, but technology will play a defining role in the supermarket industry.  Those retailers that are on the forefront of implementing new technology and embrace the hyper-connected, tech-savvy consumer are positioning themselves for success. I’m one who is convinced that these threads will weave into a pattern of rising sales and profits. And that’s why the 2019 NGA Show will kick-off with a new educational event, spearheaded by our partners at CART, entitled “iRetail: Technology Innovation Reshaping the Grocery Industry.” The event is designed to give supermarket operators a framework for navigating fast-paced innovation while maintaining a focus on the importance of people and physical stores as we move into the future. Despite increased competition from all angles, it is an exciting time for the supermarket industry – and we at NGA are bullish about what the future holds for the independent grocers! Known as the true entrepreneurs of the industry, independents are nimble enough to quickly overcome obstacles, and are finding innovative ways to respond to changing consumer preferences, which is something they’ve always been good at given their close ties to their communities and the consumers they serve. +MORE

From the Innovation Gap to the Knowledge Gap

Gary Hawkins, CART

I have often written about the growing innovation gap - the divide between the exponential growth of new tech fueled capabilities and the more linear growth of retail deployment of new solutions. This innovation gap has been one of the largest single challenges to brick & mortar retail. And while the innovation gap remains a serious concern, a number of solution providers are leveraging the cloud and other approaches to bring advanced capabilities to regional and even smaller independent retailers. The problem is that while retailers can avail themselves of new solutions, they are sometimes lacking the resources, knowledge, and skill sets to make use of these new capabilities. We are seeing this in many different areas. From sophisticated AI powered forecasting solutions that are able to ingest store-level events that impact product movement to cutting edge marketing personalization systems that challenge retailers to think differently about how they go to market. The challenges we see are three-fold. First, retailers frequently lacking the requisite data analytic skills to make use of more sophisticated capabilities. Second, retailers lacking the discipline to modify operations or data gathering needed to power new capabilities. And three, retail executives being challenged to think outside the box, and envision doing business differently. There is no easy answer to these challenges. It is one thing to have access to new innovative capabilities and quite another to have a company culture that embraces innovation and new ways of doing things. It is this issue that is perhaps the most important in looking ahead to who will win and lose in future retail battles.  +MORE

Why You Should Consider Using Instagram as Part of Your Business Strategy


With over 1B world-wide Instagram accounts active monthly, 500M+ users active daily, and 400M+ sharing Instagram stories, it makes good business sense to include Instagram in your social media strategy, especially when you factor in that 80% of users follow at least one business account (1) With the introduction of Instagram stories, predicted to reach 1B by 2020, Instagram is moving further into longer-form content. Its introduction of Instagram Stories in August 2016 precipitated a steep rise in user growth and engagement — daily active users went from less than 20% of monthly active users in October 2016 to more than 60% in September 2017  Instagram has become an essential element of social media marketing for businesses, and a way to humanize your brand.  Whereas findings confirm Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter still tend to be more popular among the younger crowd, especially 18 to 24-year-olds, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that 35 percent of US adults use Instagram — an increase of 7 percent from 2016, so it’s not just for teens and Millennials any more — and people don’t use Instagram casually, 38% visit the site several times. It's not too late to get your business set up with Instagram, and when you do, it’s important to go about it correctly for the best result.  Initial steps like writing your bio, experimenting with the best times to post, and which hashtags to use are all important to the success of your Instagram account.  Here are a couple links with more information on getting set up to get you started:   Instagram’s internal research (thru June 2018) (How Instagram is Eating the World) (Social Media Use in 2018) +MORE

Amazon’s Whole Foods Acquisition Ramps up Grocery Competition

Sterling Hawkins, CART

Only a year after Amazon completed its acquisition of Whole Foods, the resulting merger has ramped up competition in the grocery segment.  Amazon entered the grocery segment as part of a strategy to make it more compelling to be a member of its Prime program, a paid service that includes deals and speedier shipping. Prime members tend to buy more things and are entrenched in Amazon's ecosystem.  Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos summed up the strategy: "I want to make it fiscally irresponsible to not be a Prime member." Therefore, targeting a grocer like Whole Foods was a smart move.  "If Amazon wants to make it super compelling to be a Prime member, it makes sense to make those discounts and benefits available and applicable in everyday shopping items like grocery," said Sense360 founder and CEO Eli Portnoy. By acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon has made Prime benefits available in daily shopping situations like buying groceries. For instance, Whole Foods offers Prime Deals and yellow sign deals, an extra 10 percent off sale items for Prime members. With these regular benefits, Whole Foods shoppers have a compelling reason to become and remain Prime members, and Prime members have an added incentive to shop at Whole Foods. Prime discounts have had a powerful impact on Whole Foods' performance among Amazon users. For example, the gap between Amazon and non-Amazon users who shopped at Whole Foods spiked 2x in mid-May, when Prime Deals debuted in Florida. The deals are rolling out to more stores nationwide. Sense360 also looked at the conversion of the general population of grocery visitors in 2018 vs 2017 and found that in May, June, and July of this year, Whole Foods market conversion increased from 4.8 percent of all grocery store visitors to nearly 6 percent when compared with the same period a year earlier (2.2 million visit sample size). The data illustrates how Amazon has created a cycle of competitive advantage that is challenging for grocers to compete with. The merger creates more value for Prime members and will likely increase Prime membership. That means more traffic and loyalty for Whole Foods, a win-win for Amazon and a tough formula to go against. To understand how the merger is affecting the grocery segment, Sense360 analyzed Trader Joe's traffic. The grocer was selected because 36 percent of Trader Joe’s customers also visit Whole Foods, a significant overlap. Trader Joe’s customers also have similar motivations as Whole Foods shoppers, namely food quality, health and nutrition, items not found elsewhere, and specific items or brands carried. Sense360 data showed that in 2017, Whole Foods’ and Trader Joe’s head-to-head visit share (relative traffic when two brands have stores within a mile of each other) was 51 percent to 49 percent, with Whole Foods slightly ahead. But during Prime Deals this year, it rose to 53 percent to 47 percent, with Whole Foods winning more share. That means Whole Foods is winning 4 percent more of those up-for-grabs visits when the two brands are in close proximity to each other.  Whole Foods’ gains aren’t just limited to Trader Joe's. Whole Foods has grown head-to-head market share against national retailers including Safeway, Walmart and Costco. "Whole Foods has actually increased market share when in close proximity to almost every national competitor in the grocery market, including mass merchandisers, drug and dollar stores," Portnoy said. Overall, Amazon is a formidable competitor with an enviable advantage due to the cycle it has created between Amazon, Prime and Whole Foods. "This cycle is going to perpetuate itself, and it's going to create meaningful challenges for the category," Portnoy said.    But there are still opportunities for grocers to compete against Amazon’s empire. Portnoy advised focusing heavily on data, rapidly testing and validating every hypothesis, and being prepared to course correct.  +MORE

Locai Solutions

Locai Solutions Inc

locai is the first company to offer a full suite of software that integrates an e-commerce platform with a fulfillment management system. locai provides a flexible set of solutions including a turn-key eCommerce website, as well as access to great UX features - such as product recommendations, meal planning, and endless aisles - via APIs for easy integration into your existing eCommerce platform. These features have been proven to drive higher basket sizes, and create greater customer engagement, satisfaction, and retention. The locai platform is also the first eCommerce solution for grocers to be built on a cloud based architecture that enables order execution via the full spectrum of fulfillment formats. The locai Fulfillment Management System is versatile and capable of supporting numerous operating footprints, from warerooms to dark stores and/or dedicated distribution centers, and while fully integrated with locai's eCommerce Platform, the FMS can easily integrate with other eCommerce platforms and order management systems to create a unique solution for your brand. Embedded with real-time operating metrics, intelligent pick cart building logic and order verification, the locai Fulfillment Management System is proven to reduce operating cost per order while improving order accuracy. +MORE