Customer services

Personalized Wellness

ScriptSave® - WellRx

As a nation we spend over $5 trillion a year to feed our bodies.1 That’s the value of food sold each year in the United States through retail and food service including nearly 38,000 supermarkets, an estimated 150,000 convenience stores, and over one million restaurants. The U.S. food industry is immense, touching every person in the nation every day. We then spend trillions more each year taking care of ourselves. The U.S. healthcare industry is massive, projected to be over $5 trillion a year by 2025 and representing an estimated 20% of the country’s GDP.2 So we have two titanic industries that touch each consumer… and yet food and healthcare are largely disconnected. Plus, with 40,000+ unique products in a typical grocery store, the choices are overwhelming to the average consumer trying to shop for foods to appease any number of nutrition-sensitive health conditions. Personalized Wellness At ScriptSave, our vision of personalized wellness aligns managed care organizations, healthcare providers, employers, food manufacturers and retailers to improve and maintain the wellness of each individual. The power of the personalized wellness vision lies in the economic benefits provided to each member of this ecosystem. The personalized wellness food-health supply chain begins with the individual consumer, an understanding of his or her health condition, and food products beneficial to that condition. As the source of food, retailers become, in a sense, an extension of personalized healthcare, and a trusted partner in wellness for each individual. What better loyalty for a retailer than helping customers live healthier lives? Public Health Implications The implications from a public health perspective are enormous. 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription drug and 60% of the U.S. population is dealing with at least one chronic health condition. Our aim is to evaluate food products based on their nutritional attributes and provide insight to possible grocery alternatives that are more favorably aligned with each shopper’s personal health and wellness goals.  Our vision is no less ambitious than to improve health outcomes for millions of individuals. ScriptSave is mobilizing key participants to realize the Personalized Wellness vision. Purchase validation of beneficial products creates a powerful feedback loop Improves future recommendations Powers performance-based incentives provided by managed care organizations Helps providers drive improved outcomes Provides brand manufacturers powerful insight to shopper needs  The Rise of Artificial Intelligence It is only recently that artificial intelligence data and technologies are available to personalize, at a product level, food recommendations that are beneficial to each individual. Deconstructing nutrition information to countless data attributes enables powerful linkage between health conditions and the hundreds of thousands of food products available across the United States. What makes it all work is the ability to convey personalized food guidance to the individual via the smartphone in their hand while in the store aisle. “Food is the area consumers really want to deal with the most,” states Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, health economist for Think Health. “Nobody really wants to take medicine. People would rather project-manage health through food as prescription.”3 A recent meeting with a physician group highlighted the shortcomings of efforts to date as doctors explained patients forget nearly everything within 24 hours of leaving the office. Perhaps what is most powerful about the personalized wellness vision is that everyone across the food-healthcare supply chain benefits from improved health outcomes and quality of life for the individual. Retailers gain stronger customer relationships as they come to be viewed as true partners in wellness, and consumer goods brand manufacturers have a path to redemption from the processed foods abyss. 1 “U.S. Food Retail Industry - Statistics & Facts”, Statista, www.statista.com/topics/1660/food-retail/ 2 Mark Hagland, “Medicare Actuaries: U.S. Healthcare Spending to Soar to $5.631 Trillion and 20.1 Percent of GDP in 2025”, www.healthcare-informatics.com, (July 18, 2016) 3 Drug Store News, Future Trends: Self care, wellness shift to drive innovation in new, emerging health segments, www.drugstorenews.com, (August 18, 2017) +MORE

Whatever the Question, A.I. is the Answer Because Nobody Likes Calling Customer Service

Susan Galer , Forbes SAP voice

Bejoy Narayana, CEO of BoodsKapper, develops AI applications that can cut down customer problem resolution time by a factor of 10. Give us your superstar customer service representative, and we’ll provide an AI application that replicates their behavior, reducing problem resolution time from 10 minutes to one. This is what I heard and saw from Bejoy Narayana, CEO of BoodsKapper at the recent SAP Financial Services Innovation Summit held at the SAP Leonardo Center in New York. The Texas-based startup develops AI applications on the SAP Cloud Platform designed to not only ferret out what customers want quickly, but also communicate in their preferred medium – using any texting app or moving to a telephone conversation.   “No one likes calling customer service, and we believe that experience can be much better by training the software to behave like the ideal customer service representative, getting to the point quickly to provide a solution for busy people,” said Narayana. “Modeling the actions of a company’s best customer agent, we can train the AI engine to be up and running in weeks just as you would a new employee. This can cut down interaction times by a factor of ten.” Creating a Human-Like Dialogue…Read the rest of this article by Susan Galer on Forbes SAP voice Posted on the CART blog with permission from Bejoy Narayana, CEO BoodsKapper +MORE

ScriptSave® WellRx

Medical Security Card Company LLC.

Discount Rx Card & Prescription Price Comparison Cost and inconvenience are the biggest reasons people don't take their prescribed medicines. ScriptSave WellRx wants to remedy that and help people enjoy better health. Start saving on your family's prescription medicines! Search for savings on prescription medicines and compare prices at pharmacies near you. With the ScriptSave® WellRx mobile app, you can find the prescription medicines your family needs at the savings you love. ScriptSave WellRx is the trusted resource that makes prescription medicines more affordable and easier to manage because ScriptSave WellRx cares about helping people stay healthy. ScriptSave WellRx is free to join. And, we're accepted nationwide at more than 62,000 pharmacies. It's easy to start saving on prescription medicines for your entire household – even pets! Simply download the ScriptSave WellRx prescription discount app to your iPhone or Android Phone, enter a drug name, and compare prices. You can open the app any time, anywhere to search for the best discount at pharmacies near you. Simply show your printed or digital prescription discount card when you go to pick up your prescription and enjoy the best possible deals on your medications. +MORE

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Grab and Go Automated Commerce

Accel Robotics

We are building a ‘Grab and Go’ vision-based automated shopping system. Think about this like an Amazon Go solution for everyone else. +MORE

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Grocery is Going Digital. The Time is Now.

CART

Online grocery sales are growing fast. A recent report released by FMI and The Nielsen Company states that 23% of U.S. households purchased groceries online in 2016, up from 19% in 2014, and representing an estimated 4.3% of U.S. consumer retail food and beverage spending. The report goes on to state that as many as 70% of U.S. consumers will be buying groceries online by 2025, spending more than $100 billion, an estimated 20% of consumer food and beverage spending.1 Grocery is going digital far faster than many predicted and the time is now for traditional retailers to stake their claim. +MORE

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BoodsKapper Retail bot

Boodskapper

This is our service for the retail industry and is primarily delivered through Facebook Messenger.  Consumers are able to send a picture of an item and ask if the retailer carries the item. The software is able to look up a retailer's catalog and answer the question.  Two-minute simulation here best explains the solution: http://www.boodskapper.com/#!retail/jjvu4 In this simulation, retailer has no prior record of the customer. Customer starts an organic conversation from Messenger, just as people do in life. BoodsKapper assists the customer to locate an article at the store. The customer picks up the conversation thread several months after the purchase and enquires about a variant of the item purchased. An organic conversation ensues and a purchase is made.is Deep reporting:   We would argue that information gold for the retailer are the conversations that your customers had with you through various channels. Our AI algorithms automatically find the meaning of the written text and use that to make the conversational response. As the meaning of conversations is analyzed and documented in real time, it is possible for us to enhance traditional reporting with this information. +MORE

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Smart Gammified Customer Feedback Surveys and Analytics

Wyzerr

Wyzerr builds artificial intelligence software for data collection and analytics that look and feel like games. The basis of Wyzerr’s platform is making it as fun, fast, and easy as possible for consumers to provide actionable feedback data, and business stakeholders to understand and use that data to make decisions in real-time. Wyzerr’s ‘Smartforms’ can capture 25 questions in under 60 seconds. Our secret sauce is the machine learning algorithms infused within the platform. Wyzerr smartforms processes feedback in real-time like a human being would, rapidly digesting the information and asking new questions as a human would in a real dialogue. It allows brands to truly understand who their customers really are. What they like, don’t like, what makes them sad, mad, and happy…all in real-time. This machine learning capability makes it possible for every customer to receive a unique feedback questionnaire. There’s no such thing as one-survey-fits-all at Wyzerr.  The data is analyzed in real-time to produce actionable insight around the clock. Instead of complex graphs and pie charts, our insight-based dashboard outputs data on a GPA scale, assigning grades (A, B, C, D, and F) for different key performance indicators. Similar to how progress reports in school advise students on what they should do to improve their grades, Wyzerr's AI component advises business stakeholders what they can do to improve their customer experience. Overtime, and with more feedback data, Wyzerr can also recommend new products and services to be developed, suggest improvements to existing products, identify new trends and upsell opportunities, and advise on the types of market messages to run. It’s essentially a technology to use customers’ feedback to support operational decisions. We offer data science in a box. +MORE

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Mobile Checkout

FutureProof Retail

The Mobile Checkout retail platform digitizes brick and mortar stores, bringing the convenience and personalization of eCommerce to physical retailers and their customers. Mobile Checkout Eliminates the Lines Mobile Checkout is a brandable iOS and Android app, a better system than self-checkout for the complete shopping experience from scan to payment. Private White-label Retailers deepen the customer relationship and own the install by deploying the platform as their own-brand staff and shopper apps. Scan Products Customers scan and bag while shopping. Mobile Payment Pay securely with credit card or mobile wallet directly through the app. Skip the Line Customers never wait in line to check out. Customize to your needs Expand the system with functionality like loyalty programs or counter service mobile ordering.     +MORE

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Tastry aims to shape the alcohol and food industries with the launch of new wine & food pairing platform

Katerina Axelsson, CEO , Tastry

Tastry, an AI company that uses flavor chemistry and machine learning to recommend products based on an individual’s palate and preferences, announced today the launch of their food and recipe pairing platform. Although food and wine pairing isn’t a new concept, Tastry has identified drivers for a change in this sector both for the consumer and for food and CPG manufacturers.  Their current wine recommendation platform has a proven 45% increase in consumer satisfaction and an average 3-5% lift in category sales for participating retailers.  Tastry’s data can help manufacturers predict and develop delicious, memorable foods targeted for an individual as well as cut R&D costs and predict emerging wine and food trends per shopper both regionally and beyond. Their new food pairing and recipe platform will offer recommendations based on what bottle of wine is being purchased, the dish being served, and even the occasion for a gathering. “We are excited about the launch of our new platform and the robust recommendations it will provide for customers, ” said Katerina Axelsson, CEO of Tastry.  “We believe that this new platform will allow consumers, CPG developers, and retailers to have a very personalized and informative experience as we continue to grow and increase our market presence.” Tastry has plans in the near future to release a recommender in the cannabis sector and will be issuing details shortly. To receive this information upon release, email Starr@tastry.com About Tastry: An AI company based in San Luis Obispo, California. Their patented technology has the ability to evaluate consumer taste preferences to sensory-based products using analytical chemistry, machine learning, and AI. Tastry has accurately taught a computer how to taste. The technology serves retailers by providing science-based suggestions for product development, inventory purchase, and direct-to-consumer recommendation. +MORE

​SmartAisle and The Rise of Voice-Powered Retail

Ethan Goodman, Co-Founder, SmartAisle

There are three converging retailer pain points and dynamics that have created a compelling and important market opportunity:  First, there’s an historic labor shortage in the US – for the first time ever, there are more job openings than people to fill them, and this is undoubtedly impacting retailers’ ability to put high quality workers on the floor to interact with shoppers.  Second, The “Amazon Effect” is putting intense pressure on brick & mortar retailers to deliver a user experience that meets or exceeds that of E-Commerce – for example, better personalization – or risk losing trips and sales to Amazon and other pure plays.  And third, shoppers are indicating that they are increasingly open to engaging with voice-based virtual assistants in the in-store environment in favor of summoning a human sales associates – 52%, in fact, according to a recent report from AdWeek. So, we created an innovative new solution to help retailers address these challenges head-on. Meet SmartAisle, the world’s first voice-powered in-store shopping assistant.  SmartAisle brings the power and simplicity of voice technology to brick & mortar retail stores in a completely unique and ground-breaking way.  Specifically, it is a patent-pending technology platform that combines an intuitive voice interface, connected LED lights embedded on the shelf and a powerful artificial intelligence engine on the back-end to help shoppers with product selection and education at the First Moment of Truth.  It’s incredibly easy for shoppers to use:  First, shoppers see a call-to-action on at-shelf signage with a prompt for what to say to initiate the voice assistant – for example, “Alexa, open SmartAisle.”   Next, they answer a series of simple questions audibly about their product selection criteria – for example, in whiskey, their desired type (bourbon, rye or scotch) and a target price range (like, under $50).  And finally, our algorithm selects up to 3 recommended products; reads out the product names, descriptions and other relevant information (like ratings & reviews); and lights their position on the shelf for easy identification.   Beyond providing an undeniably cool & novel experience to shoppers, the value our platform can deliver to retailers, as I insinuated at the beginning, is significant. SmartAisle can do everything from enhance at-shelf navigation, selection and education to help close the sale; to capture and report incredibly valuable data about shoppers’ at-shelf behaviors and interactions, and allow retailers to optimize their staffing decisions – not necessarily replace human associates, but rather augment their capabilities and allow them to focus on other key tasks And we think SmartAisle does these things better than any available competitive options today, bet it:   Store associates, who in most cases have limited product knowledge, and whom shoppers sometimes avoid because they’re seeking discretion or don’t want to be “sold.”  Be it traditional at-shelf signage, which can only deliver static content and can’t capture shopper engagement data.  Or be it mobile apps, websites or bots, which require shoppers to have necessary hardware, software or browsers, and a reliable internet connection, and whose screen-based experiences can create barriers to speed.  At this point I’m sure you have all sorts of questions. Here’s my best effort to address the ones most frequently asked by clients and prospects alike:  Do I have to use Amazon Alexa as the underlying AI platform? No. SmartAisleSM is platform-agnostic, and can be built using other comparable AI like Google Assistant.  Has it been executed in a live store environment? Yes. We successfully ran a 2-month test with a boutique wine & spirts store in New York City, and just signed a contract for a 5-store test with a national liquor store retailer on the West Coast (set to launch this December).  How does it perform? Very well. During our 2-month test, SmartAisleSM drove a 20% YOY category lift for our client, and shoppers told us it provided an experience that was “noticeably better”, “easier to use” and “more entertaining” than normal.   Does it only work for Alcohol/Beverage? No. SmartAisleSM is perfect for any retailer aiming to elevate the in-store shopping experience, particularly those in heavy-assortment, high-consideration and/or premium-priced categories like Beauty/Cosmetics, Electronics, Fresh & packaged Grocery, Health & Wellness, Home Hardware, Pet Care and Fashion/Apparel.   How complex is it to execute? Not very. A typical engagement takes 3 months to launch from contract signature to go-live, we handle the installation and all needed maintenance, and the only infrastructure requirement of clients is accessible power. How is it priced? For the time being, pricing is still determined on a case by case basis. But we’re planning to implement a standard per store, per month model in the coming months.   Our vision is to be the world’s biggest, best and most indispensable network of digital in-store shopping assistants – installed in tens of thousands of stores, serving tens of millions of shoppers, and generating millions of dollars in incremental sales for our clients – and we hope you’ll join us on that journey. For more information, visit www.smartaisle.io or email help@smartaisle.io. +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, www.thengashow.com  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 www.thengashow.com – 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 www.advancingretail.org. 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

ShopAdvizor

ShopAdvizor

Helping consumers to save money, improve an omnichannel shopping experience and allowing retailers and brands to improve their relationship with consumers. How to achieve all these objectives under one single company?  ShopAdvizor tries to satisfy these needs and cover these problems by launching the first collaborative community for the consumer goods that interconnects consumers, brands and retailers.  A community that creates a closer relationship between the three parties by delivering 6 main products and services; Content marketing:  Use certified ratings and reviews generated by members of our community who have tested your products. They influence on the choice of products and generates confidence as well as increases the credibility of consumers comments in relation to brand advertising. Allows the development of a social link with your consumers by allowing them to create content for your brands and products by activating their voice. Online Market Research: Our collaborative model allows us to develop online surveys providing brands with valuable data helping them to reach their business challenges. Targeted and discount coupons                ShopAdvizor gives retailers and brands access to Big Data regarding shopping and consumption behavior in order  to deeply understand consumer and shopper needs and be able to deliver customized and targeted promotions and coupons. Advertising Manufacturers and retailers have also the possibility to communicate directly in the wall of their customers in the right moment, offering promotions and valuable information to increase sales. It allows to pinpoint potential buyers who are considering your product and help you build highly accurate campaigns. +MORE

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Social Media: The neglected customer service department

Charlie Luck, Display and Instagram Marketer at Cisco

In today’s perpetually connected world it is more natural to contact a brand via social media than the traditional phone call. The instant nature of all social media platforms beats email and sometimes even phone calls. No customer enjoys being put on hold! Knowing that they can tweet a query or complaint and receive a reply or resolution a few minutes later will give customers plenty of peace of mind. 1. Address the Complaints Quickly! When a customer complains about you on social media, it’s important that you respond, and respond promptly. Even if you can’t immediately fix the issue, it’s great to acknowledge the customer and their problem. A simple “thanks for the feedback, we will work to resolve this issue as soon as possible” can go a long way with a disappointed client.  Customers love to feel seen and heard. There is nothing worse than waiting forever for a response from a company when you have a problem with a product that you bought from them. People get angry when they feel that they have wasted their hard-earned money. If you respond quickly and positively to complaints on social media, you may be able to turn a disgruntled customer into a loyal and raving one with just a minute of your time.  A customer willing to take their time to bash a company through social media also has great potential to gush about that very same company if their experience is turned into a positive one. Turning a sour customer situation around is easy when a company is regularly active in responding to their customers’ complaints on social media. The company also can showcase their superb customer service skills to the rest of the world when quickly addressing customer complaints.  2. Entertain or Inform!  Social media should be eye-catching, and overall, fun. Scrolling mindlessly down the timeline is a difficult reflex to break for most social media users. You need to arrest that mindless, endless scrolling of the Instagram or Twitter feed with interesting, challenging or even controversial content. The more creative you are with advertising, the better.  Funny pictures, interesting quotes, even relevant video links can capture attention from your potential customers. Posting unique messages on social media will set your brand apart from other companies that offer similar products.  A customer will remember a funny picture advertisement that made them laugh for far longer than they would a boring sales slogan. Don’t forget the power of the share. They will also be more likely to spread that funny ad and tag their friends in it--creating, even more, potential customers.  For instance, “going live” is a newer social media feature that many companies can utilize to engage their customer audience. This feature could be used to show sales in real time, to introduce members of a store team, or to showcase an event and create buzz.  Using creative hashtags or employing instagram influencers on social media to start contests can also be an effective way of getting an audience’s attention. Involving customers and starting a conversation with them online generates more views which lead to more business. Companies need to be ahead of their competition by displaying an online presence that makes their product or service more exciting and engaging.  3. Use Social Media to Educate Using social media as an educational tool and not just for advertising can bring you more customers while also answering questions that many potential customers might have about your product before they decide to purchase it.  Businesses can creatively post facts about their company as well as answers to frequently asked questions on their social media accounts. By using this strategy, you are proactively providing customer service before a customer might individually come seeking help.  Social media helps to reach a wider audience in less time than one-on-one customer service may take. Lens.com created a customer knowledge database which compiled answers to a plethora of common questions that many customers had. This proactive educational step brought them a significant increase in customer satisfaction ratings. Giving the customer more information right up front could also lead to an increase in sales (knowledge is power, after all). 4. Take Customer Suggestions While customer complaints might seem discouraging, they are a great tool for businesses to build on. A complaint is feedback that you can use to better your product. No one can improve unless they know what it is that they are doing wrong in the first place. The only way to grow as a business is to listen to what the consumer wants, and to then give them what they asked for.  When a customer posts on social media that the ice cream shop was out of their favorite flavor, the owner of that shop can apologize, and now knows to keep more of that particular flavor in stock since it’s obviously become more popular than he/she knew. Social media provides the opportunity to connect with the consumer in an immediate and convenient way.   There is hardly anyone left in the world that doesn’t own a smartphone or tablet, and everyone checks their devices on a daily basis. Checking into social media several (and sometimes hundreds) of times a day has become the normal routine for more than 50%  of the human population. By building an eye-catching and substantial social media presence, you can make your brand indispensable to the daily lives of customers in a friendly, memorable, and non-invading way that they will appreciate.  Today, most social media platforms are interactive with one another, so it is best for businesses to keep all of their social media accounts linked. Some customers may prefer Instagram to Facebook, and if a business’s posts are shared among multiple social media platforms, they will have a higher chance of reaching a larger customer base. If brands fail to recognize the marketing tool that social media has become, they will miss out on the most impactful (and often, the most cost efficient) form of advertising and customer service that is available in this day and age.  +MORE

Caper

Caper Labs Inc.

AI Powered Retail -Checkout made easy. Just toss it in, and leave. With our next generation smart self-checkout cart, powered by deep learning & computer vision, items are instantly detected as they enter the cart. Customers can just toss the items in & leave the store.  Scan Scan the item as you add merchandise into the shopping cart. No app download required.  Pay Once you're done shopping, directly pay on the cart with your credit card.  Scan Scan the item as you add merchandise into the shopping cart. No app download required. Bag & Go Directly bag your items, skip the cashiers and be on your way! +MORE

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Singularized Product Recommendations

Tastry, Inc.

Tastry is a multidisciplinary innovator in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Analytical Chemistry which leverages hybridized Expert and Content-based Machine Learning and Flavor Chemistry to provide Multi-Criteria Recommender Systems. …we like to say we “Taught a computer how to taste”. +MORE

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The CART Virtual Pitch Event / Spring 2018

Gary Hawkins, CART

Hundreds of participants joined a distinguished panel of retailers and wholesalers on May 15th, 2018, as they stepped together into the Innovation Gap with Sterling Hawkins, Head of Venture and Innovation at CART and David Ciancio, Global Customer Strategist for dunnhumby, for the Spring Retail Innovation Pitch Event 2018.  The first-ever live webcast retail innovation pitch event, held in partnership with Winsight Grocery Business and with support from ShoptoCook and Curbside, consisted of four ten-minute pitches from udelv, BeeHex, Brain Corp and Popspots. The chosen pitch companies were selected from over 250 applicants and represent the leading edge of innovation coming into the retail industry. "Emerging technology isn’t just a possibility to consider,” said Sterling Hawkins, "it’s become a necessity as the pace of change increases exponentially in tandem with the dramatic power shift from industry-driven decisions to savvy consumers who want to be reached how, when and where they want to engage. Emerging technologies are advancing at a rate that’s almost incomprehensible. When we combine the linear trajectory that most of retail is on with what’s technologically possible, it opens up a gap, The Innovation Gap." Key retail decision-makers understand the value of working in The Innovation Gap. Importantly, it isn’t just what’s technologically possible, it has to be economically viable. “Wholesale partners and panelists make the whole thing real,” said Sterling. “It’s in this space where we get to look at the business to understand not only what we can do differently but what we can actually do better, grounded in the reality of retail operations.” Dave Ciancio reinforced the importance of stepping into the Innovation Gap, explaining how even a seasoned, entrepreneurial global company like dunnhumby, with innovation part of it’s core DNA, now looks externally to keep on top of change to best serve their clients’ more than 800 million households around the world in a 1:1 personalized conversation. Adriel Lubarsky, Director of Business Development at udelv kicked off the pitches, and appropriately set the stage when he shared, “the future is going to be remarkable!”  udelv, announced as the CART Virtual Pitch Event / Spring 2018 winner, epitomizes the exponential change in the industry. The founders’ determined strategy to bring udelv’s self-driving delivery vehicle to market years before self-driving vehicles were expected to be on public roads places them squarely in position to shape the future of autonomous delivery with technology that actually works much like a human brain to crunch data and make decisions. Large enough to handle significant loads and capable of launching in any state, udelv is currently working in multiple industries with vehicles co-designed to meet and exceed delivery expectations, even mastering the cold-chain.  As an example, udelv is delivering groceries to Draeger's customers in California with customized, honeycomb insulated compartments ensuring fresh foods stay fresh and consistently cold. They’ve even moved beyond using a mobile app with their text-to-open technology. As eCommerce explodes, the future is certainly bright for the winner of the Pitch Event. Finalist Popspots is focused on cost-effectively solving the $26 billion dollar problem of out-of stocks for retailers using in-store technology and artificial intelligence. Popspot plays in the checkout aisles with a combination of smart racks and mini-computer screens so retailers can quickly be notified of out-of-stocks and work to recoup lost sales and generate a strong ROI. Cost-effective, and with weekly reports, centralized oversight and potential to share best practices between store locations, this solution is already making great strides in the industry. The CART Virtual Pitch Event / Spring 2018 finalist BeeHex was originally funded by NASA and maintains a strong commitment to R&D with solid funding and numerous awards. While the company’s 3D printing solution can be implemented in production facilities or in-store, BeeHex feels the ideal spot is in the bakery department, freeing team members to focus on customers, and letting the machines do the work. The BeeHex 3D Dessert Decorating tool cleanly and efficiently decorates baked goods with pre-filled, disposable pouches of frosting. Capable of reducing production time on simple or complex decorating projects, BeeHex generates a quick ROI and is ready to embrace making a decorator's ideas reality. Envisioning the future, the BeeHex mission ultimately is to personalize food to the individual customer. BrainCorp is developing intelligent self-driving technology for commercial equipment and is being initially implemented with robotic floor cleaners. Their dual mode robotic floor scrubbers can work manually or autonomously and only need a single training session to learn the route around the store. These intelligent robots provide reliable cleaning, improve employee safety and maximize efficiency and productivity with in-depth reporting. Their  inter-navigation software is the company's “secret sauce’ and their capability of maneuvering in real-life situations makes them safe to use around customers. ————————————————— Join CART and Winsight Grocery Business for the Fall 2018 Retail Innovation Pitch Webcast on Wednesday, October 10th! +MORE

Customer Touchpoints and the Human Experience

Gary Hawkins, CART

I was visiting someone in the hospital the other day and, looking about the room, noticed an Amazon Echo installed on the wall opposite the hospital bed. There was a sign under the device telling patients that they could ask Alexa to call their nurse or make other requests. In speaking with the nurse I learned that Amazon is working with the hospital in a pilot to test the application of Alexa in the hospital environment. Beyond the hospital, Amazon is pushing Alexa into the hospitality industry where a growing number of hotels are putting the digital assistant in rooms so guests can request services just by asking. While this alone is fascinating, and illustrates just how far and how fast voice-based technology is moving, it really opens up a larger discussion on customer touchpoints. Retailers today have a fast growing number of ways to connect with a shopper, inside and outside the store. And, more than ever before, retailers need to be mindful of the human experience they are providing across those myriad touchpoints because in today’s digital world, user experience is everything. Consider the myriad ways a retailer can touch a shopper: In the digital world that includes the website, mobile, email, text, social media, and more. A Deloitte study calls out that “more than 60% of customers interact through multiple channels and irrespective of time, place, device, or medium, they expect consistency.” In the store, retailers can engage using kiosks, mobile, and the POS. We can’t forget about print, including the weekly ad and direct mail, along with television, radio, and other mass channels. And of course, just like in the hospital, voice will soon be everywhere. A good exercise for retail marketers to go through is to create an inventory of all the touchpoints they currently use, and then alongside that create a list of other touchpoints that could be deployed or used. Once the list of existing touchpoints is created, work to understand which shoppers are using each and why. For example, do high-value shoppers regularly use your mobile app? Do more convenience shoppers gravitate to your website?  Don’t forget about your associates; oftentimes they are the only interaction the shopper has with your business. The Wall Street Journal had an article recently about how airlines are arming their flight attendants with extensive data on their flyers to facilitate service on board. As a very frequent flyer I have experienced this firsthand, the attendant addressing me by name and asking if I would like my usual drink. Retailers have untapped potential to arm in-store associates with product and customer intelligence via smartphones to help them provide better service. One of the largest challenges traditional retailers face is having disparate capabilities and an inability to provide the seamless digital experience across devices and touchpoints that today’s shoppers are expecting… and demanding. Another Deloitte study (Customer Ambitions Delivered) states “research shows 89% of market leaders expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience - a number that has jumped from 36% four years ago. As more companies realize the benefits of engaging with their customers along every touchpoint, customers are growing accustomed to top-of-the-line experiences. Modern customers expect a tailored experience— one with flexible purchasing options, painless technology integrations, and ample opportunities to provide feedback if they receive stellar or sub-par products or services.” Retailers can then extend the inventory of touchpoints exercise, thinking through the ‘mission’ of each touchpoint and its role in growing (retailer brand) awareness, shopper acquisition, growth, and retention. Core to this is making every interaction across each touchpoint contextually relevant to the shopper. Again, the human experience is critically important. Every customer engagement at every touchpoint provides an opportunity to learn more about the shopper and, for digital touchpoints, provide a more personalized experience. To do this requires identifying the shopper as quickly and easily as possible so that you respond with relevant offers and information. Increasingly we are seeing digital displays and signage in the store incorporate cameras and other sensors able to provide additional analytics and insights to customer behavior. Best practices: Create and maintain a list of customer touchpoints used. Consider grouping the touchpoints such as digital, print, in-store, etc. to better understand your capabilities Create a ‘mission’ for each touchpoint which forces you to think through how it can be used to support shopper acquisition, growth, and retention Work to create a platform infrastructure that ‘feeds’ each touchpoint to create the seamless - and relevant - experience shoppers want Use every touchpoint and customer engagement to learn; improving the relevancy of the engagement and learning to make the touchpoint more valuable Any digital touchpoints should be fed by realtime intelligence reflecting the latest interactions the shopper has had with you _____________________________ To learn more join the CART team along with Kate Favrow, Corporate Marketing Manager for AWG, and Roger Marin, CIO of Draeger’s, for the upcoming Customer Touchpoints webinar on Tuesday, July 24, at 2pm Eastern. View article on Winsight Grocery Business here   +MORE

Mercato

Mercato, Inc.

Mercato connects you to the best artisans, purveyors and merchants in your community, making it easier, faster and more convenient than ever to get the best food - delivered.  Designed by an independent grocer from Brooklyn, NY with a mission to help local businesses compete and win.  Get your store online in minutes. ​Get inventory online Search 100,000+ items in the Mercato product catalog by name, category, or product code, or upload an inventory file to get thousands of products online in minutes. Setup delivery preferences Set your delivery zone, minimumorder value, delivery fee, maximum orders per hour, and delivery speed, or decide to outsource it to the Mercato delivery network. Go live! Your store becomes visible on themarketplace, and you can start accepting orders. Order notifications are sent based on your preferences by email, sms, fax, and/or phone. +MORE

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SmartAisle

SmartAisle

SmartAisle℠ is the world’s first Voice-powered retail shopping assistant. It is an innovative new technology platform designed specifically to revolutionize the customer experience in brick & mortar retail stores. Through a combination of an intuitive Voice interface, connected LED lights affixed to the shelf and a powerful artificial intelligence engine working behind the scenes, it provides expert product recommendations, education and support to shoppers at the all-important point of decision. +MORE

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Upping the In-store Technology Game in Grocery: A Do-or-Die Proposition

Alex Goodwin, Aila Technologies

“The grocery business truly is at a digital tipping point, where every aspect of the shopper’s journey will soon be influenced by digital, and increasingly enabled by digital platforms.”                                                                                     — Chris Morley, President of U.S. CPG & Retail, Nielsen, January 2017 The summer of 2017 has seen retailers making moves to add new digital capabilities at a frenzied pace. Albertsons is revamping its e-commerce systems. Publix has declared that it will offer home delivery at all locations by 2020. Kroger is piloting “digital shelf-edge” technology that it hopes will enhance efficiencies in pricing and data collection. And that’s just to name a few. Spurred by Amazon’s surprise announcement that it would acquire Whole Foods in June, grocers and mass retailers in the food and beverage space have been racing to get a leg up on the competition by investing in technology that can capture data, create enhanced customer experiences, and activate new processes such as delivery and in-store online ordering. Amazon is a real threat to existing grocery chains, but it’s not the only one: Target is expanding its commitment to food and beverage, and the nation’s biggest retailer, Walmart, is “gaining [grocery] market share at an accelerating pace.”  With so much at stake in what amounts to a technology arms race, grocers must be strategic in the experiences they craft and the processes they enable. On the other hand, an overly cautious approach may also prove costly: as digital-first consumers are increasingly influenced by technologically sophisticated industry giants, retailers who fail to act decisively risk losing hardfought market share in this ultra-competitive industry. As the grocery world braces for increasing demands for e-commerce capabilities, grocers would be well served to consider enhancing those in tandem with their in-store digital offerings.  The Online Challenge To date, online ordering only accounts for roughly 3% of grocery sales in the US, according to the Shelby Report, although that number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. While the last-mile logistical hurdles continue to be problematic, the one big edge that e-commerce gives retailers comes in the realm of data collection.  Every digital transaction provides a wealth of sortable data about shopping habits such as purchase history and frequency. It also provides an array of opportunities for personalizing the interaction. For instance, digital platforms offer numerous options for delivering product recommendations based on past purchases or to pair with products already in the virtual shopping cart. In addition to creating a more pleasant shopping experience, these are proven ways to drive revenue: a recent Mckinsey report indicated that cross-selling can increase sales by 20% and profits by 30%. Similarly, Amazon admitted way back in 2006 that 35% of its revenues come from its cross-sales and upselling efforts. While simple apps can provide automated cross-selling capabilities online, grocers must find ways to bring these and other revenue-generating opportunities into their brick-and-mortar locations. A Seamless Buying Experience, Online and In-Store With 97% of the reported $600 billion in grocery transactions each year taking place in physical locations, it is imperative that grocers provide a seamless experience across all shopping channels. Brick-and-mortar stores must be able to deliver the same capabilities that customers are increasingly expecting when they order online — ever smoother and more efficient transactions, as well as product recommendations, loyalty rewards and discounts, and enhanced brand interactions.  The future of grocery will be built upon an in-store digital infrastructure made up of a series of connected devices capable of bringing the convenience and personalization of the digital world into the supermarket aisle. This infrastructure can solve discrete problems for consumers — wayfinding, detailed product information, line-busting, product recommendations, couponing, and more. At the same time, it will serve more broadly as a platform for innovation for retailers, to experiment with exciting new brand experiences and digital efficiencies.  The traditional, bulky, custom-built legacy hardware systems simply don’t have the versatility to keep up. Furthermore, in an industry in the midst of transformational changes, investing in expensive, single-purpose devices risks locking companies into operational workflows that might soon be obsolete. Instead, the infrastructure of the future will likely be built upon powerful consumer-oriented mobile devices. Today’s tablets and smartphones possess the features and functionality to enable solutions that solve current needs, such as in-store price checking kiosks, ordering stations, and POS systems, while also providing the hardware capabilities and flexibility to enable a nearly limitless array of future experiences and use cases.  Retail stores today must act as showroom, warehouse, and fulfillment center, providing both product and information wherever and however their customers need it. To enable this, retailers will be well suited to have the following components in place:  A digital infrastructure (from price checkers to point-of-sale terminals to associate handheld tools) that delivers a seamless digital experience throughout the store, while also tracking data for analysis and optimization of the customer experience, inventory management, store layout, product location, and more. Smart handheld devices that empower associates with full access to product information and customer needs, improving efficiency and productivity. In-store kiosks that offer a branded, user-friendly interface that will make the in-store experience as convenient as shopping online, maximizing next-gen technologies. These tools are available now, and the grocery tech race is already well underway. To maintain the status quo or move slowly is to sink into obsolescence. Bold, decisive action to infuse brick-and-mortar supermarkets with the best elements of the digital experience will be critical to surviving grocery’s ongoing transformation. +MORE

Pace of Innovation -- Shattering the Status Quo

Gary Hawkins, CART

Retailers are shellshocked by the increasing pace of technology fueled innovation that is transforming and disrupting the industry. It seems not a week goes by that we don’t read about yet another new competitor entering the grocery space or some new innovation being rolled out by an existing competitor. Case in point: Kroger’s recent announcement that it is deploying its Shop, Scan, and Bag self-shopping solution at 400+ stores. This in response to Amazon’s cashier-less Go store pilot and Walmart’s similar self-shopping solution. Supermarket retailers are challenged on several fronts relative to innovation. It is nearly impossible for a retailer to be aware of all the new innovation entering the market. As an example, CART reviews an estimated 100 new solutions each month. Beyond awareness though is the challenge of deciding what areas to focus on (supply chain, distribution, marketing, store operations, etc.) and deciding what specific solution to pilot. And then having to decide what new capabilities to deploy across operating stores. Having efficient operations, quality foods, and great pricing and service is simply the cost of entry to supermarket retail. The new battleground is innovation. This is a new world for retailers to navigate. As an example, we see too many retailers implementing different digital capabilities in a piecemeal fashion rather than working towards a cohesive and comprehensive platform. The self-shopping capability mentioned earlier is a great example. Some retailers are trying to implement this kind of capability through a third-party app or a separate app rather than bundling it into one mobile app for their customers. Shoppers are after an omni-channel, seamless experience, not being forced to interact with different apps or systems to do business with a retailer. CART is here to help. We’re able to leverage our strong retail experience, industry knowledge, and unique insight to new capabilities and innovation flowing into the market to help retailers understand where they are today relative to their competitors and best-in-class retailers. Developing an innovation roadmap is important to help in prioritizing what new innovation to focus on and to create a foundation capable of adapting to new capabilities and technologies as they come into the market. +MORE

NRF 2018: Tech-Fueled Innovation in Retail -- The Future is Here

CART

Thoughts on NRF 2018… So I just returned from a jam-packed three days at the NRF Show in New York city. I’ve attended NRF for a number of years now and was struck by how big and how busy the show was this year. The attendance on Sunday and Tuesday was strong but the number of people at the show and on the exhibit floors on Monday was just mind-blowing. It may have been the busiest single day that I’ve seen. Many international retailers were there along with the usual extensive array of retailers across many verticals from the US. My feeling is that a growing number of retailers understand the importance of innovation to their businesses and that is a key driver for the activity at the show. Some years there is a common thread that seems to run across many of the exhibitors. This year that ‘link’ was artificial intelligence - everyone was talking about AI and how it was part of their solutions. While some of this is real, AI has quickly become the latest buzzword and is already overused. AI is no longer (nor was it ever) it’s own thing but rather AI technology is being incorporated into a fast growing number of solutions and applications, powering more effective capabilities. Robots were out in force with several robotics companies represented. Marketing personalization was well represented along with many other areas. The main exhibit floor is packed each year with the big established solution providers like Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, NCR, Toshiba, and many others. The NRF Show gets more interesting on the lower level exhibit floor where smaller (sometimes younger) companies are exhibiting and that’s where you can find more innovation. And then there was Retail 20/20 where young innovative solutions were showcased. This area drew a lot of attention. I think more than anything the NRF Show this year represented the diversity of tech-fueled innovation that is coming into the retail industry and the challenge for retailers to try and keep up with new innovation. Here are a few of the cool technologies CART tweeted about: Inventory Scan Complete!  #NAVii Optimizing your inventory with #Robotics  Discover consistent accurate & never-before-seen insights of your inventory   Fellow Robotics  How cool is this? It’s magical @perchexperience physically-aware displays sense when shoppers approach, touch and pick up products and responds with dynamic media  Perch Interactive @kroger #EDGE #Smart Shelf interacts w/shoppers using Kroger mobile app & can detect their location in the aisles, offer tailored promotions based on purchasing habits & highlight items on their #grocery lists as they pass by Edge - Edgewater Wireless Exciting news! Facebook and RetailNext Collaborate to Provide Greater Insight into Store Shoppers  RetailNext It’s really cool how @Integem_Inc Holographic #AugmentedReality system intelligently recognizes people and body movements, then immerses them into a virtual world in real-time. Integem Inc. @LocusRobotics innovative autonomous mobile robots make it easy to optimize your warehouse operation, respond to #ecommerce volume growth & seasonal peaks while giving you control over your labor costs Locus Robotics See @RenttheRunway’s Senior Director of Engineering demo how RTR uses Aila’s Interactive Kiosk to streamline in-store operations and create better customer experiences via @AilaTech Aila Technologies @Mike_Mack CEO & Fract co-founder @NRFBigShow Enhance #CustomerExperience with @fractInc Fract is winner of CART’s May 2017 #PitchEvent Fract helps #Businesses increase market share of their locations with a geospatial #AI platform fract™  @BNRobotics drives autonomously through aisles doing “basic stuff” -like taking care of tedious shelf-auditing tasks- allowing employees to focus on more important things Bossa Nova Robotics +MORE

Personalized Wellness

Gary Hawkins, CART

The massive food and healthcare industries in the United States are largely disconnected, though they touch nearly every consumer every day. Imagine the person who goes to the doctor and receives a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, given a prescription for Metformin, and told to exercise and watch their diet. Returning home, the same person finds a mailer from their local supermarket with special prices on soft drink, ice cream, and potato chips. This concerning scenario and similar others play out every day for millions of Americans.  The result of this institutional schizophrenia? Exploding healthcare costs and poor health conditions for millions of people. The Milliman Research Report 2017 states that annual medical costs for a family of four will be $26,944 this year. For the first time in over 20 years life expectancy in America has declined. The bottom line is that healthcare costs are no longer sustainable at the individual, business, or government level. Something must give. Technology is powering a new paradigm in which healthcare and food are merged together to improve the human condition: Personalized wellness. Personalized wellness bridges the chasm by leveraging nutrition science, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and consumer technology to guide each person to foods and products beneficial to their individual health condition and aligns food manufacturers, retailers, employers, and managed care organizations to a singular focus: Improving and maintaining the well being of the individual. It is only now that the data and the technologies are available to create the personalized wellness paradigm envisioned here. Deconstructing nutrition information to countless data attributes enables powerful linkage between health conditions and the hundreds of thousands of food products available across the United States. The ability to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to personalize, at a product level, food recommendations that are beneficial to each individual is only recently available. And what makes it all work is the ability to convey personalized food guidance to the individual via the smartphone in hand while in the store aisle. “Food is the area consumers really want to deal with the most,” states Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, health economist for Think Health. “Nobody really wants to take medicine. People would rather project-manage health through food as prescription. A recent meeting with a physician group highlighted the shortcomings of efforts to date as doctors explained patients forget nearly everything within 24 hours of leaving the office. Perhaps what is most powerful about the personalized wellness vision is that everyone across the food-healthcare supply chain benefits from improved outcomes and quality of life for the individual. Retailers gain stronger customer relationships as they come to be viewed as true partners in wellness and consumer goods brand manufacturers have a path to redemption from the processed foods abyss. Employers and managed care organizations who shoulder a substantial portion of healthcare cost finally have an ability to link improved eating to performance based measures, providing the foundation for meaningful incentives to encourage the sought-after healthy behavior.  The vision of a new model joining together the massive healthcare and food industries is powerful. The data and the technology needed to make personalized wellness a reality are available today. Participants across the food-health supply chain - managed care organizations, employers, providers, food manufacturers and retailers -  are already coalescing around the personalized wellness vision, bringing it to life and improving the human condition. +MORE

Stepping into the Gap at the NGA Show 2018

Gary Hawkins, CART

Wow! The NGA Show 2018 was non-stop excitement from our opening presentation on Sunday afternoon to the Innovation lounge to the last moments on the exhibit floor.  It was powerfully exciting to see independent retailers embrace new innovation - an estimated 250 retailers attending the Industry Innovation session that CART delivered on Sunday afternoon. Independent retailers were taken on a journey into the innovation gap - the growing gap between traditional retailer deployment of new capabilities and the exponential growth of tech-fueled innovation. CART coordinated a pitch event as part of our Industry Innovation session on Sunday afternoon where four exciting young companies showcased indoor farms, eCommerce delivery capabilities using an automated delivery vehicle, in-store shopper analytics, and awesome augmented reality to capture and engage shoppers. And that was just the beginning! Four sponsors providing innovative solutions anchored the Innovation Lounge: Birdzi’s comprehensive digital customer engagement platform, ScriptSave’s Personalized Wellness program, Daisy Intelligence’s AI powered promotion optimization, and Rosie’s eCommerce solution. Each company provided an educational tech talk on Monday and Tuesday of the show to help retailers understand the power of leveraging technology to drive business success. The innovation flowed into the exhibit floor with great displays from over a dozen companies in the CART Pavilion helping attract just non-stop traffic as retailers visited the CART pavilion to learn, engage, and build relationships with key innovative solution providers that can help grow store sales and engage customers. The 2018 NGA Show was the most exciting and powerful CART event yet and planning has already started for the 2019 Show that’s going to be held in San Diego. Make sure its on your calendar! +MORE

Turn "Pesky Donation Requests" Into a Customer Loyalty Goldmine

Drew Honeycutt, Planet Fundraiser

In a 2017 study put out by Cone Communications, research shows that 90% of customers are more loyal to, trusting of, and have a more positive image of a company that supports a charitable cause. It’s not a PR headache, it’s a massive (and largely untapped) opportunity for businesses willing to invest in their communities. Not only that, but it’s increasingly important for retailers to be able to understand how marketing spends can be correlated with in-store purchases.  Community engagement and charitable giving now closely parallel an effective customer loyalty strategy. That’s why it’s vital for businesses to start turning those “pesky donation requests” into tools to attract and retain customers. The donation request problem Donation requests are difficult to manage, at scale, for three primary reasons: 1. )  A burden on store owners and managers Store owners, managers, and employees are often asked the same question, “Will your business make a donation to our school or non-profit?” And it’s not just once or twice a week. Some of the retailers that we work with at Planet Fundraiser claim to field something like 15-20 requests per week, per location. Not to mention the requests that come in at a regional or corporate level. It’s an administrative burden for store managers and employees. When you have to say, “No,” it’s a missed opportunity to connect with customers on a personal level. Think about it - when a customer is taking time out of their day to track down a manager or decision-maker and ask for help, that’s when your business can provide tangible, personal value. Most businesses would love to have this sort of customer engagement and feedback, but the lack of a process deters a deepened relationship. These are the types of customers that you want coming back to your grocery store or restaurant - they’re committed to their community and they frequent your business. Simply having a process in place could make all the difference. 2.) Tracking, Admin, and Analytics It’s understandable to see why store owners and managers might choose to focus on other aspects of their business that more clearly affect your bottom line. The trouble is that charitable giving can be a significant driver of customer loyalty, which directly affects your bottom line. If your business lacks insights about its charitable giving, you might be missing out on the bigger customer loyalty marketing picture. Many times, businesses have a system in place, but the burden falls on a single person like a store manager or regional marketing manager who lacks a solution or the time to properly analyze its effectiveness. Tasking out an entire community engagement system to a single person, who might not have an analytical background, isn’t exactly a process. What’s more, most charitable giving that’s done by businesses isn’t tracked as thoroughly as it could be. For many businesses, it’s not worth the investment to look into what was paid out and to which community groups. This has a negative effect on reporting and all you’re left with is a line item at the end of the year. 3.) Online to Offline (O2O) Marketing Return on investment from marketing and advertising efforts has always been difficult to measure, regardless of medium. For traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, it’s particularly hard to understand how marketing dollars spent on advertising build customer loyalty. The same is true of promoting the good that your business is doing in the community - you might have some ways to promote your partnership with local community groups, but it’s hard to measure the impact and tell the story.  All your efforts should answer the question: How will this affect our relationship with our customers and drive sales? Charitable giving is the hook The silver lining: Charitable giving will distinguish your brand. The traditional way to handle donation requests doesn’t work for businesses or charitable groups. Nobody likes asking for money. Businesses hate saying ‘No’ to customers. However, while donation requests might seem pesky and a chore for your staff to handle, they’re actually the solution. There are also new tools that take the hard work out of handling donation requests. For example, we at Planet Fundraiser have created a software as a service solution that provides businesses with a way to easily track and manage their charitable giving.  Here’s how businesses like Piggly Wiggly, Chick-fil-A, and New Balance use Planet Fundraiser to maximize their charitable giving dollars and create loyal customers: Customers shop and redeem charitable giving donations - When a customer shops at your store, they submit a picture of their receipt and we handle the hard stuff We handle the admin work and distribute payments to schools, nonprofits, and other community-based groups Store owners and managers view analytics and get insights into their charitable giving A charitable giving promotion allows your business the flexibility to give as your customers shop, establishing a direct correlation to sales. New and returning patrons begin to choose your store(s) over the competitor because you’re investing in something that hits home. Translation - now you have a message that resonates, on repeat.  It’s an incredible way for you to meet your customers where they are, create a distinct competitive advantage, and increase basket sizes.  What other businesses are saying Planet Fundraiser works with thousands of businesses that are implementing our solutions into their stores and demonstrating their commitment to their communities: “We love how Planet Fundraiser gives us a performance-based way to support local schools and charities while allowing our customers to choose which cause they support.” - Andy Virciglio (Piggly Wiggly Operator) / Birmingham, AL “Planet Fundraiser has been a game changer in the way we support and develop community relationships. It’s made my job easier and allowed us to host better fundraising events and drive more traffic to our store.” - Blake Smith (Marketing Director) / Chick-fil-A (Gardendale & Fultondale, AL +MORE

Making Online Grocery Easy and Affordable for Every Grocer

Josh Ray, ShopHero

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Neilson published a study in January 2017 on the growth and future of online grocery. Among other things, they forecasted that nearly 20% of annual grocery sales would occur online by the year 2023. That was a very bold prediction about a developing part of the industry that many retailers weren’t sure about. Many I spoke with around that time had mixed feelings about online grocery.  “We tried it in the 90s and it was a big failure!” It’s true online grocery failed in the 90s. That was a long time ago and so much has changed since then. It may be tough to remember life without everyone’s favorite addiction – their smartphones – but believe it or not, there was a time when you couldn’t access everything in the world at a moment’s notice. Technology has changed the way we buy everything, and grocery is just starting to catch up. Online grocery is growing faster than anyone imagined. Amazon spent $14B acquiring Whole Foods, instantly gaining 400 distribution centers around the country from which to provide same-day delivery of grocery (including perishables). Walmart and Kroger offer online ordering in over 1,000 locations each, with plans to double the number of locations offering the service in 2018.  We’ve been working with grocers for years and watching the changes happen right before our eyes. Three or four years ago, there was a single workshop on eCommerce at the NGA show in Las Vegas. This year, there was an entire track dedicated to technology with a major emphasis on online grocery. This January, FMI and Neilson published a new study forecasting 20% of annual grocery sales to be online by 2022. In one year they saw enough growth, customer demand, and technology improvements to speed up their projections from 2023 to 2022!  Hometown grocers face more competition than ever, but they also have more opportunities to distinguish themselves from the big box stores today. Their size allows them to be more nimble and provide an eCommerce experience tailored to their community and their shoppers. The level of service they provide has always been better than the national retailers and with the right tools they can ensure their shoppers get the same great experience online that they expect in store. ShopHero is proud to work with 100’s of these hometown grocers across the country, helping them offer online ordering. ShopHero provides a while-label eCommerce site that is customized for each individual retailer. Grocers are often surprised at how easy it is to get setup with ShopHero. We work with every point of sale (POS) system, loyalty program, and wholesaler. We’ve done all the heavy lifting so the retailers don’t have to, which means stores can get online in one day. We provide images, product descriptions, nutrition facts and more for everything in the store. Our unique approach allows the store to focus on what they do best – serving their customers – while we take care of the rest. Just getting online isn’t good enough. Retailers need a true partner who understands the importance of providing world class service on every transaction. We are proud of our reputation in the industry as the best option for grocers who want to be online. We’ve built that reputation on a few key tenants – service, technology, and price. Service We truly understand the important of customer service and don’t just talk the talk, but we walk the walk. We provide live shopper support that your customers can access via email, phone, or chat. This means we are on the front lines with you. We hear the questions, comments, and concerns your shoppers have, and we make adjustments accordingly. ShopHero is the only online grocery vendor to offer this service. Technology We’ve made our technology as simple as possible, so that every grocer (even your grumpy uncle) can easily work with it. We really do all of the work to get you setup, you don’t have to worry about anything. We provide a store rep to work with you on training, support, and more – and he is available 24/7 to answer all your questions. Price We know many retailers can’t afford large setup fees and even larger monthly fees. Online grocery shouldn’t be expensive, it should be easy and affordable. ShopHero provides the industries only eCommerce plan with no monthly or annual fees. Really. No catch, no hidden costs. We value our partnerships and have structured our service in a way to show that. If you own a grocery store and you’re not online yet, we need to talk. If you’re online, but you’re paying too much or not getting the results you should, give us a call. I would love to hear about your store as well as your concerns and goals with online grocery. Our online grocery specialists work with retailers everyday. They understand the challenges and concerns you have and are happy to provide a complimentary consultation. +MORE

Us vs Amazon

Chris Cialone, Cloud Union

Amazon has forever changed the landscape of retail. Good for them. Bezos and his team identified, and then met, consumer needs; invested in innovation; positioned themselves as low price operators; and fearlessly adopted new concepts. Now it is your time. As independent grocers, you know better than anyone else what it is like to go up against the big boys. And you haven’t survived this long by trying to become just like them, you have survived by playing to your strengths. As the world has changed and as your customers’ shopping behavior changed, you’ve kept pace – you’ve remodeled and updated your stores, you’ve introduced new products and eliminated others, you’ve gone digital with your circulars and emailed out weekly specials. Now it’s time to bring your loyalty program into the new reality. And it’s your loyalty program that provides you with an extremely valuable asset against the competitive threat poised by Amazon. Why is your loyalty program important? Because adding value to the shopping experience, instead of lower price is the way the independents win. And launching or switching to the next generation of loyalty programs, just as you occasionally remodel your stores, is necessary to keep pace with changes in your current and future customer’s needs and wants. Be 100% digital. Physical loyalty cards and keytags are expensive and out-dated.  Be mobile-first. Your customers live on their mobile phones, be there with them. Be global. Bring your local products to a global audience. Be part of a coalition. Amazon is one place to shop that is comprised of hundreds of merchants and millions of products and services. Be part of a larger coalition allowing your customers to earn and redeem rewards at many places. Be in the home. Take advantage voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant services from companies like Amazon, Google and Apple. Imagine asking: “Hey Alexa, what is my store’s rewards points total?” or “Hey Google Assist, can I earn points when I buy items in the produce department?” or “What aisle are Q-tips in?” Be part of Cloud Union. It’s how you get all this done. Independent grocers, equipped with the innovative new rewards program, can now compete on a whole new level, and at very little cost. +MORE

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