E-commerce

Timing is everything and ‘your newest team member’ is right on time!

Lan Nguyen, Marketing Manager, Bossa Nova Robotics

With AI and data from your newest team member, retail work has never been easier. Bossa Nova, a leader in creating autonomous service robots for the global retail industry, tracks inventory plus store and shelf conditions in real-time. Its solution delivers data with speed and accuracy. By reducing inventory time, Bossa Nova is able to provide real-time data for stock levels with improved accuracy. So how does this translate to a financial gain for retailers? First, by automating mundane tasks, employees are happy and happy employees make a happier retail environment. You might wonder how many hours are spent on mundane tasks such as inventory audits.  There are 30,098 items in the average grocery store. A typical Target store has around 80,000 SKUs and a Walmart supercenter sells up to 120,000 items. It takes about 20 human hours to audit 10,000 products. Following this logic, an average grocery store would require over 60 hours per store,  160 hours per store for Target, and a whopping 240 hours auditing shelves at a Walmart Supercenter. It’s easy to see how grocery stores following the recommended minimum quarterly inventory schedule forfeit a high proportion of human working hours to this task. For those that audit monthly, the labor costs are even more tremendous.   Bossa Nova helps retailers automate these inventory audits and monitor shelf-conditions in parallel, scanning an 80 linear foot aisle in 90 seconds with 98% accuracy. Through automation, employee focus can be shifted to more action oriented, customer-centric tasks, while the Bossa Nova robot detects anomalies in shelf conditions, covering everything from addressing out of stock and misplaced items, to pricing, and more. This shift in employee focus to the customer directly translates to higher shopper satisfaction and increased loyalty. It is estimated that out of stocks cost retailers over $129 billion in lost sales in North America - a loss of -4% of revenue annually. (the cumulative worldwide cost of out-of-stocks for retailers has now reached over $984b) A study conducted by MIT Supply Chain Management Research determined that 78% of products that are not on the shelves (i.e out of stocks) are actually on-hand. Given this, a majority of out of stock issues can likely be resolved in-store. Inventory replenishment is critical to success, and those tasks need to occur at store level. Having the right products in the right place when consumers are looking for them (both online and in-store) allows sales to escalate and deliver a sales velocity that makes the most effective use of each square foot of space. Bossa Nova is committed to maximizing this efficiency by gathing  reliable, real-time data that delivers task oriented, actionable items. Efficient inventory control improves speed to shelf by alerting store-level associates of inventory on hand, as well as buying desks / suppliers of true OOS situations. Through computer vision implementation, retailers can accurately assess, and more importantly, address in-store conditions in real-time, across all locations. Real-time accuracy is not only important to retailers, but it is also important to your shoppers. By having accurate inventory, confidence thresholds for item availability can be increased for both in-store and online shopper inventory inquiries. In fact, 81% of shoppers do research online before visiting a physical store for what they want to buy, yet only 27% of retail sites provide store level inventory. When the robot “wheels” into your stores, you will be saving intensive labor hours and improving your store conditions with unmatched accuracy. Bossa Nova has the credibility and experience to help retail operations realize the return on investment and successfully integrate with existing platforms and systems. There are two popular sayings that really affect your bottom line: “Timing is everything”, and “Time is money”, and in business, money really is everything. While many technology companies are still working to surmount the bell learning curve of applied technology, Bossa Nova is equipped with extensive retail experience and has been trusted by operations and IT professions to successfully integrate and lead this huge step in retail automation. With accurate inventory management, you can increase your revenue potential and more accurately can forecast the future. +MORE

Autonomous Delivery Vehicles- Why They Matter, and How They Work

Adriel Lubarsky, Director of Business Development, udelv

Think of your supply chain. It probably looks something like this. Product gets shipped on a line-haul truck to a warehouse or storage facility Product gets delivered by box truck to retail location Product is purchased at the store (deliveries end) OR online, requiring one more delivery to get the product to the customer’s home While growing consumer demand means this supply chain must grow as well, delivery growth faces two major bottlenecks- the availability and the cost of drivers. As recently as 2017, the American Trucking Association reported a shortage of 45,000 drivers. This trend will continue as fewer young people seek work as drivers because of the high-risk and high-stress work of a full-time driver. Meanwhile, customers are ordering more, and delivery is gaining popularity. There are simply more deliveries than there are drivers to make them. Your business may feel this pain. While the entire supply chain feels the stress of driver shortages and autonomous vehicles will impact every leg of the journey, this post will focus on the last mile- delivering goods to the end customers. -Think about your delivery business. When did you start? The most prescient of you launched home delivery well before the dawn of the internet. Phone orders would come in, you’d load a van, and deliver the goods. This early experience likely helped delivery become a substantial part of your total sales volume. Boy, aren’t you happy you started early. Others of you are just beginning to experiment with delivery. Amazon’s recent purchase of Wholefoods made it clear that delivery is an enormous opportunity. And if you don’t go after it soon, you’ll fall behind. Whether your business was one of the first to do deliveries or is just getting into the market, know this:  e-commerce made up just 10% of all retail in 2017 and is expected to double in the next 5 years. That’s right. Imagine hiring and managing 2X as many drivers as you have now. Imagine the logistics of 2X as many orders. Imagine the costs of delivery- which seem high now- doubling by 2022. Imagine everything in your supply chain doubling- except for your bandwidth, and the price you can charge. It’s hard to imagine. And unless your business innovates in a major way, costs will grow, hiring will become ever-more-difficult, and you’ll miss the opportunity of delivery on a large scale.   To combat this disparity between growing demand for delivery and shrinking supply of drivers, autonomous vehicles are beginning to enter the supply chain.  These vehicles enable a safer, cleaner, and more efficient supply chain. Because they don’t get tired or distracted, autonomous vehicles can work longer hours and with fewer accidents. Because they don’t speed or brake hard, they use less gas and better maintain engines and brakes. And because they can be smaller and lighter than traditional vehicles, they can move goods faster and more effectively. With all these benefits, autonomous delivery vehicles have a lot to offer the typical supply chain- especially in the last mile, where drivers and gas make up almost 70% of the cost.  So all of this sounds pretty good. You read this article, and like the idea of a self-driving delivery van. You have a few meetings, look at some numbers, and are ready to purchase your first autonomous delivery vehicle. But how does an autonomous delivery actually work? -Since the driver isn’t there (obviously) to load, unload, and deliver goods, Merchants and Customers need to play a larger role in this process.  MERCHANT PROCESS A Merchant, as we define it at udelv, is anyone who will be loading the vehicle. This might be a grocery clerk, warehouse employee, or dedicated picker/packer. With udelv, it takes two steps. Share orders Load orders Share orders Since you can’t hand a piece of paper to a driver who punches an address into the GPS, you’ll need to share order information with the autonomous vehicle in advance. You can do that with any delivery management tool (like OnFleet). or an easy entry tool on the udelv website. Algorithms then do what was previously a manual task. They route and schedule the deliveries, and let your customers know what day and time they can expect their delivery. Most importantly, the times are in 15-minute windows, providing your customers amazing visibility and convenience (more on this later). Load orders All of your orders are input into the udelv Merchant app. When the vehicle arrives at your store or warehouse, or other loading location, you can open your app and see all your orders for the day.  Select an order, pick a compartment, and load it the order.  If you need to double check an order or fix something, you can go back and re-open any compartment. All of this takes less than 10 seconds/order. CUSTOMER PROCESS As a Customer, everything about autonomous deliveries needs to be as good or better than the current experience. Here, the focus is on convenience and easy access. Convenience With an autonomous vehicle, customers can track their order at every step in the process. Tracking provides peace-of-mind and greater trust in the Merchant and delivery process. Knowing the arrival time ensures that customers are available to receive the order. Standard 2-3 hour delivery windows force Customers to wait around impatiently and powerlessly. An autonomous vehicle’s precise tracking and 15-minute delivery windows means that Customers can schedule their days accordingly, transforming delivery from a chore into a pleasure. Easy Access Getting a delivery from the vehicle into the customer’s hands is all about empowering the customer. The first step is ensuring the Customer knows when and where the order will arrive, so they can be available. The second step is getting the customer to retrieve the order. Autonomous delivery companies can provide access to compartments through keypads, apps, text-to-open tools, and more. And once a customer removes their order, the vehicle continues to its next destination- safely and cheaply. Autonomous delivery vehicles promise to make deliveries cheaper for Merchants, more convenient for Customers, and more sustainable for the economy and the environment. To take advantage of the benefits, Merchants should start thinking about and testing autonomous deliveries today. Just like with innovations of the past, from e-commerce to mobile apps, the Merchants who take advantage of autonomy the earliest will see benefits the soonest. If you’re interested in learning more about piloting an autonomous delivery vehicle, visit udelv.com/FAQ or email sales@udelv.com +MORE

Are you Leaving Profits in the Basket? 10 Secrets to Increase Basket Size Week After Week

Dan Dashevsky, My Cloud Grocer

Independent supermarkets that offer products both in-store and online have an online basket size averaging between $120 and $184, based on the recent Brick Meets Click study. This compares favorably to Amazon Fresh at $84; Instacart, $98; Fresh Direct, $105; and Peapod, $147, as reported by 1010data. Out of 19 independent banners participated in the BMC study, Breadberry supermarket in Brooklyn, New York, had an online basket size of $184, the largest reported. Many of MCG’s clients have similar or even larger basket sizes than Breadberry’s. These 10 secrets have enabled our clients to achieve such outstanding results.   1.     Speed matters. Website visitors tend to care more about speed than about the bells and whistles we might be tempted to add to our websites. Google did an interesting experiment with regard to load times, asking web surfers if they would rather see 10 or 30 search results at a time. The users agreed that 30 results per page sounded like a good idea. Google then implemented this on some of their results pages. The shock came when traffic to pages that displayed 30 results dropped an astounding 20%. Google then tested the loading time difference between the 10- and 30-result pages. They found that this was just half of a second. So page loading time has been shown to be a crucial factor in user retention. It is also becoming a more important factor in search engine rankings. 2.     Product photography. The images on a site are another important factor. High-definition, mouthwatering pictures make a big difference when it comes to food shopping. Many website owners opt for the easy solution, and only display product images they can easily obtain from publicly available databases such as Kweeki and Item Master. These databases do not include all products, however, and image quality is often poor and inconsistent. The time and effort invested in high quality product photography to ensure that every product carried in the store is online and has a beautiful image pays good long-term dividends. 3.     Less is more. Instead of cluttering pages with as much product info as possible, keep it simple. Make the product image and a brief description the center of attention. Then you can add to the page some relevant and popular products to help customers remember to buy products that they may otherwise forget. 4.     “Shop by recipe.” Customers are looking for creative ideas to keep their meals fun. With a Shop by Recipes feature, they can find a recipe, click, and send ingredients to their shopping cart. The more interesting it is to browse your online store, the more your customers will buy from you. 5.     “My favorites.” Customers complete their shopping list much faster when they start with a pre-populated list of the products they normally buy. Once they are done with the basics, they have time to browse for more products, adding to the total basket size. 6.     Digital circulars. Everyone loves savings, and the more the better. Having plenty of items on weekly specials not only increases your in-store traffic but also increases your online basket size. Your printed flyer can only fit a limited number of items before it begins to look like a flea market and becomes impossible to read. Online, there is no limit to how many items you can display on special. Customers simply flip to the next page and keep on adding savings to their shopping cart. 7.     Quick re-order. By giving customers the ability to quickly send all the items from their previous order directly to their shopping cart, you’re simplifying their life and minimizing the possibility that they may forget an item or two. 8.     Keep it fresh. Let’s face it, shopping for groceries is not a recreational activity, but if you keep on introducing new products, it becomes more interesting, and this too will be reflected in your basket size. 9.     Accurate order fulfillment. Customers who are using your online order service are doing so for convenience, They want to save time for other priorities. If you fulfill their order quickly, and most important, accurately, you will see many more orders and higher order amounts now that they have trust in your service. Many MCG clients see increase in online basket size with customers who are placing their third and fourth orders. Once they develop the trust in your service, they will reward you with loyalty and larger basket sizes. 10. Good customer service. As in brick and mortar stores, good customer service is the key to success. This is what differentiates you from your competitors. Be ready to replace the not-so-fresh strawberries that a personal shopper put into a customer’s bag by mistake. Customers will buy more online from you if they are confident that if something is not satisfactory you will take good care of them. +MORE

udelv

udelv

udelv is the first custom-made, public-road autonomous and electric delivery vehicle. udelv's vehicle will bring forth a dramatic decrease in the cost of local deliveries, add delivery window flexibility, and significantly reduce a city's carbon footprint. Clean and affordable deliveries mean reimagining city life, and revolutionizing business. +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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Crowdsourced Picking&Delivery for eCommerce

ReadyCart.co

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Crowdsourced Picking&Delivery Technology for retailer's eCommerce solution - laser focused around maximizing customer satisfaction and retailer profitability. ReadyCart Crowdsourced Picking&Delivery Technology Crowdsourced network build and eCommerce integration Retailer specific training collaboration and creation Network onboarding and ecosystem to handle training, scheduling, payment etc. Crowdsourced Picking&Delivery Technology  Picking&Delivery App Delivery Analytics Portal +MORE

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Robots for Retailers

Bossa Nova Robotics

It is estimated that out-of-stocks account for -4% loss in revenue, not to mention the possible long-term effects of losing loyal shoppers. Great shelving conditions can lead to great shopping experiences. Bossa Nova is the leading developer of robots designed to provide real-time inventory data for the global retail industry. Our retail service robot autonomously tracks inventory and the true state of in-store conditions to seamlessly deliver actionable tasks benefiting retailers through efficiencies and accuracy.   Ensure implementation and maximize operational efficiencies by relying on the retail experience and expertise of Bossa Nova. Our trusted team makes it work for all retailers - helping them turn real-time data into actionable tasks and insights.  Real-Time, Accurate Inventory Data Product Availablity with Efficient/Actionable/Timely Replenishment Real-time Corrective Actions to Remedy Merchandising, Pricing and Promotion Compliance  +MORE

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Turnkey Online Shopping

CART

Supermarket operators are being pushed to put in place online shopping capabilities to maintain their revenues and market share as grocery shopping moves online at a fast-growing pace. Many industry studies are projecting that 10% to as much as 20% of sales may move online within the next five to eight years. Other studies show that grocery eCommerce sales are growing over 20% annually compared to the low growth, many times stagnant, sales in brick & mortar retail. GrocerKey is one of many... +MORE

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My Cloud Grocer Solution Guide

CART

My Cloud Grocer provides a retailer-branded online shopping solution to supermarket retailers. The online shopping site is responsive (will display properly on desktop, smartphone, and tablet screens) and features fast load times and payment functionality using token technology surpassing PCI compliance. My Cloud Grocer provides the retailer with support for picking, managing, and delivering orders. The company’s retail clients have experienced increased overall sales, due to reduced scatter... +MORE

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Award-winning eCommerce solution

My Cloud Grocer

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My Cloud Grocer is an award-winning eCommerce solution designed to help supermarkets thrive in a competitive digital world. Offering a robust, customizable virtual storefront, My Cloud Grocer’s top-rated white label platform powers and integrates the full shopping experience, from initial order to the customer’s door. Our clients see lower operational costs and consistently outperform competitors, enjoying the largest weekly sales and online baskets in the industry. +MORE

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Freshop

Freshop

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Freshop provides a friendly, powerful shopping destination that will make your customers happy and loyal. Online commerce sales are increasing every year and consumers are more and more comfortable ordering produce and other perishables online. To compete grocery stores must become destinations and Freshop makes your digital presence a strong destination to complement your in-store experience. Our team has worked with some of the top minds in grocery and we have layered those experiences with our unsurpassed knowledge and skills in the digital world. Web, social, search, commerce and analytics are what we live and breathe. Freshop is easy to use on any device. Web visitors can explore all of your products and services and quickly plan their meals and shopping. Your mobile customers will have the full power of the system with streamlined experiences to exceed their expectations, driving more business to your stores.   +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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Digital Foodie

Digital Foodie Ltd.

Digital Foodie Ondemand provides a fully customizable SaaS platform for digital grocery. The platform is used by major retailers and brands, operating currently in North America, Europe and Asia. For consumers, Foodie provides apps that empowers people to shop online, consume smarter and eat better. Foodie delivers highly personalized food and product recommendations that make everyday shopping easy and fun. For retailers, the platform provides all the tools needed to run modern digital operations including click and collect service and home deliveries. Digital Foodie Ondemand platform is currently available on web, iPad, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. Digital Foodie is venture-backed by US based e-commerce growth fund, Blackdragon Capital, and part of their EnterWorks Holding group portfolio. Today they employ grocery industry experts and technology specialists in two different continents and several locations. Foodie’s award-winning recommendation technology ensures truly personalized omnichannel experience for consumers, increasing loyalty and sales. The service enables consumers to create and share shopping lists, make click & collect and home delivery orders and plan their weekly menus with “one click to cart” –recipes.  Foodie’s fulfillment tools are designed for real-time order management and they enable cost efficient picking and delivery processes. For back office Digital Foodie provides all the administrative tools needed for creating and managing store content and for monitoring, measuring and optimizing service performance. Foodie’s platform scales from independent store owners to very large enterprises.   +MORE

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GrocerKey

GrocerKey

GrocerKey is a white label end-to-end technology solution for grocery stores. Included is a branded web site featuring an online store. GrocerKey has created a faster and more desirable ordering process than any other e-commerce grocery platform on the market. The GrocerKey admin allows you to update store settings in real time, stay on top of your stores performance with real time analytics, and prepare your store for pickup, scheduled delivery, and on-demand delivery. The GrocerKey back-end operations app provides your staff with the tools they need to run an efficient and successful operation. +MORE

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It’s Independent Retailers Who Are Better Poised to Take Advantage of Technology


Chris Cialone, Wonder Rewards, Director of U.S. Sales Operations

Usually it’s the big chains that get the credit for leveraging the latest in technological innovations. We’re all used to seeing the splashy headlines announcing Kroger, Ahold or Amazon about to launch another new tech-centric feature or capability.  And it makes sense, one would think – the big guys have the big budgets, have innovation labs, and have R&D funding.  But independents have something the retailers don’t have – faster and nimbler decision-making abilities. Unfortunately, many independents don’t capitalize on this strength, waiting instead for technology to filter down – and by then, customers aren’t as excited and any point of differentiation is long gone. Today’s regional supermarket chains should find partners that can provide them a technological edge. Companies like Wonder Rewards, who have the ability to launch a turn-key, 100% digital loyalty marketing program that drives incremental sales by attract new customers, retaining the best customers, and offers up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. Wonder Rewards uses transactional data to: Plan out a responsive customer journey Analyze data for insights and segmentation Design marketing campaigns using insights Execute those campaigns with offers and content in personalized texts, notifications or email Report on results, re-calibrate and optimize campaigns What other technology is under-utilized by independents? Globalization. Technology has made the world smaller, it is now possible for a local grocery retailer to expand their customer base to include consumers in other countries, and these consumers LOVE American-made consumer packaged goods. There is a high trust factor to consumable products made in the US under stricter government safety regulations that exists outside of the US. Technology, like that made available to independents allows products sold by grocery retailers to be sold and delivered to the doorstep of millions of consumers in Asian countries.  In another example of an attention-grabbing headline from a big chain, last August Kroger released a statement saying that “e-commerce enables Kroger to quickly scale to reach new customers and markets where we don't operate physical stores, starting with China.” And that the arrangement will “meet Chinese consumers' growing demand for high-quality, organic food products.” Independent stores can now do the same with the Wonder Rewards online marketplace. You can expand the size of your customer base from your local market area to include millions of Chinese consumers who appreciate the value and quality of American made consumer package goods.  A logistic partner manages the process from product placement on the online marketplace to shipping direct to your new Chinese customer’s doorstep. E1 Marketing Edge is an example of an emerging tech-centric company that can expand the size of independent retailers’ market from those within a reasonable driving distance to a global audience, regardless of language or culture. Interested? Stop by booth # 1204 at NGA to learn more. +MORE

The Age Of Assistance: Learning How To Survive & Thrive

Caroline Brady - Product Integration & Marketing Specialist, Pointy

The death of brick & mortar, the retail apocalypse and the closure of big box retailers have all been frequently featured news topics in the past few months. With more and more customers choosing e-commerce many brick & mortar stores are struggling to stay afloat. So what are the main influences that have caused this change in buyer behaviour? Thanks to smartphones, the process of buying online has become even easier & more efficient. Now customers can simply search for the product they want on Google and buy it from an online retailer at the click of a button. The path to purchase online is clear for the customer – the product is easy to find, its stock status is known and the delivery date is certain. By comparison, buying a product from a brick and mortar store is often a much more complicated and uncertain process. Customers often don’t know where to find the product, if it’s in stock or if the store is even open – this leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the customer. The differences between these two experiences may partly explain why more and more people are choosing online instead of in-store.  So what can retailers do to stem this flow from in-store to online and attract customers back to the main street? A good place to start is by looking at the most recent trends in consumer search behaviour and seeing how retailers can capitalize on these.  Product Searches vs Store Searches The introduction of the smartphone has changed the way we search. With ready access to a computer in our pockets people are spending huge amounts of time online but their sessions are very short. Customer’s attention spans have decreased significantly and they expect instant answers to all of their search queries. The graph below compares searches for different toy products over searches for toy stores in the last 90 days. It highlights the increase in specific product search queries and shows that customers now have clear intent when it comes to searching online. Currently, most retailers rank number one when you search for their store’s name on a search engine like Google. However, even if someone is 50 feet away from their store searching for their best-selling product, the customer is most likely going to see an Amazon result rather than their local store. In order to capitalize on this recent change in search behavior you need to display your products online. The problem is that getting all your products online requires a huge amount of work and resources. Pointy makes displaying products online a whole lot easier. We create a webpage displaying all of your store’s products together with listing key contact information for your store. These pages are optimised rank well in this changed search environment. Path To Purchase With Products Displayed Online Displaying your products online together with having key contact details present on each and every web-page for your store removes many of the barriers and uncertainties customers are currently faced with when looking to buy products in-store. By removing these barriers the path to purchase from search to sale in-store begins to look very similar to that of buying online, thereby attracting more customers back to brick and mortar stores. A recent study conducted by Google found that 50% of customers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a local business within a day and 18% of these lead to a purchase within a day. Customers who are doing local searches for products are usually in a hurry. They want the product now and they are not willing to wait for shipping. By providing customers with instant gratification brick & mortars can actually beat Amazon. Many of our Pointy retailers say that the in-store experience they provide is one of the biggest strengths. Displaying your products online means more customers finding your store and visiting it. In-store purchases will improve the likelihood of repeat visits and gives the retailer a great opportunity to up-sell. What’s more, it allows you to develop a relationship with your customers that online retailers simply cannot mirror. (Retailer Testimonials: here) +MORE

CART Weekly Report 1/10/19

CART, Center for Advancing Retail and Technology

Amazon’s cashierless Go stores could be a $4 billion business by 2021, new research suggests | Recode This should have every retailer’s attention: A new report out by RBC Capital Markets suggests that Amazon’s Go stores could be a $4billion business within the next several years. The stores, which Amazon has announced they may open up to as many as 3,000 of the format by 2021, outperform the traditional convenience stores, with the Go store doing an estimated $1.5m in annual revenue. While the stores have a high capital cost to open due to all the technology, they have lower operating costs do to not having cashiers.  Cashierless shopping is becoming a major area of interest for supermarket retailers as several tech companies are pushing hard to provide similar technology to other retailers. The latest is Grabandgo which just raised $12m in a series B; the company is apparently in agreements with 4 significant retailers and the technology can cost-effectively scale to a 100,000 square foot store.  Google Assistant nears 1 billion installs as usage quadruples | Fast Company Voice-based digital assistants are growing fast. Google projects that by the end of this month its voice assistant will be running on 1 billion devices, up from 400 million a year ago. The number of active users have quadrupled over the past year.  Google’s announcement comes on top of Amazon’s holiday season selling millions of Alexa devices. Alexa is now available on over 20,000 different devices and has over 40,000 skills, integrations with third-parties to perform certain functions based on a verbal command. While voice-based shopping has not taken off yet as some people had projected the foundation is certainly there as these assistants get smarter. Kroger, Microsoft Create Futuristic Grocery Store. Amazon, Take Note | Bloomberg Kroger is working hard to personalize the brick & mortar store in its partnership with Microsoft, focused on digital shelves. The digital shelf can show the usual product pricing information but can also show ads, and other information. Where this tech gets really interesting is Kroger’s stated ability to help eComm order pickers select the right products by ‘lighting up’ the products to be picked as the worker goes down the aisle. Even more, Kroger is linking the digital shelf to the shopper, customers using Kroger’s self-checkout app can be guided to the items on their shopping list. Similar capability can be used to target relevant items to each shopper that has opted in, Kroger lighting up items it thinks are relevant or of interest to the shopper as they move through the store. +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

As Major Grocery Retailers Continue to Invest Online, How Can Independents Compete?

By Gauri Munuswamy, Head of Sales, Mercato

Between 2013 and 2018, online sales of groceries have more than tripled, according to a 2018 report from Packaged Facts. The study predicts that as online options become more available and consumers become more comfortable buying groceries on their devices, online grocery sales will more than quadruple. It’s the tech-savvy, time-starved population, aged 18 to 35, which has propelled digital grocery shopping into one of the fastest-growing segments in retail according to USA Today. Convenience is at the top of these online grocery shoppers’ lists. In a 2017 Gallup survey, 9% of adults report ordering groceries online for pickup or delivery on at least a monthly basis, and that figure climbs to 15% among Millennials. Amazon and Walmart are the top players in online grocery, with other leaders including Instacart, Kroger, FreshDirect, and Peapod. Independents know they need to be online to compete in terms of the speed and convenience online shopping provides to consumers.  Some independents have answered that call with white label options. Others are opting for a full service solution to manage their online needs. The dilemma for independents isn’t whether they should offer the convenience of online ordering and delivery, but how to do it quickly and inexpensively without losing the in-store quality and care. With so many emerging technologies, it’s difficult to understand each option.  As a result, many merchants settle for online solutions that don’t quite offer the resources and data needed to stay ahead of supermarket chains. Getting online and integrating e-commerce is only a third of the battle, there’s also delivery and acquiring new customers.   Below are three options for independent grocers that want to offer the same convenience to their customers: 1. Build your own website To create an online store on your own, you need an e-commerce solution and often a whole new website. Independent grocers are constantly innovating and finding the most unique products on the market, but with some stores adding up to 150 new products per month - it can be difficult to find a solution on par with that kind of creativity.  You’ll also need full-time employees managing the dynamic inventory, coordinating deliveries, and handling customer service. These ongoing costs oftentimes do not prove profitable for many businesses. 2. Add a delivery service Most people order from local grocers within six miles of their home, but what about your customers that live farther away?  For those that want the convenience of a delivery service but aren't ready to get online, or their e-commerce platform partner doesn't offer delivery, using an on-demand delivery network might be the answer.  Mercato’s Order Management System (OMS) is a good first step because it allows independent grocers to tap into Mercato’s delivery network.  Stores can centralize phone and email orders by inputting customer’s information, order details, and payment information (cash or credit) for pick-up or delivery, with details accessible and centralized in one place. Mercato OMS features include: Leverage Mercato’s 10,000 plus courier network to deploy delivery within hours Search by customer name and automatically populate customer data and order history Easily organize and prioritize orders, from same-day to 30 days out Access a library of 300,000 grocery products for rapid order entry Enable targeted loyalty programs and special promotions with a robust CRM system Ensure state-of-the-art security for credit card processing and customer privacy 3. Harness the power of a marketplace Consumers use marketplaces every day to book hotels, find flights, and order food.  You can go from being a store with a simple website to also having a branded, customized storefront on a dynamic marketplace where hundreds of thousands of customers shop daily! With costs continuing to climb - for everything - from workman’s comp to the minimum wage - it’s getting increasingly  difficult to keep operational expenses down.  Working with an online marketplace and order management system can help independents streamline processes and save thousands of dollars in time and manpower. Mercato caters only to independents with technology that is customizable, built for flexibility and control. You can be as hands on or off with the platform as you’d like. The online ordering system seamlessly integrates with existing operational workflows and any existing point of sale (POS).  Rather than trying to coordinate each additional service on your own, Mercato integrates into one full-service solution and supports you with the following: Delivery - With Mercato, the store can use Mercato’s national courier network (up to 16 miles) and/or manage its own deliveries and charge by zip code. Marketing - OK, so your online store is up, but how do you drive customers to it? Many grocers partner with outside agencies while others manage the marketing themselves. Mercato offers  a complimentary marketing strategy specific to your store. It profiles existing customers, builds brand awareness to acquire new ones, and maximizes the lifetime value of each customer. Through targeted advertising on Google and Facebook, Email and SMS retention campaigns, and Mercato-funded promo codes – the system tracks which channels perform best. Service - Mercato works with you as if they were your own staff. As the son of a grocer in Brooklyn, New York, Mercato’s founder and CEO Bobby Brannigan grew up understanding how customer service and quality are at the heart of a successful independents’ business. The Mercato team embodies that same attention to customer care as a result. Each order, delivery, payment, even refund, is professionally handled so you can focus on the in-store experience. Major grocery retailers continue to double-down online, it’s an important time for independents to examine their options.  They just need to make the right choices for them, and their customers. +MORE

Local Express

Local Express

Local Express develops, builds and deploys an online grocery store in the most cost-effective and fastest means possible for ordering and delivery on the market.  We deliver turnkey digital shopping and delivery solution to grocery stores, developed by our experienced e-commerce development and content production team. +MORE

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Litmus7

Litmus7

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

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Pointy

Pointy

Get your products online instantly. More customers through your door. Your products appear online Carry on as normal. Your products will appear on your Pointy Page automatically. No data entry needed. Simple to Set Up Pointy works with your existing barcode scanner. Just plug it in and you're ready to go. No Maintenance We maintain your Pointy page. There’s no on-going work to do! Visible Everywhere From laptops to iPads and smartphones, Pointy will help people find your products.  Integrate with Google "See What's In Store" Google's "See What's In Store" gives shoppers an additional way to discover what your store sells, directly on the Google search page. It's an effective way to attract more customers.  Expand your online presence even further Pointy ProductAds is an optional feature that runs high-performing ads on Google for all your products automatically. You have total control over the daily budget and geographic targeting range. No Commitment If you are not happy, you can leave at any time. +MORE

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The Key to Driving Online Grocery Adoption

Sylvain Perrier, President and CEO, Mercatus

Online grocery sales are predicted to capture 20 percent of total grocery retail by 2025 to reach $100 billion in consumer sales, according to a study by the Food Marketing Institute and conducted by Nielsen. E-commerce grocery options are certainly expanding as major players like Amazon.com, Walmart, Kroger and more introduce new initiatives that move the needle towards greater customer adoption. However, many retailers may still be concerned about how to drive adoption, especially with these enterprise brands trying to corner the market. The key lies in specific personalization tactics throughout the e-commerce grocery experience. These tactics include a calculated combination of omnichannel excellence, data-powered personalization, and wider fulfillment options to convince shoppers online grocery is as effective and attractive as traditional brick-and-mortar. Omnichannel Excellence While e-commerce offers retailers unique personalization opportunities not awarded by the physical store, e-commerce on its own will not turn business. An integrated online and offline strategy is necessary to ensure that the customer is relevant in every aspect of the grocery experience. To create an on-brand multichannel experience, grocers must leverage their digital assets to synchronize physical and digital customer experiences by using consistent imagery, language and tone across all promotional and sales channels. This, coupled with honoring all promotions and coupons offered in-store, will enable grocers to go beyond sporadically selling products in various channels and build a multifaceted customer relationship that develops across the entire shopping journey. A complete online selection is also essential to avoid shopper abandonment and frustration. Complete in-store inventory should be offered online and, if anything, the ability to shop online should provide new possibilities to expand the range of items available for sale, creating an endless aisle; upsell and cross-sell opportunities; and attracting more shoppers. Data-Powered Personalization Shoppers expect retailers to demonstrate a deeper level of brand–customer engagement that takes their personal wants and needs into account. This requires a depth of understanding of individual attitudes, affinities, motivations, behaviors and patterns that’s derived from customer data collected in real time and connected to a platform that makes dynamic assessment and analysis possible at scale. The good news for today’s retailers is that, according to Salesforce, consumers are more willing than ever before to provide personal information if it leads to a more personalized and relevant buyer journey. Better Fulfillment and Delivery Options Grocers must implement a unified e-commerce fulfillment process that encompasses all products and services offered in-store, with added convenience to customers and the store associates assisting them. Failure to do so results in disappointing shopper experiences, online ordering hesitation and, inevitably, lost sales. It’s clear that shoppers will streamline purchases through e-commerce sites that offer the best possible delivery options. Today, this means enhanced delivery and click-and-collect options to create the most convenient experience for every customer. But it’s not enough to focus on delivery speed; you also need to ensure the sustainability and scalability of your fulfillment processes. Addressing certain customer pain points surrounding fulfillment will greatly increase shoppers’ appreciation of online options. The inability to choose and change delivery times to meet shoppers’ needs is one that ranks high. The same is true for changing orders — i.e., adding or deleting items — in progress or nearing delivery. To customers used to ordering, changing and purchasing items at the touch of a button on other e-commerce sites, difficulties in making what feels to shoppers like minor changes can be frustrating. As online grocery becomes more prevalent, it’s essential for grocers to take calculated, forward-thinking steps in order to drive adoption rates. A failure to do so will threaten the future of a grocer’s business as the industry continues to evolve with enhanced omnichannel experiences and fulfillment options. This article originally appeared in Total Retail and can be viewed here.   +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

Amazon is Not the Only Threat to Retailers as Big CPG Manufacturers Go Direct

Gary Hawkins, CART

Supermarket retailers have been consumed with Amazon over the past year as the digital behemoth acquired Whole Foods and ramped up efforts to expand its online grocery business. And while its easy to understand the focus on Amazon, retailers need to be aware of another looming threat as some of the largest brand manufacturers look to engage with shoppers directly leveraging new digital capabilities. Two years ago Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club, the direct to consumer phenom, attracted by the company’s growth and direct consumer relationships. Since then Unilever has gone on to publicly speak about the company’s goal to build a database of over 1 billion shoppers around the world which the company can leverage to communicate - and sell - directly to the shopper.  Procter & Gamble has for some time now quietly partnered with Amazon to sell its core products directly to shoppers, bypassing traditional brick & mortar retailers. P&G is committed to exploring and leveraging new channels enabling the company to build direct relationships with shoppers. Unilever and P&G are not alone in looking to seize the opportunity provided by the industry’s digital transformation and build direct relationships with the consumers buying their products. Digital marketing, especially the growth of mobile, has made it possible and cost effective for brands to bypass retailers. This trend of brand manufacturers selling directly opens a new front in the ongoing battle for shoppers.  Retailers’ response to this growing threat should be two-fold. The first is retailers leveraging best-in-class digital marketing capabilities to develop and grow customer relationships driven by contextual relevancy. The second is the strategic use of private label products, especially for regional and larger retailers who can directly control the selection and positioning of their store-brand products.  Many retailers, of all sizes, believe that brand manufacturers are dependent on brick & mortar supermarket retail to drive brand sales. Brand manufactures though regularly evaluate the cost of selling through different channels: Is selling through Costco or BJ’s Wholesale Club more profitable than selling through the regional supermarket retailer? Is selling through Amazon or Boxed more profitable? Which channel enables the brand to reach their target audience the most effectively? So while retailers must continue their focus on the threat posed by Amazon, they must also begin to consider the challenge provided by a growing number of trading partners selling directly to consumers and develop strategies to mitigate the impact. +MORE

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