Are Grocery Retailers Chasing Shiny Objects?

Are Grocery Retailers Chasing Shiny Objects?

Gary Hawkins, CEO, Advancing Retail


I participated in a rapid-fire panel discussion at Groceryshop this past week looking at 10 different technologies for supermarket retail. It was a lot of fun speaking with Phil Lempert, Brita Rosenheim, comparing our thoughts in a lively debate that brought up some good points for retailers to consider.

Amidst the explosive growth of new innovative capabilities coming into retail, there are a number of things that seem to have been created just because technology now enables new things - not necessarily focused on solving specific issues. And we see too many retailers chasing after each new shiny object without a real plan for what they’re trying to accomplish.

I think that solution providers should focus on what problems they are helping solve for the retailer, or what benefits they help create for the retailer or shopper. Broadly speaking, new capabilities should help the retailer reduce costs, improve operations, or help benefit the overall shopping experience. Customer facing capabilities ultimately should help the retailer attract new shoppers, grow the value of existing shoppers, or better retain shoppers over time. 

Running a retail organization, particularly a larger organization, is a complex challenge. It is an incredibly dynamic business, high sales volumes and low profit margins, that is dependent on doing a million different things well. I’d suggest that retailers can use the same lens suggested earlier for reviewing new capabilities and starting to bring some order to the chaos of new innovation. First and foremost is a focus on the customer and understanding that retail competition has shifted from mass promotion to share-of-wallet and shopper lifetime value. 

About the Author

Gary Hawkins is the founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART) and leverages his unique knowledge and view to new technologies to shape the future of FMCG retail. Retail Mindsteps serves as Hawkins’ personal blog and repository of the myriad articles and papers written for industry publications where he distills the complexity of tech-fueled retail innovation into digestible and actionable insights. Hawkins is the author of three books including the latest, Retail in the Age of ‘i’, that explores the future of retail propelled by the exponential growth of technology. Hawkins is a regular guest lecturer at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in addition to keynoting retail conferences in the US and abroad. He can be reached at

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