Restaurant & QSR

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

Discovering the Holy Grail of Retail: Online-Offline Convergence

Sena Zorlu, Instapio

Over the past years, retailers have been investing into digital transformation, creating online stores and making their brick and mortar locations smarter. On the startup side, there has been a massive growth of retail technology companies in multiple areas to improve operations, cut costs and bring in more customers. There’s no Magical Solution Today there are multiple solutions that claim online and offline convergence. These are mainly: Data Management Platforms that will tie online and mobile identities to retailer’s offline data (CRM, POS, Loyalty) to provide historical view. Mobile Attribution and Retargeting platforms that will understand when mobile users are in your stores and retarget them with timely and relevant information. iBeacons that will help you communicate with your app users in granular proximity. Guest WiFi that requires social login or email that can be tied to your CRM. It is very confusing for retailers to understand what solution to invest in when the common value proposition is the same: we will bring you the holy grail; we will connect online with offline. However, the main problem with all these technologies is that they are lab technologies. They work perfectly in controlled environments where every condition is met. Well if all your customers download your mobile application and they turn on their bluetooth and they open the application and they stand next to this sensor than the technology works. Retailers are promised an amazing connected world where they have full control of their customers yet when these solutions are installed, the results don’t come near what was promised. This is why there are so many POC’s but so little mass deployments of technologies. Retailers need to understand that today, technologies that promise to connect them to customers are still in preliminary stages of growth. This is because there are pre-conditions for these technologies to work and consumers rarely act the way we aspire them to.  The costs and efforts associated with having every customer download and not delete a mobile application are astronomical. Even when you bear the costs, app store discoverability is really difficult and consumers are app tired, looking for a reason to delete an app. When a technology is not adopted by the masses, your results will be skewed because of the small usage base. Any A/B testing or campaign on a small sample size will lead for wrong strategy. Another blocker with mobile technologies is the device manufacturers themselves. Mobile based technologies use sensors and features within the mobile phone which puts the retail industry at the mercy of the manufacturers. So when a manufacturer decides to turn off location collection from mobile applications, your investment into mobile attribution may sink overnight. Which retail technologies will win? To be able to understand what is going on in the store environment, retailers need better data generation than what exists today. In order to take real time responsive action the way ecommerce sites can do, retailers need access to real time, contextual data that can speak with existing systems they have. Mobile apps do not fill the void of collecting this data. Meaningful information can only be collected with sensory technologies that will passively collect data from a large sample. The first result of this trend has been in-store analytics. In-store analytics has presented a better picture of what is going on in the store and help understand the funnel that leads to purchases. The next wave of technology is to improve what we can do with this sensory data. Historical analytics is nice to have but will not magically save retailers. The next wave of retail technology will come as software layer that sits on top of sensory information and will affect all operations from merchandising, real time campaigns, personalization, staffing and everything else. So what can retailers do today? One thing we know for sure is that consumer behavior is rapidly changing and brick and mortar retailers must adapt to the changes demanded by customers. Retailers must be educating themselves with new technologies and changing consumer behavior. Big box stores have built lab environments to test new technologies, the easiest thing smaller retailers can do is to dedicate one store, preferably near their headquarters as their lab environment. They can be open to testing new technologies rapidly and choose best startups that can act with a real store rather than doing a fancy presentation or a demo. Retailers need to be in the conversation of emerging technologies. There are many technology startups like us who are working for the core problems that retailers are facing today. Whatever the retailer’s size may be, a lot of startups will be open to testing and working with them to solve specific industry problems. Small and medium sized retailers can become more innovative by becoming part of the solution. Building internal teams, dedicating test stores, working intimately with startups, having leadership teams advise retail tech startups are just some of the things retailers can start with that won’t require significant budgets. What we are working on At Instapio, we have been working on unifying different identities customers have to paint a clear picture of what is happening in the store and bring aggregated insight to help retailers. Our goal from the first day was to bring the automagical aspects of online to the physical world. It’s a big challenge and there is no one shot solution to create it. It requires collecting and merging of data from multiple assets, unifying different identities, making all the data talk in the same language and delivering it to the retailer in a format that can be used. This is why we are building an ecosystem around bringing all this sensory information together and make it available to talk to management systems in real time. We are working closely with the Advancing Retail platform, very excited to learn and help solve brick and mortar business challenges. +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

Automation and Personalization of the Retail Store

Instapio Inc.

Instapio allows chain retailers to gain control of their business and automate customer experience standards. By using Instapio, retailers create seamless and intuitive locations that are responsive to the presence and habits of their customers.  The solution will operate as a decision making engine for each store and across the chain to measure millions of data points in real time, make decisions based on business priorities and optimize operations. Imagine a super store manager that oversees the everyday operations of all stores. +MORE

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DART Displays

DART Displays

DART Displays offers a way to transform the in-store shopping experience to one that is digital and dynamic, with reporting and analytics that lead to big insights about what moves your shopper to purchase.     By leveraging DART Displays structures (both permanent and flexible) you can and will create a best in class approach for enhancing the brand experience in-store.  +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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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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Darius™ for Retail

Darius Technologies

Darius for Retail is a fully integrated, cloud based shopper engagement platform. Darius delivers proven and measurable return on investment, by allowing retailers to put their shoppers at the center of everything and making it easy to engage and influence them pre-store, in-store, and post-store. Darius allows retailers to design, manage, develop and, measure interactions with their customers throughout the entire shopper journey.  The ‘tech’ bit: Darius™ is a modular ‘ecosystem’ retail technology platform that is designed to integrate and allow interaction with any existing retail systems and solutions such as Beacons, WiFi, dynamic shelf illumination, or e-coupons, and so on, to make continuous engagement with shoppers possible, wherever they are on the path to purchase. The customer experience bit: Darius™ allows retailers to put their shoppers at the center of everything by making it easy to engage and influence them pre-store, in-store, and post-store. The business bit: Darius™ delivers proven and measurable return on investment. That means more shoppers in-store, more often. It means attracting new and hard to engage shopper types. And it means bigger baskets and the increased spends that comes with that. It makes marketing budgets and, where they may already exist, retail tech investments work so much harder. +MORE

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LISNR Smart Tones

LISNR

LISNR Smart Tones inaudibly transmit data from any speaker to any microphone using a secure data-over-audio communication protocol.  Leveraging the speaker system you already have installed, LISNR Smart Tones can deliver content, information, and incentives to your shopper based on their current location and previous activity in your store.  With over 80% of shoppers using their smartphone to assist them during their in-store experience, LISNR Smart Tones provide a seamless and efficient connection between the physical and digital environment. +MORE

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App Store for Retail

Sparkle CS Ltd

Sparkle connects legacy and online retail solutions into a real-time cloud ecosystem to enable Big Data, connected store marketing and a true omni-channel customer experience.  Using Sparkle’s technology, retailers from independents to major chains have been able to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy integrated digital technology to drive customer engagement and increase sales. Extensible Framework, an app store for your POS: Our framework allows the digital world to interact seamlessly with tills.  Want your till to do something we haven’t thought of? Add another app. Making Coupons Work, Example App: Redemption Validation (RV): Our RV POS App allows digital and paper coupons to be accepted by the POS with controls against mis-redemption, reuse and fraud. Driving Out Costs, Example App: Electronic Clearing (EC): No more need for expensive clearing houses! With EC, you know who owes you what within hours. Settle via trade accounts or let us manage it for you. Cloud-based Management, Take control of your tills: Our cloud-based solution will get you up and running in no time. Change how your tills behave from your tablet in real-time. Bridging the Gap, bringing tills online: We provide a range of patented technologies that allows legacy tills, from corner shops to mainline grocers, to join the App Store for Retail. Future Proof, avoiding strategic paralysis: NFC, RFiD or QR Codes? You don’t need to guess. The App Store for Retail allows new interfaces to be plugged in at low cost. +MORE

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Balance Innovations Suite of Solutions

Balance Innovations

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Balance Innovations offers the only retail software platform that connects all points of your currency operations,  lowering the cost of accepting cash and increasing efficiency at all levels of the organization. It provides multi‐ layer security and effortless integration of all your devices and systems to give you an immediate, complete view  of your entire enterprise.  This comprehensive visibility enables you to understand what’s happening across your entire organization without tapping into multiple systems or reports. It puts all the information you need right in front of you –  customized to thresholds you choose – so you can be proactive in addressing issues before they become problems.   +MORE

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GoSpotCheck

GoSpotCheck

GoSpotCheck is mobile form and execution management software that enables team leaders to improve workforce operations. Organizations can assign tasks, analyze real-time reporting, and drive action to accomplish critical goals and objectives. +MORE

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Vegetables Shouldn’t Be the Only Green in Your Market

Rachel Prince, Business Development, Tebo Store Fixtures

Every day, millions of people go shopping for groceries. They go to large and small grocery chains, independent markets, and even farmers markets- we all need to eat. Driving to these grocery stores wastes enough emissions as is, shouldn’t your shopping experience in turn be more efficient? By adding the use of Promolux LED, Econofrost Night Covers and Digital Menu Boards, your market can go from an ordinary every day or week occurrence to a fun, engaging and more energy efficient shopping experience. The first way that your grocery store can go green while enhancing the look of your product is by incorporating the use of Promolux Lights. Promolux Lights are a form of LED lighting specifically designed for your meat, produce, and other refrigerated displays. These long-life LED lights have a low-lumen depreciation which means they last long while staying bright. They also encompass a frosted technology which provides a diffused light to deter shadows and dark spots on food to keep it looking fresh and delicious. These lights and their cool physical temperature are safe if close to food and sprinklers and when added to your market, help save energy all whilst keeping your refrigerated displays looking superior to the rest. The next option to consider, Econofrost Night Covers, focuses more on efficiency than anything else. Econofrost Night Covers are used specifically in refrigerated cases instead of using traditional mesh or plastic covers to protect perishables. These covers are more hygienic than the traditional night shields and they reduce radiation and heat transfer onto the product. By incorporating these night shields, your grocery store can save anywhere from 37-50% of normal energy use per hour- an overall 10-12% energy savings in a 24hour period. Econofrost keeps your refrigerated cases cooler during downtime and helps reduce the amount of food shrink and discard levels up to $1 per foot per day, even during power outages and natural disasters! Because of the massive energy savings involved, some grocers have been granted tax considerations for their conscientious environmental contributions. As you can see, Econofrost Night Covers are a great way to save you money as well as keep your store running green and efficient. So far, we have discussed two energy saving options which help markets stay fresh and green, but where is the excitement and fun in all of this for consumers you ask? That is where Digital Menus enter the equation. Digital Menu Boards may just be your new favorite way to display specials and entertain customers in an economically friendly manner. Joe Michaels, VP of Product Development for the Tebo team and an active NGA member for over 10 years, has designed and built menu boards specifically for independent grocers. They a great way to market high margin and signature product, increase revenue and save money. Let me take a step back and let you know what exactly Digital Menu Boards are and why they need to be included in the grocery world more now than ever. Digital Menu Boards are durable and commercial grade screens with the option to display daily or weekly menu options, specials or ads. They have the capacity to play a moving video while highlighting the screen in different areas for specials or can be a still display to your liking. Besides all the technicalities involved, Digital Menus can help a busy lunch hour or day go by seamlessly. I will explain why in a moment. The first direct energy saving aspect involved in Digital Menus come from the elimination of paper and plastic signage, therefore cutting down on waste. Digital Menus have a proven 8-22% increase in revenue when used thoughtfully in store; whether it be the deli, over the hot foods, or on top of a refrigerated case. Aside from being green from the energy standpoint, they can also be green for your pockets by bringing in more desired sales. Another great opportunity stemming from Digital Menus is that customers can easily see highlighted specials on the board which, in turn, help sway people to purchase the item in focus. Highlighted specials are a great tool to use to drive customers to purchase more profitable and signature items. Even more, on top of the many previously stated benefits of menus, is their assistance with perceived wait times. From experience, I have noticed people often get impatient when waiting on their sandwich to be made or waiting in an order or checkout line, but this solution gives customers something to look at which can take their mind off their task, therefore making their perceived wait time dissipate. We at Tebo have been successful in integrating Promolux LED, Econofrost Night Covers and Digital Menu Boards into chain grocery retailers such as Super Value, Piggly Wiggly, Associated and Unified Grocers, as well as many single-location markets. These three solutions, designed with independent grocers in mind, have the capability to improve efficiency and save you money as well as provide a more inviting shopping environment. The focus above all is to keep markets eco-friendly and people-friendly, thus ensuring that vegetables will not be the only green in your market. +MORE

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

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

Amazon’s Whole Foods Acquisition Ramps up Grocery Competition

Sterling Hawkins, CART

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

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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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

The Amazon Doctrine and the Innovation Arms Race

Gary Hawkins, CART on Winsight Grocery Business

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has long understood the value of being out in front as technology innovation fundamentally alters the rules of competition. While other companies have long based competitive strategy on technology, what’s different is this point in time: We are at the inflection point on the exponential growth curve of computer processing power where noticeable change happens at an ever-increasing pace. Amazon is leveraging its innovation leadership position harnessed together with its vast resources to overwhelm the traditional grocery industry, relegating many retailers to the proverbial corner convenience store. Sound familiar? It should. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan, in what was to become known as the Reagan Doctrine, leveraged the powerful U.S. economy with the country’s burgeoning military innovation to launch an arms race with the Soviet Union. The result, as we all know, led to the collapse of the USSR and the end of the cold war. Last year’s acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon triggered a grocery innovation arms race, throwing traditional retailers into a war few were prepared for. How bad is it? As Recode recently reported, Amazon spent nearly $23 billion on innovation research and development last year (2017), up 41% from the year before—more than any other U.S. company, That’s more than Microsoft, Intel, Facebook and even Apple spent on R&D. To put that in perspective for the grocery industry, a report from the IHL Groupstates: “Amazon’s 2016 R&D spending was more than the top 20 retailers (excluding Walmart) technology spending combined … and about 75%-85% of the top retailers’ IT budgets is spent on simply maintaining and upgrading existing systems. As such, retailers are completely outgunned when it comes to spending on IT.” And yet more evidence of the Amazon doctrine in action: The battle for voice-based commerce is already over—long before most retail executives knew the battle had even started. According to USA Today, “Purchases made through devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo are projected to leap from $2 billion today to $40 billion by 2022.” Here’s the kicker: “Amazon is forecast to have 70% of the voice-enabled speaker market this year (2018), per Tech Crunch. By 2020, it’s projected that there will be 128 million Alexa devices installed.” Amazon is aggressively expanding the Alexa platform, weaving it into everyday life, through partnerships with auto manufactures, home appliance makers, and even Microsoft to bring Alexa into the workplace. Amazon's Formidable Lead But innovation spending is not the entire challenge. No matter how much a retailer may spend on innovation today, it cannot overcome the lead Amazon has built. Patent filing activity provides a view into the overwhelming power of the Amazon doctrine. Amazon received 1,963 patents in 2017 and holds more patents than any other retailer in the industry (7,096). By comparison, Walmart, perhaps the most serious traditional retail competitor, holds only 349 patents. It may already be too late for a good number of traditional supermarket operators. The innovation arms race has gone nuclear as Kroger partners with Ocado to build automated fulfillment centers and Nuvo to use automated self-driving vehicles to deliver orders. Beyond digital disciples such as Kroger and Walmart, few retail companies have the wherewithal to invest so heavily in new innovation in an effort to keep pace with Amazon, the deity of digital. Innovation spending aside, many multibillion-dollar regional retailers are what I think of as digitally discombobulated. Many of these companies are trying to do the right thing, investing in e-commerce, putting the customer at the center of their business strategy and launching new digital services. But too often these retailers end up with overlapping capabilities, expensive or impossible system integrations, digital silos, and fractured user experiences. The very nature of competition has fundamentally changed and many industry executives do not yet get it. How important is user experience? Very. My wife and I regularly order restaurant meals delivered to our home. Living in southern California, we have our choice of delivery services; DoorDash, Grubhub, Eat24, Delish, Uber Eats, and many more. Yet for all those choices, Amazon Restaurants has won nearly all our business because of a seemingly simple thing: I can track the delivery driver in real-time through the app, knowing—literally to the minute—when dinner will be at our door. What should frighten retailers the most is that this battle is just getting started. As innovation accelerates, it is driving convergence between historically disparate capabilities and even industries. Companies such as Label Insight are using AI to deconstruct the typical package nutrition information into dozens or even hundreds of granular data points. Separately, health industry innovators are using cutting-edge data science to understand the individual person’s unique, granular nutritional requirements based on gender, weight, age and specific health conditions. At the same time, Apple is reported to be working on noninvasive real-time monitoring of an individual’s glucose levels. A well-known university is able to ascertain a person’s vitamin levels from a teardrop. And then there’s ScriptSave, with its long history of innovation in the pharmacy space, knitting together disparate capabilities to transform and personalize the health and wellness space. Think of it as a virtual dietitian helping guide the shopper to beneficial products across the store, ultimately driving recommendations off real-time health monitoring. And then embedding this capability at the intersection of food and healthcare.  What's the Next Move for Retailers? What are retailers to do? Is there any way to compete? Here are a few thoughts: Think integrated platforms not point solutions. This is especially important when considering customer-facing digital capabilities. Avoid disparate solutions powering up a splintered experience; one AI “brain” should be driving personalized, relevant engagement across every channel and touchpoint. Don’t build tech internally. Unless you are Kroger or Walmart, don’t think about building IT solutions internally; technology is moving too fast and has become too specialized. Instead, leverage advanced cloud-based solutions that provide a “technology putty”—leading edge capabilities molded to your brand and operations. Move faster. If there is one thing that I think endangers traditional retailers more than anything else it is the slow pace at which they are moving. There is no place for five-year plans; the game will be long over by then. Remember, you are now in a world of exponential growth of innovation—speed counts. So, is all lost for traditional retailers? Is the dominance of Amazon and the digital disciples a foregone conclusion? No, but retail executives must understand that shopper expectations now rule, that tech-based innovation is the new battleground, and that tomorrow will no longer resemble today. To view original article: Winsight Grocery Business +MORE

On-Demand Food Automation to Enhance Customer Experience

Benjamin Feltner, Co-Founder, BeeHex

3D food printing has evolved from NASA-funded experimentation, to edible art, and now BeeHex is using this technology to create a more consumer-focused experience in grocery stores and bakeries.  BeeHex has combined time-tested food production techniques and 3D food printing technology to create a system that results in less clean-up, a simpler supply chain, and more focus on consumers. How do you operate the machine?  BeeHex’s 3D dessert decoration process starts with its software.  You simply select the color frostings and icings you want to print, and place disposable frosting bags into the pressurized chambers.  Next, you ask the on-board laser-line vision system to scan the item(s) you have placed on the print-bed (cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc.).  Now that your parameters are set, select your design and click print.  You can run multiple objects at once and there’s virtually no need to monitor the machine.  It will alert you when it’s finished. How does the technology work? BeeHex’s machines use industry-standard pneumatics (air pressure) to control flow of food, such as frosting and icing.  Oddly, this distinguishes BeeHex’s printing process from other 3D food printers that use electric motors to apply pressure.  The pneumatics power the entire dessert decoration process, while 3D printing and extrusion technology control the design, shape, and 3D characteristics of the print.  BeeHex’s vision system allows the machine to navigate the topography of the cake, cookie, or other food item(s) placed on the print bed.  The software controls the process from start to finish, including three-dimensional layering and shape height. What is the purpose of the technology?  On-demand food automation, or localized automation, will streamline the supply chain.  When automation and other smart machines and tools are utilized at the point of purchase (i.e. in the grocery store), a variety of benefits come into play.  For example, shipping costs are drastically cut and personalization capability is enhanced.  Common bakery operation options include labor-intensive in-store production, commissary production with increased lead time and shipping costs, and outsourcing.  BeeHex’s machines can localize this entire effort.  First, stores can eliminate the process of scooping frosting from buckets and wiping into hand-piping bags.  Second, the waste from unused buckets and partially-used piping bags will be cut.  Any inability to customize cakes (or other desserts) on the spot may also be eliminated, which may result increased sales through much shorter lead times – never turn away a customer due to the common 24-hour turnaround.  Most importantly, the type of automation we are championing has an overarching benefit.  The shopping experience is changing: one path is to eliminate the grocery shopping experience through home delivery and online ordering for pick-up.  The other path is one in which the consumer enjoys the shopping experience – “experiential shopping.”  In other words, consumers need a reason to spend time in a grocery store!  Localized automation provides an opportunity to allow employees to enhance the shopping experience through interaction.  Let the machines focus on food production, cleaning, and other work while your team focuses on customers.   Company Background: BeeHex is based upon the original concept of food printing technology, which was designed after a NASA-funded project and created a new wave in the 3D printing industry.  Other 3D printing applications are geared toward rapid prototyping and faster production.  However, the food industry presents completely different challenges: how will we ensure food is fresh, provide healthier options, subject to less contamination, increase production rate, reduce costs, and the list goes on and on.  The 3D food printing segment and other forms of robotics and artificial intelligence may hold the key to these challenges.  One of BeeHex’s strengths is in research and development.  We are providing solutions that span from the bakery and healthy pizza printing to the most advanced form of personalized nutrition, which is BeeHex’s current project with the U.S. Army.  BeeHex is focused on combining the best of automation and personalization. +MORE

3D Food Printer Systems

BeeHex, LLC

BeeHex originated from a NASA-funded project and has created on-demand fresh food automation machines, including the 3D Dessert Decorator.  Our vision is to enhance customer experience and satisfaction by focusing on customer interaction while our 3D dessert decorator produces cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and cookie cake designs on demand.  +MORE

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Foot traffic analytics: Your grocery innovation priority

Joanna Rutter, Marketing Specialist, Dor Technologies

Historically, grocery has trended toward traditional solutions to its previously predictable challenges, relying on data like sales trends and weather predictions to meet demand. However, the retail world is changing rapidly — and grocery hasn’t been able to fully catch up. Business as usual is impossible when new, digital-first players enter the space, shrinking store footprints and amplifying customer experience expectations.  While new players flood in, grocery has been “immune” to industry advancements in e-commerce, writes Shira Ovide in Bloomberg Gadfly, and investing in new technology that streamlines in-store operations to deliver on those new expectations has been a challenge for grocers. Perhaps one of the most surprising areas missing from a traditional grocery’s innovation list: Streamlining the checkout experience. Checked out at checkout Express lanes and self-checkout hasn’t revolutionized our purchasing experience as much as promised: The New York Times wrote that Americans still spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line. Though there are methods like Little’s law for predicting how many customers will be in-store at a given time, it’s hard to take action on that without robust, accurate data on customer traffic in the first place. That lack of intel hits retailers and their customers right in the most frustrating area of the store: Checkout, where “seemingly innocuous things can rub a waiting customer the wrong way,” wrote Perry Kuklin of Lavi Industries in Retail Customer Experience. “Slow or chatting cashiers irritated nearly 70 percent of customers while 49 percent were annoyed at seeing closed checkout lines when a store is busy.” Lavi Industries also found that a third of customers abandon checkout lines longer than five minutes and begin to get frustrated at the two and a half minute mark. With such a thin margin between a customer’s happiness and frustration, grocers need Knowing traffic trends for your store gives you one more data layer to prevent understaffed, long checkout lines that anger and deter customers. How can foot traffic analytics help? Brick and mortar retailers traditionally rely on sales data to help identify trends and predict customer behavior, but this data only shows one piece of the overall health of their business. What sales data doesn’t show is how many visitors came to your store and, more importantly, how many left without making a purchase, especially due to checkout wait times. According to McKinsey findings, “revenue is a sensible criterion for scheduling, but it’s an insufficient one because customers’ buying patterns (average basket size, average purchase price per item, and so on) can vary by hour and by day.” Foot traffic analytics can help you further identify those variables: “Monitor your queues in real time: Use a footfall analytics system to keep tabs on exactly how many people are in line now, how many service agents are available to help, and how long the wait time is and will be soon. With this data at your fingertips you can proactively manage waiting lines, open new lines as needed, direct customers to open lines, and head off problems before they get out of hand.” (Lavi Industries) Foot traffic data gives retailers the tools they need to optimize their staffing — according to a UNC study, retailers are over- or under-staffed 86 percent of the time — measure their marketing effectiveness, and quantify their conversion rate. Foot traffic is a vital layer of information that can illuminate critical insights into sales trends that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Dor can help you get started with footfall tracking in your store as soon as this week. Dor easily installs in minutes and begins counting customers right away. Integrate foot traffic data from Dor into your existing business intelligence solutions using Dor’s API, and access store traffic trends from any device, anytime, anywhere. Learn more about how Dor can help you optimize your in-store operations. +MORE

IoT Technology Tackling FSMA Regulations

Naeem Zafar, TeleSense

2017 is bringing new requirements to cold chain monitoring and food safety as the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) regulation deadlines approach, requiring the food industry to keep better records of their operations. With the help of Industrial Internet of Things hardware and user-friendly software, businesses can easily implement compliance in preparation of audits. What is Required to be Compliant Depending on the size of your business, the new regulations will become law over the next two years. FSMA mandates rigid plans for monitoring food products and taking corrective actions. By law, every registered food operation in a variety of industries, including meat, poultry, seafood, and produce, must perform a hazard analysis of their facilities and distribution assets to (1) Identify areas that can potentially jeopardize food safety, and (2) Determine what preventive controls to systematically implement and scientifically measure to monitor regulated food products. How does this translate to action? Food businesses need to keep temperature and/or humidity records up to 2 years back to prove that they were operating within the correct temperature range. This includes food in-storage and in-transit. Moreover, such records need to be easily retrievable upon the request of an inspector during an audit. At a glance, it may seem like a big hassle to get an entire business up to compliance, but with the help of modern technology, an operator’s job can become easier than it was before the FSMA was ever implemented. Bridging FSMA and IoT: By incorporating new web-based software with wireless sensors, a food processor or distributor can manage both the FSMA regulations and gain better insight into its operations. No more clipboards and manual time recording! There are many plug-and-play sensors that can be installed within 30 minutes. They usually come with a software subscription that allows facility managers to: Monitor facility and equipment health Determine critical control points Establish critical limits and alerts Dispatch immediate corrective action Automate record keeping and report generation Keep record database in the cloud for easy retrieval Insure facility with backup system Within the past year, many options have popped up within IoT for monitoring food. However, more does not necessarily mean better – more variety means confusion and frustration when sensor and software shopping. Hardware solutions range from Bluetooth sensors, industrial thermocouples, wired sensors, RFID labels, USB data loggers, cellular gateways, WiFi gateways, and the list goes on. The right sensor to purchase is dependent on which operational process one focuses on. The sensor chosen must withstand the working conditions of the facility for it to last. Most importantly, getting good communication between the sensor and gateway is dependent on the layout of the facility and sensor placement. Sometimes, the sensor of preference does not provide optimal connectivity. Without proper research, thousands of dollars can be waste on a solution that just does not fit. Bottom line – speak with an expert before diving in. Many IoT companies provide free consultations or 1-month free trials, which are all meant to make regulatory compliance as hassle-free of an experience as possible. +MORE

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

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

Profectus USA

Profectus Group US

Profectus is an international technology and services company that provides leading technologies for rebate and deal management, contract compliance and accounts payable audits. The niche technology is designed to create transaction certainty and help businesses make better decisions. The Profectus USA team supports many industry verticals including grocery and foodservice wholesalers, grocery and clothing retailers, financial institutions, mining and many more. Our technology provides a road map for your success! RDM (Rebate & Deal management)  The Rebate Management system is designed for retailers, wholesalers and large organisations and delivers best practice rebate and deal management, resulting in better returns for business.​ The Rebate Management system is a secure web-based system that stores unlimited rebate and deal agreements.​ The Rebate Management system guarantees accurate rebate calculation, journal creation and claiming.​ Clients and their suppliers value the transparency of a shared web system where there is clarity on all of the details related to rebates.​ In addition, the Rebate Management system creates insights and opportunities to generate increased revenue.​  CCS (Contract Compliance Software)  The Contract Compliance (CC) system enables a full compliance framework to identify overcharges or over payments prior or post payment. It ensures contract terms originally negotiated for indirect/ GNFR (Goods Not For Resale) expenses or key contracts actually occur.​ The CC system is a secure web-based and centralized contract management system providing secure visibility of all critical contract terms.​ The CC system automates the detailed cost checking of invoices; supplier queries workflow and transaction approval process with the click of a button.​ In addition, CC creates insights and opportunities to reduce spend and improve contract terms.  Merchandise / Terms Audits  Every merchandise, sales, AP transaction and trading term agreement is audited for accuracy. The Merchandise Audits provide a detailed review of your rebate and deal agreements against claims and transaction data to identify under-claimed rebate and deal income.  Accounts Payable Audits  Every AP transaction is audited for accuracy by Profectus technologies and the audit team. The Accounts Payable audit will identify and recover duplicate and over payments, GST processing errors and aged vendor statement credits.  Contract Compliance Audits  Contract Compliance audits identify all rate errors and service type errors within invoices. Contract Compliance Audits enable clients to have full compliance framework to check invoices at line item level against agreed contract terms to identify overcharges or over payments prior or post payment. +MORE

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Cloud Union

Cloud Union Rewards

The Rewards Platform that has millions of shoppers engaged in the "spend", "earn", "redeem" and "re-spend" transactional cycle Add value, not lower price, to transaction: 100% digital with proven technology.  No cards. No keytags Integrate online and offline sales Drive actionable insights Strengthen the relationships with customers  The only loyalty program that pays YOU Intelligence-Based Marketing Cloud Union analytics provide data-driven insights that guide business decisions and optimize marketing campaigns.  Supercharge your customer acquisition, retention, upsell and cross-sell strategies.  Gain a deep understanding of your customers and build a stronger relationships with analytics that are automated, smart and predictive. +MORE

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Planet Fundraiser

Planet Fundraiser

Planet Fundraiser is a philanthropy management platform that streamlines community giving for businesses of all sizes. With the Planet Fundraiser app, our merchant partners give back a percentage of their customers’ purchases to local schools or nonprofits of the customer’s choice - deepening the relationship with their community and their customers. Joining the Planet Fundraiser network opens up merchant partners to an expanded customer base of our charitably minded customers, creating the opportunity to increase revenue while supporting your community. How It Works Customers shop at participating businesses Snap a picture of their receipt A % of their purchase is given to a cause of their choice!  +MORE

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