Shopper technology opportunities are the focus of FMI Midwinter

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images
Feb 01, 2019
Ron Margulis

There were several remarkable statistics shared at the Food Marketing Institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference in Miami last week. Online shopping for groceries is now done by 34 percent of customers. In 2000, 67 percent of shoppers bought groceries primarily at supermarkets; in 2018 less than half do. In 2015, only one percent of shoppers primarily shopped online for groceries; today that number is four percent and growing.

In terms of product categories moving online, center store continues to dominate. Nearly 40 percent of shoppers are buying health and beauty items online. For salty snacks, paper products, coffee & tea and household cleaning products, it’s over 30 percent. Even  prepared foods, deli items and baked goods are above 10 percent.

The bottom line is that supermarkets are losing their primary store status as shoppers shop at multiple channels and banners.

Justin Dye, CEO of ripKurrent, an alternative refrigerant solutions provider to retailers, and a member of the board of directors at New Seasons Market, a Portland, OR-based supermarket retailer, said it is critical for retailers and their trading partners to think more like tech companies when it comes to innovating, pivoting and creating meaningful partnerships. “We’ve got to behave like an innovative company,” he said.

Technology continues to move increasingly quickly and retailers need to keep up with the pace, several of the speakers warned. “The reality is, probably in our professional lifetimes, we will not see an industry as big as food retail change as violently and as quickly as it is changing today,” said Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed. “And it’s creating a lot of concern, but it’s also creating immense opportunity for all of us to rewrite the next chapter of our own histories.”

Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, affirmed this notion in her annual keynote. “During these rapidly changing times, the food retail industry is demonstrating the ability to rise to the challenge. Our enhanced ability to adapt, adopt and evolve is preparing us for the next golden era of food retail, doing what we do, smarter and better.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can traditional grocery retailers use technology to recapture market share from digital pure plays and other channels?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Technology can enhance, but not dictate a satisfying grocery shopping experience."
"Wrong question. The right question is, how can retailers make their customers’ lives better by reducing friction in the item demand-satisfaction cycle?"
"Time to move ahead fearlessly rather than tip toeing through the produce section."

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17 Comments on "Shopper technology opportunities are the focus of FMI Midwinter"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

I don’t think this is the right question – it assumes that grocers need to use technology to recapture market share. That’s not an assumption I would make or would make as the primary solution. The question is why shoppers are migrating. Is it price? Convenience? Time? You can’t begin to form a strategy until you know this. And in the “worry less” department, if only 4 percent of shoppers identify online as the primary outlet for grocery shopping, it’s not time to panic.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Convenience! Convenience! Convenience!
Time! Time! Time!

Remember the adage “Location, location, location”? The question is what location gives the shopper the most convenience and time.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

How do you put the genie back in the bottle? How do you get the horses back into the barn? How can grocery recapture share from others? These are questions that have no simple answer, or may not even have an answer. The advice to behave like an innovative company is only half right (and the less important half, in my opinion). The true advice is to operate like a consumer and shopper-obsessed company.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

It is not going to be easy for traditional grocery retailers to recapture market share. Consumers have become more amenable to shopping in multiple locations, and online, to get what they prefer from the retailer that offers it. I believe that there is a “specialty” mentality that increasingly is taking over consumers’ shopping habits, causing them to shop in multiple stores and online. Prepared foods and freshly-sliced cold cuts may be the categories in which traditional grocers can differentiate themselves. Campbell soup is still Campbell soup.

Mark Heckman
BrainTrust
Technology for technology’s sake is not the answer. Advertising screens, kiosks and apps that consume precious shopping time can hinder more than help the cause … (the “cause” being to make the in-store grocery shopping experience a better use of time and money for the customer relative to all the other options they now have). The first step is truly understanding how shoppers are currently using the store. How long do they spend in-store? Where do the crowds go? What areas are dormant? Which items are producing sales? Which items are serving only for promoting variety and/or receiving brand funding for their placement? From there a cogent plan can be executed to make stores more “shoppable” and efficient. Then and only then does technology help in the process of accentuating the new, more shopper-centric approach to customer engagement. The consideration standard should be: Does this technology help the shopper make quicker decisions, find products they want faster, deliver needed content, and get them on their way at a pace consistent with their experiences in other… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Market share is not getting shoppers back in the store. Market share is selling your products to shoppers, no matter where the shoppers are. A sale is a sale, no matter in the store or online.

Susan O'Neal
BrainTrust
17 days 9 hours ago

Wrong question. The right question is, how can retailers make their customers’ lives better by reducing friction in the item demand-satisfaction cycle? It’s obvious how digital pure plays do that, but an examination of how digital companies imagine physical stores also illustrates points traditional retailers are scared to consider — like a store without a checkout process! Checking out being the most obvious point of friction in the in-store experience, followed by things like waiting at the deli counter (order ahead) and other solutions where technology can be intelligently used. Real-time inventory reporting to increase certainty that the item you need will be in-store when you get there (an earlier RetailWire discussion topic) is another. What about making it easier for customers to request or provide continuous and specific feedback on your suppliers, staff and store experience? What about enabling them to request that you carry products you currently do not carry?

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Nice thoughts on the right question Susan. Ironically, checkout is the highest friction point for online as well — resulting in abandoned carts and lost sales. Many of the items you listed also apply to the digital world. The question of using technology as a silver bullet might be misplaced, but it is inherent to the question — simply because tech is what has enabled the taking of market share away from traditional retailing in the first place.

Anne Howe
BrainTrust

I’m not sure technology trumps experience, product and service in the grocery retail space! Visit a Lowes Foods in the eastern Carolinas for a great example of a creative and carefully curated shopping experience. Technology can enhance, but not dictate a satisfying grocery shopping experience.

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust
There is no doubt about the fact that grocery retail is going through the biggest change it has for a very long time, probably since the growth of the supermarket taking business from the corner shop and High Street specialist. However, it is not only online that us creating that change, the rise of discounters is also having a big impact so traditional grocers are fighting on all fronts. Getting the right offering as fresh as possible at the best price is still a very strong message to shoppers and certainly technology can play its part in delivering that. It is hard for online retailers to compete in fresh foods in a major way and consumers still prefer to select their own produce. What retailers have to make sure is that they make the most of the opportunity they have when they get those customers into the store. They have to engage and find ways to keep that engagement with the consumer. Technology can also play a big part in achieving this. What it needs… Read more »
Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

The question traditional grocery retailers need to address is “how do we stem the erosion of our shoppers to other channels?” Traditional retail is quickly dying. The only way traditional grocery retailers will recapture market share is to create immersive experiences where the grocery store becomes more than simply a destination where they have food on shelves. Creating shopping theater where the store becomes an experiential destination. Open kitchens, deli and bakery (pastry) may be areas to explore. Amazon has accelerated and changed shopper expectations — forever! Time to think outside the box.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Justin Dye is correct, traditional grocers need to wake up to new thinking and move faster. It’s ironic that at FMI they spoke of “violent” change happening to them when in fact, it’s been happening to retailers for two decades now. Most grocers that I know were impervious to retail’s woes, thinking that they were insulated from online shopping because people “had” to touch their products. Guess not.

Traditional grocers need look no further than to the #1 grocer in the world, Walmart. Their efforts at BOPIS and ship to home and online innovation in general have been nothing short of stunning. If they took the time to study their M.O. and then acted on what they learned (fail fast), perhaps the change will not be as “violent” as they think. Time to move ahead fearlessly rather than tip toeing through the produce section.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

I think a better question is: how can grocery retailers create a culture of innovation? Innovation that isn’t just chasing the next promising technology, but built on serving their team, customers and community with technology (possibly) as the outcome. A constant perspective of only looking outside for what needs to be fixed, changed and adjusted is bankrupt.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I remember a presentation I gave in 2004 stating specifically that those retailers, food or any other category, that don’t evolve with the fast-changing landscape will not only lose market share, but will simply not exist in the near future. That sounded somewhat dramatic back then, however it has more than proved to be true today.

Capturing and retaining customers has always been critical, and today it is more so than ever. Retailers need to leverage those technologies available today that will help identify your most appropriate audience and provide real-time personalization to help ensure a seamless shopping experience.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

The true question here is really, does having a brick and mortar presence give grocers a true advantage that their online only competitors do not have? Perhaps this is reflected more in what problems will shopping technology solve, from an online only perspective, compared to an on-ground brick and mortar perspective. There are certain advantages like convenience, but this is not a category changing mantra at this point in time. Instead it reflects some things which consumers prefer, but not enough to be a sole focus of a category. Caution with placing importance on technology to solve all of our issues should always be used when examining the opportunities which technology affords the grocery industry.

gordon arnold
Guest
Offering lower prices and free shipping isn’t what makes e-commerce more attractive — convenience is. A close look at the growth of e-commerce will reveal that perishables and/or time-sensitive goods are still a see-first desirable for consumers. This lends itself to an opportunity for brick & mortar retailers to begin the redesign of new and improved facilities that make shopping fast and convenient. Imagine being able to always find a clean, dry place to park that is near to the door. Then going into the store with a list of goods pre submitted and returned to you for verification and update. Then the list is re submitted and picked placed in position for final inspection by the customer and loaded into a cart. The cart continues to check out and bagging while the customer retrieves their car, bringing it to a pay and load area. This area can also be used for BOPIS, third party delivery or long distance shipping orders that are needed ASAP or for whatever other reasoning. Add to this a public… Read more »
Oliver Guy
Guest

Let’s face it, few of us like grocery shopping. Amongst other things, customers seek convenience and consistency/quality of product. Technology therefore needs to be focused on addressing these as cost effectively as possible, making it really easy for customers to get their groceries – saving them time – but also using technology to ensure product quality through the supply chain.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Technology can enhance, but not dictate a satisfying grocery shopping experience."
"Wrong question. The right question is, how can retailers make their customers’ lives better by reducing friction in the item demand-satisfaction cycle?"
"Time to move ahead fearlessly rather than tip toeing through the produce section."

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