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Coffee with CART 12/11: Where to go in the Digital Space?

Think you don’t know where to start with digital marketing? Or don’t know what to do next? Or which company to contract with for your next major initiative? You aren’t alone. It’s all overwhelming, we know, we feel your pain and so does NGA.

In a recent Coffee with CART (Center for Advancing Retail and Technology) webinar presented by NGA, the topic of discussion was this ever-evolving digital marketplace where retailers and consumers alike are feeling out which avenues they want to explore and embrace. Moderated by Schuyler Hawkins, Gary Hawkins joined the town-hall style format to answer questions about the new CART initiative and how it can help retailers who are overwhelmed by all that is out there.

After introducing the initiative, the first points Gary Hawkins talked about were promising for retailers. Historically, Hawkins said, independent retailers were the leaders in the technology space because they could adapt to new offerings quickly. Yet as the bigger boxes grew and became more capable of implementing across regions, they were able to take a stronghold in the technological space due to their size and strong economics. While this can still be true, Hawkins noted that the power is coming back to independent retailers due to the cloud and the accessibility of programs designed to make the programs the big boxes have established, easier to use on a smaller basis.

Secondarily, Schuyler Hawkins asked how retailers measure success of these digital programs. Gary Hawkins answered that retailers must find advocates within their organizations that embrace this technology and can bring it to the forefront. I’d add that senior leadership must also embrace this technology and the use of it, without their support and strategic input, the technology can only do so much. The other point I’d add when looking to measure success of digital programs is to know what success looks like. Too often retailers ask the question “Did it work?” without knowing what “work” means. Clear delineation of success metrics will help show how the technology enhances everyday operations.

When talking about specific programs retailers should have on their radar there were three major digital marketing tactics mentioned.

Loyalty Programs: There are quite a few out there, but the key takeaway from any of them is to understand the consumer better and use the data that is gathered to help improve the shopping experience for the consumer.

eCommerce platforms: “Everyone” is in the online game and by 2020 10% of grocery shopping will be done online. The time is now to investigate how it will work. The main question that arises is whether retailers want to control the platform or outsource it. For outsourcing options, InstaCart and Rosie are options. For in-house control, Freshop and a new provider coming out of Finland are viable options. Retailers must consider though how online shopping changes their day-to-day operations, whether through fewer prepared foods or fresh foods purchases that need frequent turns or how it impacts impulse shopping.

Smartphones: As devices are always with consumers, Gary Hawkins explored ways retailers can take advantage of this, whether through mobile compatible websites, apps that have mobile beacons inside of them to trigger special offers depending on a consumer’s location in store, or mobile analytics to determine what consumers are viewing while on their device.

These are just three of the facets we’re all trying to learn more about in the digital marketing space. All three have significant implications on the way business is done and will continue to evolve. The most important thing though is that they are on our radar. Whether implemented or not, the digital marketing space continues to grow and the better informed we are, the better we are able to embrace the platforms and grow with them.

Why do I work at AWG? “I value the opportunity to work with family businesses. My dad owned his own business for 35 years, so it is what I know and cherish. Plus, I love food, so thinking about it everyday is a huge plus.” -Kate