As retailers and industry professionals get ready to head to Las Vegas for the National Grocers Association show on Feb 8, the Advancing Retail Coffee with CART (Center for Advancing Retail Technology) on January 29 focused on what retailers should be looking for while at the show. The goal of the hour-long webinar was to help retailers sort through the technology and get a preview of what program offerings will be most appropriate for their store. Schuyler and Sterling Hawkins mentioned on the call that CART has built an extensive website where retailers can explore the technology options out there, from online shopping providers to data security firms. CART has vetted and evaluated the programs and provided a platform for solution feedback, giving retailers a comfort level with programs their possibilities. What topics should be at the forefront of a retailer’s NGA show exploration? Here’s an overview:
Online shopping continues to be a hot topic. Mentioned often in the Coffee with CART sessions, retailers will soon be, if are not already, having large groups of customers looking for the ease and convenience of shopping from their phones, laptops or tablets. While in the realm of technology, the demand impacts all areas of the store, including operations, marketing and the supply chain. Recent news involving Instacart now charging retailers to pick up groceries at their store shows the evolution of the program. Retailers who are not willing to pay will be cut out from the service offering. The discussion of online shopping elicits the question for retailers of whether they should white-label their own online shopping platform or use a 3rd party provider. Schulyer added on the call that whether a retailer has an online shopping app or not, about 1/3 of the customers will use a white-labeled online shopping app, about 1/3 will use a 3rd party portal app, and about 1/3 will not use an app. Sterling reminded retailers that not all 3rd party programs are bad though, as those programs often do much of the marketing and customer acquisition for the store.
Similar to ecommerce is the concept of customers still visiting the store location, but being able to checkout quickly without having to scan each item through the register or wait in lines. Express Checkout allows customers are able to scan barcodes of items, and then pay before leaving the store. If retailers are concerned with loss prevention, one option is to have a specific line devoted to those consumers. Much like the experience at Costco, the employee would check the bag and the receipt before the customer is allowed to leave the store.
Another general topic during the call was analytics, which Schuyler pointed out is a pretty broad category. One platform that offers retailers insights into who is shopping their store is Swarm. The spin off of Foursquare collects user-provided data, which gives retailers something actionable to work from when learning about their customer segments. Actual shopper information can be used to market better to customers, offering contextualized offers in the right place at the right time through JingIt, Birdzi or Marvel Coupon. This shopper identified transaction history allows the seamlessness and convenience to customers looking for deals in the right place, at the right time and on the right product according to Schuyler. The aggregation of this shopper data though means there isn’t just one silo of information that needs to be aggregated. Index helps pull all the data streams together to help reach the desired demographics. No matter what the platform, Schuyler stressed that security of data is of the utmost importance to retailers both big and small. Heartland and Digital Defense were the suggestions on the call to help manage data security. The CART team also mentioned behind-the-scenes analytics platforms that help owners manage store personnel or reduce shrink with programs like FoodLoop or Date Check or Sterilox.
The final topic of the call was the migration of customers to the usage of different diet or wellness tools to help manage the ever-changing restrictions and allergies many customers are facing. These apps help make the customers’ lives easier and if utilized by the retailer as well, can give interesting insights into the shopping habits and needs of customers. This data helps retailers understand which products customers are searching for and how to allot space in store for specific items. Apps like Kitchology or Shopwell are ones retailers can look into for ideas of what is out there.
At the conclusion of the call, the CART team reminded retailers to stop by the CART booth at the NGA show, where there will be many of the programs represented. Retailers can also look out for two case studies CART is revealing after the show. One study will be on the online shopping implementation, use and key successes of Food Town and the other will be how Grocery Outlet used Heartland to address their concerns on PCI compliance and data security. Finally, retailers should be on the lookout for CART’s retailer pilot program, which brings retailers really innovative solutions in collaboration with the CART team and their desire to better understand the impact the many technology programs are making at retail.