By: Doug Baker, Vice President, Industry Relations - Private Brands, Technology, Food Marketing Institute

Digital technologyAccording to a group of industry experts at Groceryshop 2018, if the ongoing digitization of food retail were a baseball game, the food retail industry is in the second inning. 

With the game just underway, what is your company’s plan for bringing your food retail business into the Digital Information Age? 

That’s the question speakers sought to answer in the Groceryshop panel entitled “How to Use Data Effectively to Unify Digital and Store Experiences,” which can be viewed in its entirety.

“We’ve all been hearing that online grocery is still a very tiny part of the total market,” said Philippe Bottine, CEO, North America, for SES-Imagotag, “but it’s expected to grow to 20 to 25 percent in the next few years or so.” So how do you get to that “20 to 25 percent”? There are several places you can start.

Emphasize Values 

Linda Filler, former president, retail, of Walgreen’s, recommends focusing on a company’s most important values. For instance, if a retailer’s unique selling proposition is convenience, use digital tools to first improve the checkout experience. If it’s variety, make that the priority for your digital investments. And, of course, if it’s price - which it is for many retailers - start there.

Increase Efficiency 

Enhanced automation allows companies to leverage labor. The knee-jerk reaction to labor reductions is to push the savings down to the bottom line, but what if food retailers were to teach those employees whose time has been freed up by technology to use it to engage more effectively with customers to drive sales?

Removing friction from every process can only make a food retailer more competitive. For example, Mike Molitor, head of e-commerce and loyalty at Raley’s, spoke of the benefits of “rapid refinement pricing” that comes with electronic shopping labels, giving the retailer the ability to adjust prices almost instantaneously as market forces call for it.

Digital Marketing Experiences

Think about how much more “real estate” a food retailer would have available for promotions if they can convert shoppers from a paper platform (i.e., the weekly circular) to a digital platform?

Adopt freely the best practices from other retail categories by using digital tools to create experiences for shoppers. It starts, of course, with an app that shoppers can engage with before they get to the store, while there and after they leave. But it could even involve something similar to the Red Robin restaurant chain’s loyalty program that includes a device at every table which allows customers not only to order and pay for their meals, but to entertain themselves and their children while they wait for their orders to arrive.

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