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Grocers Need to Plumb Their Data To Better Understand Shoppers

A shopper using her smart phone in-store.
Sy Fahimi
Sy Fahimi

by Sy Fahimi/SVP-Product Strategy, Symphony RetailAI

Grocery retail is going through a significant reinvention as we continue to move into the era of the consumer. Retailers can succeed in 2019 by keeping data at the core of every practice in order to better understand their shoppers. Historically, retailers have large amounts of data, such as POS, loyalty information and social media, but lack the proper tools to analyze it. Retailers can use AI and machine learning capabilities not only to optimize this data and improve the shopping experience, but to optimize the company’s own operations. This will materialize in many ways that ultimately will help shoppers win, including:

1. Rise of voice in retail

While voice ordering is still in its infancy, the rise of voice assistants in other areas of retail demonstrates the value of speech recognition. As voice continues to grow in popularity, we’ll see it assist consumers, improving efficiency around ordering groceries and delivering to their fridge. Voice technology can also be implemented internally to streamline a retailer’s processes and operations.

2. Online grocery shopping makes gains

Online will become a bigger part of the overall shopping experience. While in-store and online will continue to converge into one channel–allowing consumers to order online and pick up in store, or use click and collect–online will play a larger role in influencing purchases, as consumers get inspiration from social media use or viewing recipes, for example. Grocers also will become much more adept at providing consistent and engaging updates for online customers, a la GrubHub or Domino’s, giving them valuable real-time insight into their order status and reducing the friction between in-store control and online convenience.

3. The blurring of channels

Shoppers are always connected and always on their phone. Because of this, we’re not only going to see the blurring of lines between online and in-store, but between every channel. Independent channels, formats and brands will all blur to become more experience-based. For example, we will see more grocery stores that also have restaurants and banks inside, which is how retailers will be able to compete with Amazon. With Amazon, the consumer experience is always the same, no matter the product purchased, so it’s up to retailers to provide a friendly and engaging shopping environment.

4. Empowered consumers demand fresh and local

We’ll see continued, accelerated growth around fresh and local foods. Consumers are more informed, empowered and selective in terms of what they want to eat more than ever, requiring more product transparency, especially when it comes to a food’s source.

5. Private labels accelerate CPG innovation

Discount supermarkets have invested in private label products and, as a result of this, the quality of private label has caught up to the brand itself. Shoppers have more choices than ever, and for a much lower cost can buy private label items. This is an issue for CPGs currently distributing their products through the stores, as this model is being disrupted. For the first time, CPGs are looking at direct-to-consumer ways to promote their brand and influence shoppers instead of relying on retailers. As a result, CPGs have begun to create data management platforms as they influence and communicate with consumers.

Sy Fahimi has a strong general management and operational background from Fortune 1000 companies (GE, Sun Microsystems, Intuit, Yahoo!) and several CEO roles in Silicon Valley startups. He has expertise in driving organic growth through go-to-market strategies, building infrastructures for scalable growth, building organizational team engagement, and strong execution through operational rigor and turnarounds. He also has broad functional experience across operations, product management, product marketing, sales, Six Sigma quality, risk management, private equity and finance.

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