When Katie Hotze, founder and CEO of Grocery Shopii, was asked what’s keeping retailers up at night, she said “changing consumer behaviors.”
Hotze, who attended the recent FMI Midwinter Executive conference with some Grocery Shopii colleagues, said grocery retailers got the nation through the COVID-19 pandemic. “They’re the ones who kept the lights on and kept the groceries in everyone’s home.”
Now that the pandemic is over, the average grocery shopper has different tendencies, according to Hotze. “What are they doing? Why are they doing it? What’s driving their behavior? There are so many question marks.”
Michael Johnson, co-founder and CTO for Grocery Shopii, said they are listening to their retail partners and others in the industry in an effort to continue with their digital experience but also are trying to be relevant in-store as well.
Grocery Shopii technology streamlines the meal-planning and grocery shopping experience.
Another retailer concern is the ongoing supply chain issues, leading to out-of-stock items and other challenges.
“There’s talk of an impending food shortage because of crops, commodities…so how does that translate to the shopper? You have inflationary pressures but then you have supply chain pressures. No one really knows how that’s going to play out,” said Johnson, adding that retailers must pay attention to the value play for the shopper.
“That’s what we’re hearing and seeing from the retailers as a big concern. And how do we adjust to be relevant and helpful and add value down to the retailer, to the consumer and their experience.”
Lesia Stahl, VP of sales for the company, said they also are thinking about shopper loyalty and where the food dollar goes. During the pandemic, restaurants were closed and people had to buy groceries and cook at home. Now, customers are returning to restaurants.
“I think retailers are challenged to draw those customers back with something interesting, different – really inspiring them in a way that a restaurant will inspire for a moment,” she said. “…So it’s really, how do I inspire shoppers to keep that food dollar in the retail environment, inspire them to feed their family?”
Having consumers shop the ingredients for a recipe their families love can inspire loyalty. “You’re already adding that layer of loyalty of that shopper to that retailer,” Stahl said.
The retailer inspires the shopper, the family is excited and that shopper is going to come back, Stahl said. “It’s a different kind of shifting food dollar, trying to shift it back to grocery and building that customer loyalty.”
Johnson said food waste also is a concern for retailers. Grocery Shopii will be looking at ways to help mitigate that waste, whether through its pantry feature or others in the works.
AI and machine learning were topics being discussed at the conference. Johnson said there is a place for that technology, but it may not be the best fit for all jobs. It is important to be intentional about its application and make sure that it adds value.
Grocery Shopii is focused on efficient meal planning for shoppers through their retailers’ websites. “If we can build an experience for the retailer that keeps their shoppers loyal and consistently going through the meal-planning experience, then we can help that shopper be more efficient,” Johnson said.
Not only would shoppers go about their normal habits, but they could discover other products that could be substituted for out-of-stock items.
“We’re eager to do more, to help more. We’re always asking the questions and taking that feedback to the team and seeing how we can incorporate that,” he said.
Hotze added that as grocery prices increase due to inflation, meal planning is critical, particularly when it aggregates across several recipes. It allows shoppers to be thoughtful about how they are expending everything that they are purchasing, to avoid waste and to save money.
She said Grocery Shopii also supports private label, which provides quality at the lowest cost and supports their retailer clients through higher margins.
“I think that being a vehicle for private label is something that we take a lot of pride in and is one of those everyone wins solutions,” she said.
Hotze gave an example of a client who has a store near a Native American reservation. She said it is their highest grossing client store location. Customers must drive nearly 40 minutes to get to it, “so they use our tech to do all their meal planning for the week. It’s very popular with that location, and the basket size is enormous. It’s an anomaly. But it’s proof that when meal planning counts, they need tech to support it.”
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