Kroger is testing 30-minute delivery

With Kroger Rush, the experiment-happy retailer seeks to win over customers looking for a quick meal or a few last-minute ingredients to round out a dish they’re preparing at home. The service is part of Kroger’s effort to cover a wide range of online shopping demands, and joins its pickup and delivery options along with Kroger Ship, the direct-to-consumer marketplace that launched last year. Altogether, these services will make Kroger products available to every American household by the end of this year.

As the threat from restaurant delivery services like Grubhub and Uber Eats grows, grocers are trying to respond. Some, like Wegmans and Publix, offer dedicated meal delivery, but the speed, brand appeal and quality popular restaurants are delivering at lunch and dinner is tough to match.

If Kroger Rush scales, it will likely need to do so in population-dense areas close to young, tech-savvy consumers. The company will also have to sort out labor. Is it more cost-effective to rely on a third-party company like Instacart or does Kroger need to use its own employees?

The service calls to mind FoodKick, the on-demand offering from New York-based e-grocer FreshDirect that caters to a young, affluent audience. FoodKick launched in 2016 and centers on alcohol, fresh foods and meals for Big Apple consumers.

Kroger Rush also draws a comparison to Ocado Zoom, the on-demand delivery option Kroger’s British e-commerce partner launched earlier this year in London. Zoom — a nimble alternative to the next-day service Ocado provides from its large automated warehouses — offers around 10,000 products and is focused on small- and medium-sized orders.

Depending on how demand evolves, Kroger and Ocado could very well combine their knowledge and resources for super-fast delivery in the U.S. A Kroger spokeswoman acknowledged as much to the Business Courier, noting “maybe Ocado robots will do the picking for a (Kroger) Rush solution.”

That solution is still a ways off, however, as the two companies just broke ground on their first fulfillment center — a $55 million, 335,000-square-foot facility in Monroe, Ohio, set to open in spring 2021.

Ever since it launched its Restock program, Kroger has shown an eagerness to experiment and explore alternative revenue streams. But the company’s core grocery business remains under pressure, and executives have placed significant emphasis on becoming an e-commerce leader in the future.

A progress report will come this Thursday when Kroger reports its first-quarter earnings for fiscal 2019.

Source: grocerydive.com

Publix ready to launch mobile payment feature

Publix Super Markets customers will soon be able to pay by credit, debit or flexible spending account with the grocer’s mobile app. The current mobile payment option, on Apple devices, is being rolled out gradually in its stores, with plans to expand to Android.

“By integrating a mobile pay solution within the Publix app, we can offer a way for our customers to plan, shop, save and pay with ease,” Publix spokesman Brian West said in an email to the newspaper  The Ledger.

The mobile pay system will integrate coupons and other offers already connected to the app.

Other major retailers have launched their own mobile payment platforms including Walmart, which was at the forefront of the trend when it developed Walmart Pay in 2015. Target debuted its mobile payment app in 2017, and Kroger introduced Kroger Pay just a few months ago. Many other grocers who don’t have their own mobile pay feature accept Apple Pay or some form of mobile payment.

Source: grocerydive.com

New Whole Foods Format

In the usual course of events, when Amazon or its close sibling Whole Foods opens a new food-retailing format, a huge burst of publicity ensues, often featuring enthusiastic, ill-informed predictions about how the new format will take over the world and everything will change.

Such was the case when the automated Amazon Go convenience stores started to roll out. The stores have no cashiers, so there was much publicity about how many tens of thousands of jobs across food retailing would be lost as the concept took over the entire industry. No such thing happened, nor is it likely to do so any time soon. Then the concept of package-delivery drones was touted as a transformational event. They’re now largely forgotten.

All things considered, it’s strange to see how quietly Whole Foods opened its first-anywhere conventional convenience store in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The opening triggered no blare of publicity. To the contrary, there were only a couple of mentions in local publications about neighborhood happenings. The radio silence about the format probably owes to the fact that neither Amazon nor Whole Foods issued a press release about the new format. Why?

The lack of publicity from the store’s owners indicate to me that it’s an experiment, and a very low-risk one at that. The new store is in a small roughly 2,000 square-feet space in the corner in a building at Seventh Avenue and 25h Street. The ground floor is a large, full-scale Whole Foods Market. The proximity of the Whole Foods store means no separate product-distribution chain is required for the smaller new store. Conveniently, the space housing the new Whole Foods format was previously a Whole Body store, operated by Whole Foods, so there’s no new occupancy cost. Then, as now, the store has a separate entrance and exit with no interior customer access to the Whole Foods store that wraps around it.

Let’s take an inside look at the new store to get a better sense of what Whole Foods is up to. My recent tour of the store shows that it features mainly grab-and-go items such as prepared sandwiches, a limited line of baked goods, produce, florals, a cooler case for various beverages, a dairy cooler, a very limited grocery selection and magazines.

The focal point of the store is a staffed beverage bar identified by bright blue overhead Illuminated lettering announcing that it’s a “Coffee and Juice” bar, but many more drinks are available. There are eight bar stools set up across a side-window ledge to accommodate customers who want to consume their purchases at the store. Price points seem to be identical to those at the main Whole Foods store with the Amazon Prime member deals. The store has six checkout points, three intended to be staffed and three customer-actuated self-checkouts.

So, what’s the story here? If this store description seems familiar, that’s because it’s essentially an Amazon Go store without automated features. Like Amazon Go, it’s intended for nearby office workers and apartment residents who may want to pop in on a frequent basis to pick up a quick lunch or a couple of staples that need replenishment.

No surprise, the new store is called “Whole Foods Daily Shop,” according to what little publicity about the store we can find. Oddly, I saw no signage during my visit there. Instead, there was a temporary canvas banner fluttering in the wind heralding that the store was open.

It will be interesting to see if this staffed convenience store integrates the Amazon Go store mix into places where its full automated approach is too costly, customers are more likely to be part of the cash-based economy, or because shoppers are used to personalized service.

Amazon has the deep pockets and confidence to experiment with many store models as it moves more fully into the physical-store realm. Stay tuned, there will be a lot more to come.

Source: The Robin Report

Ocado: Tom Hanks or C. Thomas Howell?

Recently the Wall Street Journal reported that Kroger has struggled to come to grips with the impending online grocery upheaval. While Kroger has tried many new things – from testing digital shelving to embarking on autonomous vehicle delivery, one Kroger investment stands out from the others – Ocado, the UK-based online grocery retailer that specializes in direct-to-consumer automated fulfillment.

The belle of the ball at Shoptalk 2018, Ocado burst onto the scene, bringing with it hopes of unbridled potential for the U.S. market. But, now, flash forward one year later and there are still many open questions about Ocado. Is it worth all the hype? Is it the Tom Hanks of grocery innovation? Or, are we looking at something else? More on that in a minute.

Ocado Debuts in 2018

I will never forget the day as long as I live. There I was at Shoptalk 2018. I had just finished hearing Nike present on the mainstage and up next to present was a company whose name was unfamiliar and hard to pronounce.

That company was Ocado.

It was a surreal experience because nearly 30 percent of the audience filed out of the auditorium after Nike’s presentation thinking they would not see anything of value from this company of which they had never heard. But, boy oh boy, were they wrong.

Ocado CEO Tim Steiner dropped the mic on the crowd that day. He regaled the audience with slide after slide of how successful his company was with e-Groceries over in the UK, how the market continued to grow, and how robotics would be an ever-present part of the Ocado grocery fulfillment secret sauce. The entire crowd oohed and awed throughout the presentation, and especially so when he dropped this robot-filled video on all of us.

Right after Mr. Steiner finished his speech, a former colleague of mine turned to me, took out his keys, and dropped them on the floor, Ben Affleck-style in Boiler Room.

Then just a few short months after Shoptalk, Kroger announced an investment in Ocado, a move some analysts even went so far as to say was “the best investment the Kroger Company’s ever made in the last 25 years,” which may be more of an indictment against Kroger than an endorsement of Ocado, unfortunately. Regardless, excitement abounded. The robots were finally coming, and Kroger wasted little time announcing further plans at the start of 2019 to open a number of new Ocado-style grocery warehouses over the next few years.

But What Do We Really Know About Ocado?

Like so much amid the oft-cited and ridiculous “retail apocalypse” refrain, glossy first appearances can be far different than reality. It is easy to get caught up in the allure of Ocado – the fancy robots, the new business model and even the cool British accents. But human psychology sometimes leads us to make more out of new things just because they are exactly that, new and unfamiliar.

It reminds me of how Hollywood talent scouts likely felt back in 1983, trying to predict the careers of two exciting young actors – Tom Hanks and C. Thomas Howell.

Now, we all know Tom Hanks — Forrest Gump, multiple Oscar winner, member of the Saturday Night Live Five-Timers Club — but it was not always crystal clear that the Bosom-Buddied Mr. Hanks would be the star that he turned out to be. Take one look at this clip from a guest appearance Hanks made in Happy Days as a karate enthusiast with a Fonzarelli-sized score to settle, and, let’s just say, stardom for Mr. Hanks was not a foregone conclusion.

But, in 1983, the world did appear to be the oyster, for C. Thomas Howell. After a small role in E.T. in 1982, Howell secured the lead role of Ponyboy Curtis in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 adaptation of The Outsiders.

Howell was smoldering in the role. He made young women and men everywhere swoon and envious sleeveless jean jackets. It wouldn’t have been crazy to bet on Howell over Hanks back in 1983.

Is Ocado Howell or Hanks?

Sadly, Ocado may be more Howell than Hanks. Ocado, like Howell, burst onto the scene, with a bigger resume (E.T. = UK success), a stronger brand name behind it (Kroger = Coppola), and bigger fanfare, but, in the end, it too could suffer the same ignominious doom that was Howell’s horrendous career choice to star in Soul Man – quite possibly the worst idea for a movie plot in human history, and one not even Rae Dawn Chong could save.

Its hype notwithstanding, Ocado has some deeply rooted issues, both in terms of economics and in terms of the psychology of how people actually want to shop. In a large, suburban sprawl market like the United States, centralized fulfillment approaches to direct-to-consumer grocery fulfillment, no matter how automated, robotic, or efficient, the packing and picking process presents a number of challenges. They are incredibly capital intensive to build, do little to defer last-mile delivery costs or to shorten lead times for delivery. We live in a world where consumers have ever-increasing expectations about speed. The Ocado model may work overseas, but the population density in and around the delivery centers there is a far different dynamic than here in the United States.

Other models are far more flexible and agile in their approaches to solving these problems. Shipping direct-to-consumer from smaller, more hyperlocal and automated micro-fulfillment centers, for example, has a number of advantages over the Ocado model. Micro-fulfillment centers are far cheaper to implement, still give retailers similar pick and pack efficiencies, and they also put retailers closer to their customers from a last-mile cost and speed of delivery perspective.

The concept of micro-fulfillment appears to be gaining significant traction too, as Walmart, Ahold Delhaize, and Albertsons have all announced pilots within the space. While building large Ocado warehouses takes time, retailers can stand up and adapt micro-warehouses quickly and cheaply as they run additional experiments year over year, lending themselves to prairie fire-like adoption, once perfected.

Micro-fulfillment Is the Real Forrest Gump America Wants

Micro-fulfillment also does one other important thing that centralized Ocado-style fulfillment will never do – it gives retailers the ability to separate the acts of shopping from buying. Throughout retail’s history, consumers have had to shop and to buy/acquire products within the same mental movements. Consumers have been de facto warehouse pickers, picking items off shelves at their local grocery stores for years. Now, because of the rise of mobile technology, consumers, and millennials especially, no longer have to play this role. They can shop and have the entire world available to them, at a press of a button and on their schedules. They can shop however and whenever they want.

As I have written for The Robin Report, the separation of shopping and buying is the definition of New Retail, and it is already on display overseas in Alibaba’s Freshippo supermarket. Ocado-style fulfillment, however, does not allow this separation.

Within a mobile-guided shopping experience, consumers can shop at their leisure and elect to acquire products however they want. They can pick products themselves old school or they can simply scan products as they shop and ask a grocer to deliver those products to any spot of their choosing. Micro-fulfillment allows orders to be ready and waiting for consumers anywhere onsite, at their cars, or at their homes.

With Ocado-style fulfillment, the only option consumers have is for products to be delivered to their homes simply because it would take too long to have products picked and packed in an offsite warehouse and then brought anywhere a consumer desires while still on site or within a store.

Therefore, regardless of all the excitement surrounding Ocado, Kroger’s investment, and even the coming robot revolution that Ocado’s videos portend, chances are that when we look back decades from now other technologies will come to the fore to give retailers what they need economically and consumers what they want psychologically.

It is far likelier that our industry will come to know micro-fulfillment as the Tom Hanks of our age, while Ocado, like the once famous C. Thomas Howell, instead becomes destined for the retail equivalent of character roles like “Hilltop Resident” in the Walking Dead.

Source: TheRobinReport.com

Sprouts beats Q1 estimates, reports 60% delivery growth

Sprouts’ stock rallied on news of earnings per share beating analyst estimates. With revenue in line with analyst expectations, the company is on track to achieve 2019 financial targets, according to the press release.

Delivery is a key growth driver for Sprouts. Lukow said Sprouts has seen a continued increase in average weekly sales on home delivery, and expects that by the end of the year, delivery sales will account for about 1.75 to 2% of total sales. Basket size for home delivery is significantly larger than in-store, and the margin mix is much stronger relative to the mix of products that are being ordered online, Lukow said.

“We’ve had tremendous success rolling out home delivery now across all of our markets. It was really only late in the last quarter that we rolled out into the southeast. We’re seeing pretty significant customer adoption,” Lukow said, noting that Sprouts’ brand and focus on fresh is resonating with customers.

Sprouts opened eight new stores in Q1, bringing the total to 321 stores in 19 states. The company will enter two new states, Louisiana and New Jersey, in June, and is on target to open 28 new stores this year. Eight stores are planned in Q2 and a majority of the remaining stores will open in Q3, Lukow said.

New prototype stores are performing strongly in new and existing markets, driven by enhanced customer experience in deli, meat and seafood, Lukow said on the call. Sprouts currently has six of these new stores, and two more new stores will be built in the new format this year. Beginning next year, every new store that Sprouts opens will follow the new format.

The emphasis on deli is paying off, with the category proving to be a top sales performer for Sprouts in Q1. Lukow said that incremental sales in meat and seafood, deli and bakery are exceeding expectations, and while produce is an important traffic driver, increasingly customers are seeing Sprouts as a full-shop, healthy grocery store.

“There are a number of factors that are giving us a lot of confidence … we’re not just a specialty grocer, this is really about a natural, organic, fresh full grocery shop,” Lukow said.

With interim and co-CEO Jim Nielsen on temporary medical leave, Sprouts will continue to execute on its priorities without disruption, Lukow said. Although the company has not yet identified a new CEO following the departure of Amin Maredia at the end of last year, the board is highly engaged in the search, and Lukow said Sprouts will hopefully have an update soon.

Gross profit for the quarter increased 9% to $484 million, resulting in a gross profit margin of 34.3%, a decrease of 30 basis points compared to the same period in 2018, primarily driven by cost inflation that was not fully reflected in retail pricing due to the competitive landscape, as well as changes in product mix.

Net income for Q1 was $56 million and diluted earnings per share was $0.46, compared with $67 million and $0.50, respectively, in 2018.

Source: Grocerydive.com

Eataly opens its doors in the heart of Paris

The first Eataly food hall in France opens its doors, in the heart of the Marais district of Paris. An impressive 4,000 square metres store, 2,500 of which are open to the public at 37, rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, in a historic architectural building belonging to the Galeries Lafayette group, that is franchisee of the Italian brand.

The block is bordered by the great BHV (Bazar Hotel de Ville) Marais, one of the oldest department stores in Paris, and by the Lafayette Anticipations Foundation, a place dedicated to the creativity of artists, designers, and performers. Eataly physically unites these two realities of the neighborhood by creating a new destination dedicated to the promotion of Italian food and wine culture and thus adding a new identity in the renowned district.

The building housing Eataly Paris Marais has been transformed into a multifunctional space on three levels with a market, catering and education, the 3 pillars of Eataly, and where about 300 people are working – half Italian and half French. Each Eataly location is dedicated to an immaterial value. Eataly Paris Marais is dedicated to the value of the Fraternité (Fraternity), with reference to the Latin word frater, which expresses deep friendship encouraging solidarity and mutual understanding, also promoting Italy’s “cousins from beyond the Alps” to the more intimate degree of brothers. As brothers, or rather sisters, are in fact the two greatest and most recognized cuisines in the world: the Italian and the French.

Open every day of the week, Eataly Paris Marais offers 7 restaurants including Pasta and Pizza, La Piazza, Pizza alla Pala, Pasta Fresca Bar, Coffee and Ice Cream, Osteria del Vino and Bar Torino. Customers can taste not only some of the most iconic Italian dishes but also specialties from different regions and seasonal products. Moreover, there is the opportunity to shop in a large Italian market where people can find fresh fruit and vegetables, mozzarella, burrata and ricotta cheese – produced every day in the laboratory at the heart of the store – meats and cheeses, the butcher’s shop, the bakery with wood oven, fresh handmade pasta, and the largest Italian wine cellar in Paris with 1,200 labels. The offer is completed by Eataly School where adults and children can experiment with a recipe learning about the most authentic Italian traditions.

“We open our first Eataly in France in the most lively and dynamic district of Paris, with great pride and humility – explains Andrea Guerra, Executive President of Eataly -. It took 12 years for us to feel ready to realize the dream of bringing the best of Italian regional excellent cuisine in the country that more than any other has been able to enhance and tell its products. After Munich and Stockholm we finally arrive in Paris. Soon we will be in London to offer the best of Italian food and wine culture in Europe.”

Oscar Farinetti, founder of Eataly, comments: “Eataly will do everything possible to offer Parisians the best of Italian cuisine and culture. The French have always shown great appreciation for Italian food and we will not disappoint them. We are very proud to be represented by the Galeries Lafayette group, a very prestigious brand, and we thank the Houzé family for having so deeply shared our values.”

Source: news.italianfood.net

Amazon cuts prices on hundreds of Whole Foods products

After its acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon introduced a sweeping lineup of lower prices on Whole Foods products. From Whole Trade bananas and organic avocados to animal-welfare-rated ground beef and almond butter, grocery staples were discounted by as much as 43%, according to Bloomberg.

The low prices didn’t last long, with some shooting back up just a couple months later. Since then, Whole Foods and Amazon have received criticism for their subpar efforts to further slash prices. The companies have touted weekly specials and lower prices on hundreds of products, but a September analysis from Gordon Haskett showed that a basket of Whole Foods groceries was only $1.50 cheaper than before the acquisition. Last month, The Wall Street Journal noted that Whole Foods prices had increased again, with the company citing inflation costs.

Amazon Prime members have fared better when it comes to the price of Whole Foods groceries, with an extra 10% off sale items and member-only discounts on a variety of products. Amazon is pumping up its Prime enticements with the $10-off deal — a reminder of how heavily invested Amazon is in driving its core membership base to stores and bringing more shoppers into its Prime ecosystem.

So far, research shows the integration of Prime hasn’t been as potent as many predicted. According to a recent survey from Wolfe Research, only 5% of Prime members shop at Whole Foods several times a month, and 42% of Prime members say they never shop at Whole Foods.

Amazon’s announcement that it will launch its own grocery chain overshadows its efforts with Whole Foods to some degree, making it hard not to wonder what the e-tailer’s ultimate plans are with the natural grocer. Is it a testing ground for pricing at its new grocery store, or a way to identify what products are most popular? The company is also mining valuable shopper data from Whole Foods customers, and could be using that information to help shape its new offering.

Strengthening its brick-and-mortar footprint, whether through Whole Foods or its new grocery chain, is imperative for Amazon. Wolfe Research found that online purchasing penetration may be reaching capacity, with 44% of people reporting there were no categories in which they planned to increase online spending next year. This is particularly challenging for online food sales, which have not gained major traction compared to other retail industries, and could signify future challenges for Amazon’s online grocery offerings.

Whole Foods has long struggled with its high-priced reputation, which doesn’t necessarily align with Amazon’s low-price offerings across grocery and numerous other categories. If Amazon can consistently keep Whole Foods pricing in line with the discounts it offers through Prime and on Amazon.com, it could start to build more customer loyalty.

The latest round of price cuts could help attract more shoppers who avoided “Whole Paycheck” prices, especially if they have a Prime membership. But with Amazon’s shaky track record on holding prices down at Whole Foods, it could be tough to convince customers to make the switch.

Source: www.grocerydive.com

Walmart launches voice-activated grocery shopping

Voice ordering is still in its infancy across all industries, Jon Reily, vice president of commerce strategy at Publicis.Sapient, told Grocery Dive in a recent interview. But Walmart, known for its e-commerce and tech advancements, is staying ahead of the curve.

In January, Walmart ended its partnership with Google Express, which launched in 2017 and included voice ordering for more than 2 million Walmart.com products, and with the tech company’s Shopping Actions service. The retailer said at the time it planned to focus efforts on the voice-shopping feature announced today.

With grocery, many shoppers are making repeat purchases, and using data to save prior purchases will help Walmart avoid one of the main causes of friction in voice shopping, which is the constant need for customers to provide details.

Experts say voice shopping for grocery has plenty of room to grow because unlike clothing or other products, many food items don’t need to be looked at or tried on, and much of it includes replenishment items.

“I think simplicity is the easiest way to do it where there’s a lot of repeat purchases of groceries we do on a weekly basis and it’s easy to purchase things like laundry detergent,” Carolina Milanesi, consumer tech analyst at Creative Strategies, recently told Grocery Dive. “It has a clear brand and you don’t have to specify the details of the actual product.”

During a recent presentation to investors, Walmart chief financial officer Brett Biggs emphasized the role grocery will play in the retailer’s e-commerce growth this year, expected to be around 35%. Grocery was a key driver in Walmart’s growth last year, with record comp sales in fresh foods and private labels. The new offering should win favor with customers as Walmart aims to maintain its edge in grocery e-commerce.

The retailer offers grocery pickup to about 2,100 stores and announced plans to expand to 3,000 stores by the end of 2019, Biggs said. Grocery delivery is available at 800 stores, with 800 more expected to offer the service by the end of this year.

Walmart’s biggest competitor, Amazon, also offers voice shopping through its Echo devices. In a survey conducted by Retail Feedback Group, Walmart came ahead of Amazon as online grocer of choice, and its latest efforts with conversational commerce could solidify that further.

Voice ordering adoption is still low, however. According to Gartner, consumers prefer in-store shopping versus other methods with only .58% of those surveyed prefer shopping on smart speakers. Voice commerce sales were projected to reach $2.1 billion in 2018, making up less than half of 1% of all U.S. e-commerce sales, according to eMarketer.

Although analysts agree that voice shopping will take a while to mature, Walmart’s decision to focus solely on grocery with Google and use data to maximize convenience for consumers could help the retailer further boost its grocery e-commerce sales and strengthen its reputation as a go-to grocery provider.

 

Source: www.grocerydive.com

Target debuts clean label for personal care products

This is the latest step in Target‘s plan, first announced in 2017, to offer products without unwanted chemicals and with greater transparency regarding product formulations.

By 2020, the overall plan is to formulate products without the chemicals on its priority list, and to label products clearly to indicate those free of ingredients like phthalates, parabens and formaldehyde. “Target Clean” is now one of more than a dozen Target labels indicating whether products are, for instance, organic, non GMO, gluten-free, bio-based or cruelty free, among other things. For the long-term, Target has also committed to investing up to $5 million in green chemistry innovation by 2022.

With this new label, Target is making a bet that it has enough trust built with customers that the icon will become shorthand for better-for-you and better-for-your-wallet products. Hennington noted that Target shoppers are increasingly interested in those types of products.

Other companies are capitalizing on the trend too. In 2017, upstart Brandless shook the industry with a business model that offered all of its products — mostly consumer goods and cleaning supplies — free of toxic chemicals and most for $3 each. The company recently began offering some products for $9 as it moves into baby and pet categories, but its core mission is about making it easier for consumers to quickly find affordable and clean household essentials.

Sitting at a higher price point, digitally native brand Grove Collaborative also makes a similar promise to shoppers by making it easier to buy natural products. For Grove, the priority is building a strong relationship with customers through phone consultations with service associates and personalized shipments. As a mass merchandiser, though, Target is making more of a convenience and value proposition to its customers. That ties in to the company’s overall mission to become “America’s easiest place to shop.”

Source: www.grocerydive.com

Meijer adds Shop & Scan service to 23 locations

Meijer’s expansion of its Shop & Scan feature is in line with an industry-wide trend of using technological innovations to make grocery shopping a more efficient and seamless process, with 49% of retailers naming in-store mobile experience as a top priority.

Streamlined, self-service in-store shopping is still relatively new, but more retailers are giving it a try. Since Amazon pioneered cashier-free technology at its Amazon Go stores, other retailers have accelerated their rollout of scan-and-go technology in an effort speed up the front-end experience. Kroger launched its Scan, Bag, Go service to 400 stores last year, and Sam’s Club has also piloted scan-and-go technology, most recently unveiling a new computer vision feature to make it even faster.

Meijer has been keeping up with the retail tech movement, offering curbside pickup and using the online shopping and delivery fulfillment service Shipt to provide e-commerce for customers through Meijer Home Delivery, which has been popular with shoppers. Online grocery sales accounted for only 2% of Meijer’s total transactions in 2018, according to an estimate from Meijer’s director of digital user experience — a number that’s in line with consumer adoption across the industry.

“This technology joins our curbside pickup and home delivery programs to provide yet another option for Meijer customers to personalize their shopping experience,” company CIO Terry Ledbetter said about the service when it was first launched. Shoppers like to have options these days, particularly millennials, so adding an in-store innovation is an important way to keep curious customers engaged.

Doubling down on in-store shopping experiences with features like Shop & Scan shows the retailer is still focused on a brick-and-mortar approach as it struggles to build online sales.

Meijer is making other innovative investments in physical stores. Last year, the company opened a new 30,000-square-foot urban concept store in Michigan focusing on fresh products and a neighborhood feel. That market, along with several others the company has planned, offer a fresh new look for Meijer and a way for it to penetrate dense urban markets.

When it comes to customer service, Meijer is resonating with shoppers, landing the second spot on Newsweek’s America’s Best Customer Service 2019 list for the superstore and warehouse club category. With efforts like Shop & Scan, Meijer gives hurried shoppers another option to get their grocery shopping done quickly, and this should help boost the company’s reputation while staying competitive with other tech-focused retailers.

Source: grocerydive