Beacon Technology

Why grocery brands need to think outside the aisle…

Grocery eCommerce

Many grocery brands continue to wrestle with the cost of creating a stronger digital presence, this is in part due to the fact that sales numbers continue to be underwhelming.  But I also hear that it’s not a priority from IT.  There is also the excuse, ‘we already have Instacart, that’s eCommerce and it’s not exactly setting new records for in store sales’.

That kind of thinking is very short sighted.

First of all, the Instacart user experience is very poor by modern standards.  The product and brand experience feels like it belongs in the 1990s. So it’s not surprising to see such poor adoption rates when you consider the type of experience your customers have come to expect from online retailers. Furthermore, why should customers develop a passion and loyalty for an application the primary brand doesn’t love or support?

Second, it’s 2015.  Your IT teams have left the deeply entrenched era of the dark-ages where everything had to be built in-house. By now they should have started to embrace the businesses need for scalability and velocity. So with the support of the right partners they can cope with more than one project. They may not like it, but I can assure you, implementing a modern eCommerce platform among other projects can be done with the right oversight, planning and talent.

Third, build it and they will come has never ever been true.  So why are you surprised when your first eCommerce offering falls flat and under-performs?  Did you really invest in bringing it to life and to the attention of your customers?

Take a look in the mirror and ask the following questions:

How big is your in-house digital/eCommerce team (dedicated developers and marketers)?

Is that enough resource to power a channel that serves thousands of customers with thousands of products?

Have you partnered with SMEs to build-out your capabilities in areas such as product content, SEO, and PPC?

What score would you would give yourself for digital innovation (out of 10), be honest?

If you are satisfied with your answers then you need not concern yourself or read any further, you are either a trend setting visionary with a plan that is going to transform your business, or you are someone from the finance department who is satisfied with the current level of investment 😉


Digital is the future of your stores, not the end of them!

The following facts are the reason why Grocery Brands need a strong digital capability to drive store foot traffic.

Digital Ignorance isn't blissfulIn a recent Deloitte Digital survey of over 2000 consumers, 79% said they interact with brands or products before arriving at the store.

Nearly one-in-three shoppers spend more when they use digital content as part of their shopping experience.

In a recent survey by the Acquity Group, 40% of the consumer’s surveyed stated that they only needed one good reason to shift their brand loyalties.

59% of 25- to 34-year-olds head to the kitchen with either their smartphones or tablets. Yet nearly one-third of millennials say they don’t enjoy choosing what to cook.

According to the US Census Bureau there are roughly 54 million Hispanic and Latinos living in the US, making them the largest ethnic group.  Now think about this, 49% of Hispanic and Latino consumers are influenced by their access of social media, compared to 32 percent of consumers across all ethnic groups. Hispanic and Latino shoppers who access digital content during their shopping journey convert at a 37 percent higher rate than those who do not use digital.

Are you ready to capitalize?

Grocery banner blur 1Look to digital innovation to fuel your eCommerce success and drive consumers to your stores

The Basics:

Segment you product catalog to match your stores – most of your clients shop a specific store. It is imperative you provide your customers with an online experience that matches the product offer at that store. With a modern eCommerce platform, this is relatively easy to achieve.

Pricing & Rewards – one price isn’t the answer. We all know prices vary from store to store, so we the consumer want to see the price in our store. We also want coupons and discounts that are available to be applied or at the minimum made available during the online experience.

Do you have it in stock? There’s nothing worse than making an informed decision online then taking the time to visit the store only to find the product is out of stock. Give me the inventory position. It doesn’t need to be exact. In stock, limited quantities and out of stock will do. And if it’s out of stock, we’d like to know if it’s in stock in another store nearby.

Alternatives and substitutions – when a product is low on inventory or out of stock, give us a recommendation. Another size of the same product and brand, or an alternative brand matching the same size and price. And while you’re at it, show me some customer comments on the alternative. Then we will make an informed decision.

You have a planogram, could you share it?  Those of us who want to select our own produce would love it if you could take my online shopping list and restructure it so make it’s easy to find everything in a logical order as I move through the store. Hey and we most definitely don’t mind you inviting us to try something new in a particular aisle if it’s relevant to my shopping list.

Pushing the experience to another level:

We don’t like choosing what to cook, so help us!  Invest in a recipe application and connect it to your product inventory. Ask me for my preferences and something about my lifestyle and health goals. For me, I don’t eat beef and pork an try to avoide too many starchy products. I’m also into fitness. That should be enough for you to start surprising me with a recipe in my inbox every day. DO NOT make me search your website for the items, tell me you’ve already put all of the ingredients into my digital shopping cart and that I can collect them in 2 hrs or shop for them myself using the included store map 😉

Click and Collect with a surprise – everyone likes a surprise. So why not add an item to my cart for me to try. Free would of course be best, but a discount on the item would be ok. Just make sure it’s relevant to my lifestyle, preferences and goals. And make it easy for me to say no. Ideally in advance and without talking to anyone, that makes it awkward.

Wine & Beer Recommendations  – I don’t know if you’ve noticed but beer is the new wine. There are so many and they are so incredibly diverse.

You have in-store experts. They work in the beverage department and most of them I’ve encountered are passionate about their products. You have 100s of stores. That equates to 100s of experts. So use employees to source recommendations. If 400 experts place a beer or wine in their monthly top ten, then there’s a very good chance it’s fantastic. But tell me in laymen terms by using the best of their comments, and by the way, tell your inventory controller to contact the supplier and buy all of their remaining stock at a better price and keep the extra profit for yourself, we don’t mind because we want more 😉

Tell me why I should pay more?  Organic and sustainability, we’ve heard about it but it’s not easy to understand. We want to make informed decisions that match our budget and principles (most likely in that order). So provide me with a grading system that’s simple to understand and while you’re at it, if products are locally sourced, tell me more about the farmer or producer, preferably in a short video. We want to know more about our food. Free range chickens that are grain feed isn’t cutting it anymore. An informed shopper is a happy shopper.

Customize my shopping experience – once you’ve started to segment your customer base you will have a treasure trove of information you can use to make my shopping experience so much more rewarding. For instance, I’m a vegetarian, so don’t show me any non-vegetarian produce. At the same time why not provide me with some recipe recommendations. The opportunities for personalization are limitless and through the use of machine intelligence and big data it doesn’t have to be a burden, especially if you crowd source the expertise. Before you know it, you will be catering to local consumers who are trying to lose weight, have allergies, like to bake with their children at the weekend, are training for a triathlon, the list goes on.

Looking into the Future

Plan now to use Big Data – In the very near future (or perhaps even now) you should know what I purchased. But be selective. For instance, if I purchased two pre-packed marinated steaks, send me a message when my purchase will be at its absolute best.

“Hi Rob, you bought our excellent Korean BBQ Steak two days ago. According to our in store butcher, today is the ideal day to create a fantastic dinner as the flavors will be at their very best. To help plan your meal, our chef recommends you serve it with…and by the way, it’s already in your online cart, just uncheck items you already have in the pantry/fridge and we’ll have the rest ready for you at the store. And one more thing, you might like this bottle of Malbec, it’s a favorite of our wine staff. Click it and tell us how many you want and we’ll add it to your cart.”

Buy ButtonBuy Buttons this technology is already available and Amazon is promoting it. So why not join in. You don’t have to ship the item, just use the connected technology to add the item to my cart so it’s there for my next trip to the store.

Buy Buttons are just one of the many ‘things’ that will soon be appearing throughout the house.

Beacon or WiFi location marketing – using in-store beacon technology will let you know when I’m in your store. So all you have to do is combine the relevant information and I’m going to respond. Such as, ‘hey Rob, we have a brand new Malbec we think you should try because you liked the Bodega Sottano Reserve Malbec’, and if you buy it today, we’ll give you a 10% discount. What’s more if you like it and tell your friends they’ll also get your discount [see the importance of social currency].

New Wifi technology is about to enable you to create catchment areas around your store. So if I’m nearby, you’ll be able to target me. For instance, if it’s in the morning, offer me a new freshly made juice and make sure I can preorder and have it ready, I don’t have time to wait. You get the idea.

Stores within Stores – you have a limited physical footprint so you can’t sell everything. But you can use a combination of digital interactions within the store to promote your extended offer which is available online.

Ask the Experts – one centralized expert can be connected through mobile video conferencing technology to assist in-store staff who are serving a client with a question, concern or problem that is beyond their knowledge.  For instance, one Doctor could provide expert help for all of you in-store pharmacies.  Making recommendations for over the counter solutions as well as advising if a more significant course of action should be taken. Furthermore, you could partner local walk-in clinics and use technology to access the available appointments and give the customer the option to take one and receive the treatment they need.

In-store ClientelingIn the wine department you can have a digitally connected Wine Expert, who can interact with staff and customers using mobile clienteling hardware with integrated video conferencing (such as skype), so they can engage the customer and make recommendations and suggestions. You could also extend the service further by incorporating into the clienteling experience access to bulk stock.  Thereby allowing the customer to order case(s) of wine and have them shipped to their home (using a 3PL).

Using mobile clienteling capabilities you could enable in-store access to a multitude of experts, and they could all be free. Why shouldn’t the producers of the products want to be invested in the in-store experience, after all it’s in their best interest too?


Leverage your eCommerce to generate incremental sales revenue

Look outside of your normal business model for new opportunities. Here are just one examples of how your digital capabilities can increase your revenue incrementally.

Create an Organization attribute in your eCommerce engine and use it like you would a loyalty program.  Organizations could be local companies, groups or clubs.  Then create reward programs for their employees or members.

Don’t stop at discounting pricing. Offer bundles and deals on premade lunches (combos) and catering platters for meetings and events. Order online by a certain time and it will be ready for express pick-up. These are highly profitable products, now you have a vehicle to promote them.


Contact for More Information – 1 Hour Free Consultation

If any of these concepts resonate, feel free to connect and I will be delighted to work with you to develop an implementation strategy that fits you business needs, budget and technology.

What to expect from Web 3.0 or should it be 3.i

In three words, Intuitive Intelligent Interaction.

HAL-9000

This will be the foundation of Web 3.0 according to the experts.  Thanks to the exponential growth rate in computer processing power, cognitive computing on a massive scale is on the horizon.  If you want to take a sneak peek at what the future holds, look no further than Siri, Google Now and Cortana, although they are merely children by comparison to the A.I. of the future.

PERSONAL ASSISTANT

As the era of Web 3.0 evolves into a mature state, you will have 24/7 access to your very own personal assistant. S/he will be equipped with an intimate knowledge of your preferences thanks to your vast and ever expanding digital footprint, rendering the traditional search for information a highly inefficient practice of a bygone era.

Consider this, in the not too distant future you ask Assistant a question, ‘I would like to purchase a bottle of red wine on my way home’. In the blink of an eye, S/he assimilates all of your prior history relating to wine. S/he has access to your browsing history, likes, bookmarks, apps and any recommendations you’ve posted plus everything else you ever did online. Armed with this information, it is safe to say, a computer with sufficient processing power and the necessary intelligence software would quickly ascertain the following. You once had a preference for Californian Cabernet’s priced around $30, but you have shown a more recent tendency towards buying Argentinian Malbec in the price range of $25 to $30 dollars. With this information and access to all of the data on the internet, you will likely get an answer like this. “Hi Rob, I notice you are currently enjoying Malbec. 2.5 miles from your current location you will find a 93 point Bramare Malbec by Vina Cobos at Jerry’s Wine Emporium for the excellent price of $28. Do you want me to order it and have it ready for pick-up?”

Think about it, all the components are there. S/he knows your current location.  S/he knows you are most likely on your way home because of the time of day and your route. S/he can see that you use apps from Vivino and Robert Parker and that you have posted reviews of wine you have enjoyed to a multitude of social networks. S/he also has access to millions of reviews from other wine consumers and of course the inventory of wine retailers in your vicinity. So it only takes a small leap of faith to believe that future technology will bring all of the disparate data sources together to provide you with a highly relevant recommendation in a matter of seconds.

But, this kind of technology and software isn’t going to be available on a global scale for a while yet.  But it will permeate our experiences on a day by day basis little by little, Google Now as a great example.

Google Now is already trying to provide useful information by monitoring my inbox and search data. With access to that content I’m already receiving useful and actionable information which is surprisingly accurate.

A more interesting example of personal assistance which is available today comes in the form of Amy, a dedicated assistant who will schedule meetings on your behalf.  Amy is the brainchild of A.I. start-up X.ai in New York. Their goal appears to be a simple one, banish the hassle of arranging meetings with multiple attendees. By copying Amy on your email to the parties involved in the meeting she will handle all of the communications and negotiations relating to the meeting time and location. Amy is currently in Beta, you can add your name to the waiting list for Amy’s services at the company’s website.

Artificial Intelligence

Amy

Amy also illustrates the challenge for A.I.  Scheduling a meeting doesn’t sound like rocket science but its complexity is mind-boggling when you factor in all of the possible nuances that could occur during the communication between Amy and the meeting participants. This is why Amy only schedules meetings and not a plethora of other services such as making your travel arrangements or restaurant reservations. Scheduling meetings with all the variables and communication between groups of humans is a very significant challenge in itself.

While we wait for the technology and software to evolve to a point where Amy becomes more than just a one trick pony (sorry Amy), we can look to a hybrid of human and machine intelligence to deliver highly relevant and intuitive recommendations and suggestions.

LOCATION BASED INTELLIGENT INTERACTION

If this isn’t on your radar, it should be.  We are about to see location technology such as beacons transform the way retailers connect with customers.

For example, you are thinking about buying a new pair of shoes.  You’ve been online to a couple of stores and you spotted a rather nice pair of brown dress shoes on ShoeStore.com.  But it’s not urgent and while you like them, you’re not ready to order online without seeing and trying them on in person. As you exit the product page, the website asks if you would like to save the item, which you do, and then instantly forget about them.

Two weeks later, you’re in the mall with the family when your mobile alerts you.  You take a glance at the screen and there’s a simple message, product photo and an offer.

Digital Marketing

The shoes you were considering are available in your size at the SHOE Store on the second floor of the Barton Creek Mall (the one you’re in). If you purchase today you will receive 20% off the retail price. You received this message because you entered into a digital catchment area of the SHOE Store. SHOE’s marketing machine has recognized your presence, has checked your online history and recognized you looked at a pair of shoes, checked the local inventory of the store and found a match, reviewed your loyalty status and gave you 20% discount via a simple message optimized for mobile delivery.

Now that’s both disruptive and a rewarding customer experience. I believe you will see this type of activity very soon.

The use of location based technology in conjunction with:

  • online browsing
  • customer segmentation
  • website interaction
  • customer behavior
  • local inventory
  • clienteling
  • mobile marketing…

…is about to transform more than just the retail sector. I’ll share more examples in future posts.