The Groceryshop trade show wrapped up Wednesday morning at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas after three days of presentations, parties and a trade-floor exhibition.
The show represented the first live gathering for the event in nearly two years. Attendance was compromised by ongoing concern around the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in travel restrictions and at least some late cancellations, but the show, as usual, delivered on content.
WGB coverage from the event included recaps of mainstage addresses from top executives from Albertsons, Target, Gopuff and Google and on-the-spot breaking news around new developments at the intersection of retail and technology.
Following are pictures and short recaps of additional show highlights:
While some influential companies in the space were notable by their absence from events—Walmart and Amazon, for example—others showed up for the first time, including Kroger’s Rodney McMullen, whose presence on the mainstage Sunday was amplified by hot-pink Vans skating shoes.
McMullen’s Q&A with Groceryshop’s Krystina Guftasson emphasized how his newly laid-out strategy behind fresh food leadership and technology at the Cincinnati grocer was playing out in the digital space, while highlighting how breadth of selection—or as he put it, the 30% of the basket many of the quick-commerce competitors that were the talk of the conference eschews was the “glue” to the comprehensive solution Kroger was pursuing.
The brief stop in Sin City, McMullen told WGB, was nothing new. While many attendees swapped stories of adjusting to work at home over the last 18 months, he’d made a priority of being on the road in solidarity with his essential colleagues.
In a Monday fireside interview with WGB, Pepsico Chief Customer Officer Mike Del Pozzo detailed how the omnichannel understanding at the CPG giant had evolved since the last time he addressed the Groceryshop conference in 2019—“it’s an accepted way of doing business now”—driving a mission to make its products show up “always everywhere.” That means adaptability at speed to varied channels from e-convenience, to discount, to foodservice.
Stores Are Changing
Is Foxtrot Market an app or a store? “It doesn’t matter,” says Mike LaVitrola, co-founder and CEO of the urban neighborhood “corner store” that was born online and today is embarking on a 50-store physical expansion behind $66 million in funding that also delivers its goods in about 15 minutes.
During its digital-only phase, LaVitrola applied his computer science degree to the drivers of demand and issues of sourcing—it had 120 vendors for about 1,200 SKUs, he said—which in turn, sparked the need for physical warehousing that were to become its stores. Sales are about 50-50 between the app and the stores, and come from among the very same customers.
Also speaking in this session was Deidre Zimmermann, chief customer experience officer at Raley’s, who provided insights into the company’s groundbreaking Raley O-N-E concept. The company intentionally debuted this format in a new market, the Lake Tahoe tourism-heavy Truckee, Calif., so as to not shock existing shoppers by a dramatic assortment evolution emphasizes organic, fresh, minimally processed and sustainably sourced items. That reckoning would come, however. “I’d be lying if I stood up here and told you we got off to a great start,” in expanding the concept, she confessed. “We made a lot of old customers upset that they couldn’t buy junk food anymore.” On the positive side, those on board with the changes are buying more, she said, and new customers are coming to Raley’s for the first time.
AI Meets Marketing
2 for $5; buy three get one free; 4 for $10; $2.50 each; 25% off; buy 1, get the second 50% off. Six ways to the express the same discount, but six very different deals.
Determining how to optimize tailored offer communication is just one example of how artificial intelligence can impact online and in-store personalized marketing, says David Moran, co-founder and chairman of Eversight, speaking in a panel devoted to that very hot topic.
In the same session, Swiftly’s CTO Sean Turner raised an eye-opening point: Grocery retailers collectively have more points of distribution and a larger transaction base than Amazon or Instacart, but lag them badly as advertising platforms. Diane Keng of Breinfy emphasized making the science of personalization easier to apply; and Jonathan Yaffe, CEO of AnyRoad, pitched its solution’s specialty in managing memorable experiences that he feels will increasingly dominate physical store solutions as sales continue to move virtual.
Private Brands Go Virtual
Nancy Cota of Albertsons Cos. gave a spirited talk on that company’s move to create excitement around private brands as an element of its digital sales, getting items onto online landing pages, carousel placements, and included as samples to premium shoppers. Matt Harmony of AlixPartners interviews.
The same panel included a presentation from Save A Lot’s Chief Merchant, Chris Hooks, who said that despite enjoying 63% penetration in private brands at the hard discounter, getting the quality and value right for its cash-strapped shoppers was no slam dunk. “They can't afford failure,” he said.
Their comments were framed up by Daymon’s Aimee Becker who argued that shoppers are buying private brands as an extension of their trust in stores, but stores need to tell their story. As a way to stimulate private brand sales, “the days of making a price-point decision at the shelf edge are behind us," she said.
CPGs Look to Instacart for Answers
Instacart Chief Revenue Officer Seth Dallaire, formerly of Amazon, shared mellow but thoughtful musings about that company's retail media program, turning insights and signals from its data to brands that themselves have an “aggressive learning agenda,” as every dollar counts. Soche Picard of Arc Worldwide interviews.
Marketing with Partner Platforms
Partnerships with digital platforms can be crucial in helping online marketing programs come to life. Caroline Masullo of Ahold Delhaize's Peapod Digital Labs and Spotify's John Gregory discuss a 1990s nostalgia-based promotion dreamed up deep in the pandemic and executed by sister store brands Giant and Stop & Shop last year. Spotify contributed custom playlist content that helped online shoppers “explore and play like they do in brick and mortar,” Masullo says.
The Case for Instant Commerce
Stor.ai CEO Orlee Tal says location and routing tech; zone-batch picking; AI-driven substitutions and real-time data insight are critical for efficient fulfillment from stores.
The same session included remarks from Ben Jones, founder of Ohi, a software company bringing direct-to-consumer brands the ability to deliver for immediate consumption. Instant commerce is not just a “nice-to-have,” he said.
In delivery tech, Attabotics CEO Scott Gravelle argued the benefits of a robotics-based supply chain.
Enduring Habit Changes
Omnichannel is here to stay, behind shoppers that use in-store and e-com modes interchangeably, Barbara Connors of Kroger's analytics arm 84.51, said in an interview with WGB. That means retailers need to lean in on insights on that shopper.
The firm's findings—based on Kroger customer data and backed with shopper interviews—indicate that the swing to food-at-home in the pandemic has begun to reverse but that but the mix of meals consumed between home and restaurants will not resemble the split they they showed prior to COVID.
That's because of near-term price and lingering COVID concerns; but also because of lasting lifestyle trends pointing to the longer term: Customers have discovered they enjoy preparing their own food, and made lifestyle changes associated with more home-meal consumption—such as a better ability to adopt or stick to diets, Connors said.
Tonight and Tomorrow Now
From the Mainstage, DoorDash’s Tony Xu addresses the delivery tech firm’s moves to leverage its size and experience in the restaurant delivery to better serve more categories of retail, marrying tonight’s prepared take-out dinner with tomorrow’s eggs for breakfast; along with expansion of alcohol delivery that helps build larger and more profitable baskets that benefit Door Dash, its users and its and its drivers.
A Burning World for Gen Z
A future-focused last-morning panel addressed how brands and retailers need to delicately engage the coming consumer age cohort Generation Z, as they’d just as soon prefer you wouldn’t.
Kimberlie Le (right), founder and CEO of Prime Roots, a direct-to-consumer meat alternative brand and a Gen Z herself, said her company acts on the notion that Gen Z has “inherited a world that is burning” and is especially keen to act sustainably and authentically. She herself is not a vegan but sees Prime Roots as a means for consumers like her to help the environment by taking away meat one meal at a time.
In brick-and-mortar grocery, Trader Joe's hits the mark for Gen Z, said Jennifer Pelino of IRI (left), calling the brand experiential, authentic, fun, neutral and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Second from left is e.l.f. cosmetic VP Gayitri Budhraja, who said engaging such shoppers is a matter of not interrogating them but watching them online at places like Tiktok, and acting quickly on what those insights reveal to them. "We have to see what's right in front of us,” she says. Tiktok’s Head of Retail and Dining, Matt Cleary, is seated to her left.
A New Conversation
Names and faces from the trade-show floor: Siblings Jon and Jen Jessup, whose 1440.io firm focuses online back-office simplicity for brands and retailers (online reviews, online orders, translations), and coming trends like the “business chat” funnel discussed by Google’s Carrie Tharp at the event—a new start for “conversational commerce.”
Yair Holtzer of the Isreal-based computer-vision firm Trigo says its first checkout-free store tech will soon be up in the U.S., bringing additional benefits along with it.
WGB separately caught up with Richard Schwartz of Pensa Systems, who said its computer vision shelf software—collected by drone, but now, also through the cellphones of store visitors like DSD deliverymen—can also assist retailers who use the functionality to aid issues encountered via omnichannel fulfillment from stores, like substitutions.
“A lot has changed in the world,” says James Martin, VP of Retail Effectiveness at NielsenIQ, itself a new identity, and evolved role for the price-and-promotion tech firm previously known as Precima. “What hasn’t changed is the need to put the customer at the heart of your business.” NielsenIQ connects retailer data with larger research providing clients a deeper understanding of the shopper.