Posts tagged "grocery"

AMAZON GO OPENS TO PUBLIC; RETAIL TRANSFORMATION BEGINS

January 21st, 2018 Posted by Consumer insight, Culinary lifestyle, food retail strategy, Food Trend, Marketing Strategy, Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, shopper experience, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “AMAZON GO OPENS TO PUBLIC; RETAIL TRANSFORMATION BEGINS”

Emergent announces retail transformation services

After a year in beta test, Amazon today opens its new high tech retail concept – Amazon Go — to the Seattle public. With it a new era in food retail begins, one that we believe will be transformational on more than one level.

Undoubtedly most of the coming media feeding frenzy will be focused on Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, and the computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion capability that sits underneath their no-checkout-line innovation. Importantly though, at Emergent we’re watching closely how the store is designed and curated to reflect consumer preferences for higher quality, fresh products for either immediate consumption or at-home meal execution.

Food retail has followed a familiar formula for decades, built around a focus on packaged food and pantry stocking. This has defined the shopping experience for a generation. Amazon Go at 1,800 of retail square feet is more convenience store than grocery. But the entire platform is edited to optimize and leverage shopper interests:

  1. Everything matters — and consumer insight informed merchandise selections are critical to match the consumer’s desire for fresh foods and upgraded snack and meal experiences. Carefully edited choice is a good idea.
  2. An on-premise display kitchen conveys the fresh, culinary inspired fresh preparations people prefer.
  3. An array of four to five rotating meal kits brings grab-and-go to full meal solutions.
  4. Integration of Whole Foods 365 store brand products offers its own, embedded quality cachet to packaged shelves.

Elimination of the check-out immediately removes friction from the shopping experience. So, yes, we believe this leap will be greeted warmly by people who have better things to do than stand in line.

The most important shift from our perspective is the product curation itself. Grocery stores ask the consumer to conform to its business model, to serve its supply chain relationships and its legacy shopping format – which is more about stock-ups in an era when consumers increasingly shop smaller baskets looking for just-in-time fresh ingredient meal solutions.

With Amazon Go we now have a food retail concept that religiously follows what the consumer wants in addition to how they want to shop (more convenience). The future of food retail must be centered on consumer relevance rather than just a mirror of routine retail infrastructure and traditions.

So today Emergent also announces our retail transformation services, intended to help food retail bring the consumer to the center of business and strategic planning. At a time when Amazon once again changes the game to secure a greater share of food shopping, Emergent’s transformation services for food retail address improvements to brand mission and go-to-market strategies.

Why does it matter? As Kevin Coupe wrote in his announcement story in his special edition of Morning News Beat, as Don Quixote’s sidekick Sancho Panza opined, “Whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the stone, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.”

Amazon is the stone. You already know who the pitcher is.

We’re here to help.

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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

Local Foods: Fresh Retail Leverage and Differentiation

May 24th, 2017 Posted by food experiences, Food Trend, shopper behavior, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Local Foods: Fresh Retail Leverage and Differentiation”

Thoughts on Food Retail Reinvention

Here in Chicago it’s that time of year again when Farmers’ Markets start popping up all over the city. When growing season kicks in, people gravitate to locally-grown and made foods in search of what they believe is better quality, freshness, flavor and a chance at chatting with the producer.

According to the “Firmly Rooted” local food movement study by A.T. Kearney, local product assortment at food retail is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s now a competitive advantage. Why? Because shoppers increasingly value it, will pay more for it, and it’s a driver not only of purchase but also store visits.

Kearney reports that local was a $12 billion business in 2014, with an annual growth forecast of 9 percent a year through 2018. If anything the local movement is accelerating as fresher becomes a significant factor in consumer preference.

The Kearney study revealed:

96 percent of respondents define local as produced within a 100-mile radius. While various classes of food retail may expand this to anywhere from 400 miles to statewide. Of note, consumers believe the circle is tighter.

93 percent associate local with fresher, a primary purchase driver.

78 percent are willing to pay a price premium for local of anywhere from 10 percent more to upwards of 21 percent (local eggs) in certain categories.

63 percent say they believe retailers are starting to offer wider assortments of locally-produced products, including prepared and packaged foods.

71 percent say by offering local products, retailers are doing more to support small businesses and help the local economy.

Barriers to Business Growth

What’s standing in the way of buying more locally-produced items? Shoppers say they don’t know where those products are in the store due to inconsistent signage and lack of cohesive display. Merchandising and marketing need to catch up.

63 percent say they will visit a retailer if notified about in-season, in-stock products. Doing so will require an investment in social and digital marketing to get the word out.

More importantly, this helps shed light on a cultural shift now influencing retail best practices. In the past, a food store existed primarily to drive transactions. Traditional metric analyses of sales and profit per square foot and average transaction/basket size would certainly attest to that. While these remain important assessments of performance, is it the only measure that should be applied?

As food retail evolves we can expect to see disintermediation of shippable commodities that will increasingly go online, while food and culinary experience becomes a bigger business and priority.

Reimagined food retail must work harder at creating an immersive food experience, bringing the farm and flavor adventure to the store. Yes, even some fresh products may migrate to e-commerce and delivery. However, we believe there is a significant segment of the market that prefers the tactile, visual, emotional and sensory-satisfying familiarity of hands-on food experiences.

Measurement and profit models will evolve with this change as stores further invest in perimeter businesses, commissaries and locally-sourced products.

Food is an emotional category. This sensory appeal can be harnessed to great effect by retailers who understand the era of selling boxes, cans and bags at velocity is narrowing in favor of real, fresh and prepared food options.

Those still trying to compete on price will increasingly face a “race-to-the-bottom” challenge with the arrival of low-price specialist Lidl, and the battle between Amazon and Walmart to leverage scale for difficult-to-match efficiencies.

You have to think differently about the retail business you’re in. If retail experience counts, then rethinking the actual presentation of these products in tactile, informative and experiential ways would follow. Where:

Food retailer = local culinary adventures

Electronics = hands-on demo depot

Fashion = the style guide

Toy = the playroom

Experience is the new battleground, and content is the marketing play to tell the powerful and valued stories of local sources, supply chain transparency, ingredient integrity, culinary inspiration and FRESH.

Go Local!!

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

deli shopper

Is Supermarket Prepared Food Ready for Prime Time?

December 7th, 2016 Posted by shopper experience, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Is Supermarket Prepared Food Ready for Prime Time?”

Not yet…time to commit to better culinary experiences

Being the home chef and lifelong fan of all things culinary, I find myself in the supermarket regularly. I LOVE IT. This is my favorite form of retail, where need and personal passion will drive behavior. That said, it can also be one of the more all-too frequently disappointing destinations due to the same old, same old aspects of what’s found inside the front door.

I love it enough that when traveling I try to get to the local food emporium just for a look-see in my ongoing fascination with everything grocery. Food is an adventure and I’m a journeyman explorer.

So, in my neighborhood in Chicago, I gravitate to the higher-end options including Mariano’s nearby, Treasure Island is also close and an array of specialists from VIN for wine, Dirk’s for fish and Gephardt’s for butcher. Even with my lean towards better retail banners, I still find supermarket prepared foods and Deli to be often uninspired.

FMI Study Says Deli an Underachiever

A recent report entitled, “The Power of Fresh/Prepared Deli,” from the Food Marketing Institute revealed that only 12 percent of shoppers are regular Deli visitors across all banners and channels. That’s leaving a lot of business on the (hot) table!

In parallel, we have increasing evidence that time-strapped consumers, especially of the Millennial variety, are hungry for more home cooked meals, if only they could get some help with side dishes, partially prepped options (meal kits) and general inspiration (easy-to-do but interesting recipes).

What’s wrong with this picture? A clear and present need followed by a retail opportunity disconnect. Well, I tend to side with consumer preference on this one.

Let’s see, over here at the hot table what do we find? Hmmm…something that looks strangely like high school cafeteria food (apologies to cafeterias that work hard with limited resources and funding). Yes, we have fried chicken probably now entering its especially dried out leather phase, meatloaf (again), mac and cheese (also again), grey green bean casserole (also too much time under the heat lamp) and some scary-looking starches.

In the nearby case we have five varieties of macaroni salad and similar options of potato salad, green bean salad, maybe even Jello® salad. Salad bars are their own unique fantasy food experience where the word wilted is an active verb.

We have shoppers pining for new meal solutions, looking to outsource some or all of their cooking to grocery – that’s missing the bar on prepared foods beyond traditional comfort fare.

If the objective is to lift Deli visits from 12 percent of shoppers to where it should be around 80 percent, what’s the answer?

Better, more interesting food…

If a restaurant served this over-cooked lineup would it still be in business? Probably not. Taste expectations and culinary knowledge is advancing at break-neck pace as everything from food truck to C-store works to improve their fresh offerings. Consumers can tell the difference between good cooking and bad, chef-inspired and pedestrian, so the expectation keeps going up. This just opens the competitive door wider to subscription meal kit companies who begin with higher standards on ingredient quality and innovative menus.

Strategic Mission the First Hurdle

You simply can’t advance on the culinary continuum if your business strategy is first focused solely on moving boxes, cans and bags off shelves (we know center store business matters to the bottom line but it shouldn’t be the sole agenda). Balance sheet issues and velocity will be the primary business model, unless the management team falls in love with food and food experiences. Whichever it is, everyone else on the staff will follow suit.

Culinary Inspiration the Second Hill to Climb

Who’s in the commissary kitchen? Is there a Chief Culinary Officer reporting directly to the C-suite? Is delivering on food adventure a dominant factor in weighing success in terms of shopper experience and menu?

When food culture changes it is imperative to change with it.

Better Deli performance will follow if better, more interesting, and dare I say more exciting food is offered. Ingredient quality is already on the upswing in a big way. Kitchen talent and management just need to get behind the incredible cost advantage that supermarkets enjoy over foodservice and decide, once and for all, that their Deli prepared foods are going to be on par with a restaurant experience.

Just go ask Wegman’s about how that’s working.

I, for one, will be there cart in hand, ready to buy.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

fork in the road

We’ve Arrived at a Fork in the Road for Food Retail

December 2nd, 2016 Posted by Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, Supermarket strategy, Uncategorized 0 comments on “We’ve Arrived at a Fork in the Road for Food Retail”

Become a resource about food, or be relegated to a source of product supply.

Many years ago when I lived in Seattle, I had a near-religious experience at a restaurant on Capitol Hill where I had just wrapped up a client lunch meeting. I ordered coffee at the close of the meal and when I tasted it, my jaw nearly dropped to the floor over the rich, deep flavor.

Hints of dark chocolate, beef roast, spice and earthiness filled my mouth. I had never encountered anything like it before – coffee being a bit of a meal-end ritual and nothing to write home about taste wise, I wasn’t expecting anything special.

I discovered the restaurant had switched suppliers and was now ordering from a coffee bean purveyor in the Pike Place Market – yes, it was Starbucks (before it became ubiquitous). I heard word about this place, but had never investigated. That weekend, I made a beeline for the store on Saturday morning – my intent to purchase the same coffee beans I had at the restaurant.

What I encountered there was truly remarkable and remains indelibly imprinted in my brain. This may be partially why I remain a devoted Starbucks bean buyer to this day. I told the counterman (baristas came later) my story and he gave me this knowing smile and launched into a detailed and fascinating tutorial: the beans, their origin, the tasting notes, the growing region characteristics, how they are roasted. Then, he went on to the steps of making a perfect cup of coffee. We tasted, we talked – he made an effort to teach me a bit of what he knew. I walked out of there with beans, grinder and a wealth of new knowledge and appreciation that coffee might be more like wine than, well, coffee. He probably did not know he helped create a lifelong customer but that’s what was going on.

Today, we see a resurgence of food and beverage specialists from fishmongers to butchers to farmers’ markets, where backstories and details behind the products are shared, along with tips related to preparation and serving.

The economics of food retail may have favored stores as product supply aggregators for decades. But the food world is changing in response to cultural shifts among consumers, whose tastes and interest in all things culinary continue to become more sophisticated.

The butcher at your local supermarket can be an order taker who wraps or a storyteller who raps.

There’s a small butcher shop near our weekend home in a rural area of southwest Michigan. The place is small but the quality is over the top. The owners, a father and son team, always begin with conversations about what they’ve tried lately just to whet your appetite, and once you get into selecting a cut of meat, the stories behind the sources, animal care and feeding begin in earnest.

Along with your selection you’ll also get preparation ideas, cooking hints and seasoning tips, maybe even a wine recommendation. Every visit is special because you learn something and the experience matches the quality of the protein. Prices by the way are in line with other grocery stores in the area.

Kevin Coupe of Morning News Beat had a similar experience in his neighborhood and made a video to share what happened:

Retail brand strategy guidance:

Gone are the days when competition is based solely on location, price and assortment. Retailers have an extraordinary opportunity to approach the customer relationship in a new way as educator, guide and coach.

Here’s what we know:

  1. While time remains a challenge, people are headed back into the kitchen where they can control and customize food preparation. They’re looking for ideas and timesaving advice.
  1. Food retail can be a temple to food experience or four-walled pantry. Experience now matters as much as the products themselves.
  1. Unique taste experiences and curated menu guidance are sought after and stores can step in to help make it happen.

Customer contact areas of food retail are an opportunity waiting to happen. Butcher shop, cheese shop, wine department, produce area, bakery, Deli – all are places where experience can match or even exceed the product quality.

Is it possible for supermarket staff to be trained beyond stocking and cashiering? Can there be a true love of food, so much so the shopper encounters a food-passionate employee in the aisles?

What is food about anyway? It’s a culinary adventure. Retailers who see themselves as facilitators and enablers of this journey have an opportunity to jump the perceptual barriers and engender a new kind of customer loyalty. A loyalty based on a personal retail experience enhanced by culinary guidance and customer service – going way beyond the product assortment.

With high staff turnover rates in most retail channels, how can you make the investment in training? It starts with a strategic mission and understanding about what kind of retail experience you’re trying to create.

So what’s the incentive to up your game? Commoditization is an insidious threat to every retail business, pushing in unrelenting fashion towards some combination of real estate gaming and price war as all things become more or less equal. The milquetoast middle is no place to be anymore.

We believe there is an enormous opportunity for food retail to insert moments of engagement into the store and in doing so, create a form of surprise and delight that transforms the emotional connection between the banner and customer.

Yes, training is required but the outcome and strengthening of the retail brand value proposition are well worth the investment. Not only in changing the paradigm of the shopping experience, but to begin creating the kind of work atmosphere that makes it more than a pay check for the employees.

What happened at Starbucks was an outcome of training and mission, which showed up in the passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of the counter associate and what he brought to an otherwise commodity type product.

The choice is here: become a coach, guide and resource, or remain a source of supply.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Supermarkets: Can the True Meaning of Food Drive Business Growth?

September 16th, 2015 Posted by food experiences, Insight, Navigation, Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, shopper behavior, shopper experience, Supermarket strategy, Uncategorized 0 comments on “Supermarkets: Can the True Meaning of Food Drive Business Growth?”

“The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground,
the source of sustenance and nourishment,
festivity, safety, and satisfaction.
A person cooking is a person giving:
Even the simplest food is a gift.”
– Laurie Colwin –

Imagine a grocery retail business that fully understands and embraces this thinking, then translates that down to the store aisles in how the business is organized to operate in service of the experiences and outcomes people associate with food.

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