The grocery industry is seeing faster innovation than ever before, fueled, in part, by the pandemic. As grocers looked to meet customer expectations, many focused on contactless shopping, putting extra resources around online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery. In a Total Retail Podcast, Hy-Vee’s SVP and Chief Digital Officer, Jessica Ringena, said that the pandemic “accelerated e-commerce and online shopping by several years.”
To keep up with growing demand for online ordering, some grocers have converted regular stores into dark stores to serve as warehouse and distribution centers. A recent Forbes article noted, “Whole Foods recently converted stores in Los Angeles and New York to dark stores. Other grocery chains like Kroger and Giant Eagle have temporarily moved some locations to dark stores, with plans that some locations could become permanent.”
Last week, we saw yet another trend gain traction in the grocery industry that has the potential to disrupt how people shop. Taking a page from Walmart and Amazon’s playbook, grocery-giant Kroger is adding a third-party marketplace to bring its customers the variety of products they demand today that aren’t currently available from Kroger. Grocery Dive reported that the program “will initially source more than 50,000 products from third-party sellers,” essentially doubling Kroger Ship’s current online assortment.
According to marketplace technology vendor, Mirakl, marketplaces allow grocers to offer an “endless” aisle in terms of product assortment. With BOPUS, marketplaces can drive new store traffic and sales. And finally, it gives grocers the opportunity to optimize product mix by testing new products and brands at no risk, then sourcing and selling the winning products in stores.
While these shifts in strategy might seem obvious and effortless in consumers’ minds, they are massive undertakings for grocers. Success requires strong leadership, agility and the ability to educate and communicate effectively with each and every employee, including store associates, who are the face of the brand and the most likely to speak with customers.
Without the ability to engage all employees and get them on board and aligned to new ways of working, execution suffers. Hy-Vee recognized the value of comms early in the pandemic as it sought to get safety information out to it’s front-line associates. It rolled out Retail Zipline to its 85,000 employees to help. Jessica Ringena said “Retail Zipline allows our corporate team to communicate with every single employee to make sure everyone receives the same message and executes new protocols or receives the latest company news in a timely fashion.”
As you improve your omni-channel offerings and make changes to the store experience, don’t forget to include store communications to your planning. If you need help, please reach out. We would love to share how we help our customer’s HQ teams reach out to more than 15,500 stores in 17 countries.