How to Be America’s Favorite Grocery Store: Innovation

What makes people love a grocery store? That’s the question we’re looking at in this three-part series on becoming America’s Favorite Grocery Retailer. In the weeks before the annual Market Force report on the top grocer in the country is scheduled to be released, we’re looking at the things that get grocery retailers to the top position. Last year Wegmans won and we examined how their great relationship with employees (Part 1)and the community helped Wegmans—a regional retailer who wasn’t on the list at all before—rise to the top.  This time we’re going to look at innovation, which is a big part of customer experience.

Making Shopping Easy Through Tech

Grocery retail innovation is happening fast, though customers’ adoption of innovation is a bit slower. On-line ordering and stores like Amazon Go aren’t the only cool technologies out there. Kroger is on the leading edge of many. For example they use QueVision infrared cameras to register the amount of body heat in the store, which tells them how many shoppers are there and so how many checkout lines they need to open to prevent bottleneck. Kroger is also experimenting with digital shelves (Transparent Pricing)that let shoppers use their smart phones to see ingredients and prices of items rather than having to search. And the company merged in 2016 with Market6, a company focused on data, insights and customer experience for consumer goods.

Technology for technology’s sake is a waste of time and money. But consumers are adopting tech at increasing rates in other industries, and they’re beginning to expect it at the grocery store. Tech innovation that lets retailers sell more product through creating an easier, more convenient, and more fun shopping experience is well worth the investment.

Making Shopping Special Through Customer Experience

People won’t go out of their way to shop at just any grocery store. The store has to prove it’s worthy of the effort. That’s especially true when grocery delivery and check-out free shopping services can let you buy groceries hassle-free. But if you can create an in-store experience that can’t be matched, it makes the trip worth it.

Wegmans seems to excel at this. It has specialty cheese, specialty ethnic foods, specialty sustainably caught fish, and a floral department with a professional florist who will make any arrangement you like. But in addition to that, it has a specialty pharmacy where customers with less common conditions can talk to a pharmacist who specializes in those conditions. An article in Thrillist quotedJo Natale, Wegmans’ vice president of media relations, as saying Wegman’s is “like a European open-air market, with mini-shops that are each staffed by dedicated experts.”

Wegmans and stores like Central Market, Whole Foods, and others create fun experiences by hiring musicians to play, and offering gourmet restaurant experiences, wine tastings, and the like. Going to the grocery store isn’t just cruising down brightly lit aisles looking to fill your cart, it’s an outing.

How do you become America’s Favorite Grocery Retailer? Don’t think like a grocery retailer; think like a cruise director or resort designer. That’s how innovation gets started.

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Seth Nagle, Senior Marketing Manager at RW3 Technologies understands the power of innovation but also its limitations. Attending Salve Regina in New England, starting his career in Silicon Valley, and now living in Austin, Texas; Seth provides a unique tech perspective to a complex CPG and Retail Grocery Industry that is in constant disruption.

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