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Natalie Tatum

Date Check Pro and Agilence Present: “Reinventing Grocery | The Timeline to New Normal”

Date Check Pro and Agilence Present: “Reinventing Grocery | The Timeline to New Normal” 1800 945 Natalie Tatum

Pinpoint Software, Inc., provider of the leading expiration date management solution for grocery stores, Date Check Pro, and Agilence, Inc., the leader in data analytics and operational reporting, today announced their upcoming webinar “Reinventing Grocery | The Timeline to the New Normal” that will take a closer look at the emerging trends across the grocery industry post-COVID 19. This webinar will be held via GoToWebinar on April 28th from 2:00 to 3:00 ET. To register and reserve your spot, sign up here.

With a combined 40+ years of grocery retail experience this webinar will be hosted by Pedro Ramos, Vice President of Sales for Agilence, Inc., and Andrew Hoeft, CEO & Founder of Pinpoint Software, Inc. 

This new co-produced webinar delivers grocers a data-driven perspective as permanent disruption unfurls within the grocery retail experience. It will cover the role cleanliness and safety protocols will arise as a key driver to sales, how former “slow moving” categories may be worth further investment, the role your associates play in future customer acquisition and retention initiatives, why a familiar business adjective to the grocery industry may emerge as a direct competitor, The DNA of the New Shopper, and more. 

“We know what COVID-19 did to grocery operations in the present; surges in online and curbside pickup orders, critical focus on cleanliness and safety, and larger, less frequent grocery orders. But what about the longer term impacts? We are excited to have teamed up with Agilence to glean knowledge from our collective data to help guide as well as predict where our industry is headed over the next several months and years.” says Andrew Hoeft, CEO at Pinpoint.

“This webinar is a natural extension of our partnership with the team over at Pinpoint Software,” said Pedro Ramos, VP of Sales at Agilence. “Both of us have strong ties to the grocery industry and we are seeing the frontline impact of COVID-19 on grocers of all sizes. Our plan is to present grocery professionals with data-driven concepts that they can incorporate into their business today, tomorrow or in the near future.”  

Grocers and grocery industry professionals of all titles such as operations, category management, merchandising, loss prevention and marketing leaders looking to better understand the future of the grocery industry following the coronavirus outbreak are encouraged to attend the webinar. 

For more information on Date Check Pro, visit Pinpoint Software, the organization behind Date Check Pro, is a venture-backed technology company, located in Madison, WI, dedicated to improving operational efficiencies through software. Their products also include Taskle, and Stop Waste Together, a non-profit initiative aimed at reducing food waste.
For more information on Agilence, visit Agilence is the industry leader in data analytics & reporting for retail, restaurant, grocery  and convenience organizations. Agilence develops a highly flexible and powerful cloud-based analytics & reporting platform that provides organizations with a complete view of their business, empowering them to make informed decisions faster, increase sales, and eliminate losses. Agilence, Inc. is headquartered in Greater Philadelphia.


How Stop Waste Together Gives Back in Times of Uncertainty

How Stop Waste Together Gives Back in Times of Uncertainty 800 495 Natalie Tatum

Did you know that $165 billion worth of food is wasted each year in the US, or that 40% of the food produced in the US goes uneaten? Food waste happens at home and various stages of the supply chain. Unfortunately, some of it also comes from food expiring on the shelves of grocery stores. 

Stop Waste Together is a non-profit initiative sponsored by Pinpoint Software. When paired with our expiration date management software, Date Check Pro, retailers are able to proactively track inventory expiration dates and work together with their shoppers to minimize food waste and maximize savings for everyone.

Our focus is on helping retailers promote the sale of soon-to-expire items and raising awareness of their efforts to shoppers. In this partnership between retailers and shoppers, we can maximize both food waste prevention and shopper savings. But it doesn’t end there. Every year, Stop Waste Together donates 100% of the profits earned from the sale of coupons and aisle signage our grocery partners use to promote the sale of these soon-to-expire items. 

Blessings in a Backpack is a non-profit organization that feeds school children in the United States who currently are fed during the week on the federally funded Free and Reduced Meal Program and are at risk of going hungry on the weekends

In 2019, Stop Waste Together raised $2,620, which we are proud to be donating to Blessings in a Backpack, a great organization working even harder right now to support children in need while school lunch programs are not as readily available.

To further support our local communities, Pinpoint issued a challenge to our small team to make individual donations, which would be matched dollar for dollar by Pinpoint. The team raised $575 dollars, which combined with the company match and 2019 SWT profits brings our total donation to $3,770.

To learn more about Stop Waste Together, please visit our site here.

How Shopper Behavior Has Changed During COVID-19

How Shopper Behavior Has Changed During COVID-19 1644 1085 Natalie Tatum

In a recent report from Acosta, researchers found that two-thirds of U.S. shoppers said they have changed their grocery shopping habits in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The report, Grocery Shopping during the COVID-19 Pandemic, dives into how shopper behaviors have changed in recent weeks following stay-at-home warnings and the panic-buying that’s associated with the coronavirus outbreak. To best understand this information, let’s take a look back at grocery shopper behavior in 2019. 

In 2019, one of the biggest trends in grocery was the shift in dietary needs. “One third of households have at least one family member following a non-medically prescribed diet, and this rate is higher for younger generations,” said Leslie G Sarasin, President and CEO of FMI. This shift changed the grocery landscape by influencing grocers to expand their natural and dietary restriction sections in the store and helped introduce new products on the shelves that fit the new needs of their shoppers. The other leading trend in 2019 was online grocery shopping, with  roughly 43% of shoppers got their groceries online, and visited the store 1.7 times per week, higher compared to the national average of 1.6 trips per week 

Both of these trends were expected to grow in 2020, but nobody could have predicted that a global pandemic would be the reason that both trends went off the charts. 

One of the most grappling statistics of the report is that two-thirds of U.S. shoppers said that they have changed their grocery shopping habits in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Comparing March 20-29 to March 6-12, shoppers in all age groups reported making significant changes in the way they get their groceries. The leading age group making changes was the Gen Z & Millennial shopper group, with 68% of those surveyed changing habits. They were followed closely by Boomer shoppers at 64%, and Gen X followed them at 64%. 

In addition to changing their grocery shopping habits, 72% of those surveyed shared that they have been implementing new behaviors like social distancing, a trend even some grocers have picked up on with the introduction of one way aisles. 70% of individuals surveyed said they have been avoiding public areas, and 64% said they have been sheltering in place and at home. 

Acosta also reported that top categories are changing, recording that 44% of shoppers are buying canned foods and shelf stable foods like rice, pasta, and beans, and more paper products. 36% of shoppers are buying more household cleaners and disinfectants and 36% are buying bottled water. 

Unsurprisingly, 9 out of 10 shoppers experienced out-of-stocks during their most recent grocery trip, with 47% of shoppers saying that they were able to find some sort of substitute for items that were unavailable. 

Acosta concluded their report with helpful tips for retailers and manufacturers during this difficult time, including suggestions on implementing new solutions that reduce the risk of shopper and employee transmission of the virus with shields, re-establishing inventory of core items, and providing creative, budget friendly meal solutions in store and online. 

For more information on the report and best practices during COVID-19, click here


What Grocers Can Learn from Fashion and Beauty Leaders About Micro-Experiences

What Grocers Can Learn from Fashion and Beauty Leaders About Micro-Experiences 768 512 Natalie Tatum

Immersive shopping has been on the rise in the retail industry for the better part of the last half decade. With more consumers opting to shop online, retailers are having to pull out the stops to encourage their customers to visit their brick-and-mortar stores again. While it’s hard to beat the comfort of the couch, leading retailers have figured out the solution to bringing back traditional retail: Micro-Experiences. 

Retailers like Foot Locker, Matches Fashion, Glossier, and Canada Goose are shaping the way that consumers shop in-store. By immersing the senses and heightening the value of customer experience, these retailers have entered the hearts and minds of their shoppers. Let’s dive into what makes each of these unique retailers leaders in the fashion and beauty industries. 

Foot Locker:

Foot Locker’s “Power Store” debuted in late spring of 2019 with the Nike Plus “Unlock Box.” The box, a fashion-forward vending machine, allows loyal Nike Plus shoppers to redeem free and exclusive items as a thank you for maintaining a strong relationship with the brand. The Power Store also features “Nike Plus at Retail,” which provides personalized content, exclusive access to products, and services like Nike Scan to learn and check inventory, and reserve online and pickup in-store. 

MATCHES Fashion:

MATCHES Fashion, a high-end fashion retailer for men and women, partnered with Frieze, an art that became one of the art world’s best-known brands, encompassing an empire of four international art fairs, three publications, events and course programming, and, an essential online destination for art lovers. In their partnership, Matches Fashion and Frieze created immersive art projects and films, pop-ups from creative enterprises, non-profits, magazines, restaurants and bars, hosted guests in two Private Shopping suites and invited visitors to browse its curated-for-the-fair store. They even hosted panel talks, live recordings of The Collector’s House podcast and live installations. Panel guests included tattoo artist Dr. Woo, The Elder Statesman designer Greg Chait, filmmaker, artist and writer Liz Goldwyn, jewellery designer Daniela Villegas, florist and perfumer Eric Buterbaugh, film producer Jenn Nkiru and celebrity and costume designer Arianne Phillips. ‘We want 5 Carlos Place at Frieze to feel like you are being invited to the ultimate collector’s house where we can host and entertain you, have original conversations and create memorable experiences,’ says Jess Christie, chief brand officer of MATCHES FASHION. 


As arguably the most well-known and respected newcomer in the beauty industry, Glossier’s famous millennial pink storefront is a breeding ground for selfies galore. Although known for their pop up stores, their traditional brick-and-mortar locations steal the show with their pink walls, selfie stations, pampering services to try products, and overall virality. 

Canada Goose:

Canada Goose, an extreme weather outfitter famous for their puffer jackets, recently opened a new storefront in New Jersey that features their “Cold Room.” Shoppers are encouraged to step into the -13° room to test various Canada Goose styles and accessories.

While these brands are paving the way for the fashion and beauty industries, the grocery industry can still learn a lot from them. Here are some key takeaways from each retailer with a twist positioned for the grocery industry:

Foot Locker:

The Nike Plus “Unlock Box” meant to encourage brand loyalty with a hyper-local personalized twist is a great example of a way to showcase your local communities tastes in a way that makes them feel exclusive. Consider ways that you can reward shoppers while still supporting your local community – perhaps by giving away free, full-sized samples from local farmers once shoppers reach a certain reward threshold. 

MATCHES Fashion:

MATCHES and Frieze created the art fanatic’s dream by hosting a series of events and opportunities to better understand the brand’s mission and intent. Consider taking a page from Metcalfe’s Market’s book and hosting a series of  in-store events aimed at what foods are in season like their Battle of the Salsas, or something more personal like an event where shoppers can put together a box of food that will be donated to a local food bank or pantry. 


While it isn’t practical to completely redesign your store to look more trendy and Instagram worthy, consider showcasing artwork from local artists or hiring a local painter to create a beautiful mural outside of your store. 

Canada Goose:

Most grocers already have a “cold room” (aka, the beer fridge), so consider taking the settings of your food up a notch. You could redesign an artisan cheese section to feel like a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, create an in-store garden to show how farmers grow your local produce, or make your floral section feel like a jungle with plants and petals galore. 

Creating an immersive shopping experience is easy once you let yourself open up to the idea of turning a functional grocery store into an experiential playground. Micro-Experiences exist to elevate and delight the shopping experience. What will your next one be?

2020’s Biggest Trend: Micro-Experiences

2020’s Biggest Trend: Micro-Experiences 988 610 Natalie Tatum

With big box department stores and national retailers struggling to get customers through their doors, the retail industry is in desperate need of a new fad. 

Following the so-called “Retail Apocalypse,” American consumers have shifted their buying habits toward experience-spending and casual fashion, mostly shopping online versus in store and from new age retail giants like Amazon. While strong retailers have been able to make the digital switch, others are having to take to the drawing board to create ways to encourage shoppers to come experience the store in-person instead of online. While it may be challenging, those headlining the creative in-store experience are experiencing infallible success; but how are they doing it? 

The answer is simple: with Micro-Experiences. 

What is a Micro-Experience?

FRCH Nelson Vice President Robyn Novak says that Micro-Experiences are the top retail trend for 2020, citing their ability to engage the consumer deeper than a traditional in-store experience as their key to success. By providing an emotional element to a sale, the experience with the brand becomes much more than a standard transaction. 

Novak defines a Micro-Experience as a small-format, in-store activation that engages consumers in a meaningful brand extension that can not be replicated online. With experimentation on the rise, Micro-Experience’s small footprint provides retailers with a trial-and-error opportunity to engage with their consumers without worrying about major financial setbacks. They allow retailers a chance to cater the experience to each persona in the most impactful, efficient way. 

What makes a Micro-Experience different from an event? A Micro-Experience must be small scale, physical by nature, authentic & ownable, a brand extension, must augment the core transaction, be executable & scalable, and must be supported by data. They embrace the emotional connection between a brand and consumer by providing experiential bliss – remember how we mentioned consumer shifting from buying material goods to experiences? 

Micro-Experiences must also be revenue generators while still being functional and providing a trial-by basis for retailers to really get it right. The perfect combination of digital meets analog, retailers should prioritize hyper-hospitable service to ensure that their traditional retail standards are boding well with the futuristic nature of the experience. 

Most importantly, Micro-Experiences must be personalized for the consumer. The deeper the personalization goes, the more meaningful sensorial reaction you can produce for shoppers. 

What Can a Micro-Experience Do for My Business?

Micro-Experiences provide consumers with an opportunity to enhance their relationship with retailers. Take Nordstrom Local, for example. An extension of retail giant Nordstrom, Nordstrom Local is a small scale brick and mortar storefront designed to provide fittings, detailing, online order pickup, returns and more on a more intimate, personalized level. This experience makes Nordstrom feel a lot smaller to the consumer and allows for personalized care from store associates. All of their services provide some sort of act of service, further associating Nordstrom Local with efficiency, helpfulness, and maximizing on their already foolproof customer service reputation. 

Micro-Experiences also get new customers through the door. When potential customers hear about an exciting new event, product, or experience, they want to be involved in the conversation. We’ve all struggled with FOMO, and nobody wants to be the odd one out of a conversation where everyone is talking about the hottest new spot in town. With everyone snapping pictures and posting to social platforms, potential new customers are sure to come across your Micro-Experience online and want to see it for themselves in person. 

Micro-Experience Ideas for Grocers:

Even though the number of shoppers buying their groceries online is rising, around 90% of grocery sales are still done in-store. Because of this, Micro-Experiences have a sure-fire way of positively impacting the in-store shopping experience. Below are three ideas for grocery Micro-Experiences. 

Celebrity Chef Demos 

What better way to showcase a new product than by having your favorite chef show you and your shoppers how to whip it up? Booking a celebrity or local chef to come show their favorite ways to spice up a meal encourages customers to engage with the special guest and stock up on an item they might not have known about otherwise. 

Live Music 

Are you tired of playing the same grocery radio station through your store? Are the same acoustic covers of pop-radio songs getting tiring? Look no further! Providing in-store live music is a great way to switch things up and provide an entertaining shopping experience for your customers. Consider setting up the band in your cafe or sitting area, or if you don’t have one, rent a few park benches and picnic tables and have them set up outside on a nice, warm day. 

Charitable Donations 

We’re all familiar with check out charities, but how can you provide a personalized twist to your charitable contributions? Consider what Lucky’s Market’s Columbia, MO location does. When guests bring their own grocery bags, provide them with a token that they can then drop into one of three designated local charity bins. Allot a dollar amount to each token, count up how many tokens has been dropped into each charity bin, and then donate that amount every month. 

Micro-Experiences may seem challenging, but they’re quite easy to accomplish. What will your store’s next Micro-Experience be? 

How COVID-19 is Affecting the Grocery Industry

How COVID-19 is Affecting the Grocery Industry 1540 862 Natalie Tatum

Almost every industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants around the country are almost entirely operating on a to-go-only basis, the travel industry is at a standstill, and retail has gone completely digital with over 90 major U.S. retailers temporarily closing. While many industries are struggling, the grocery industry is seeing the opposite problem. 

For those working in the grocery industry, you don’t need the news to tell you how crazy day-to-day sales have been during the COVID-19 breakout and related hoarding buying habits (does anyone actually have toilet paper yet?). As grocers scramble to keep their shelves stocked, we can’t help but wonder what impact this will have on shrink once COVID-19 has passed. 

Normally, the average grocery store has more than 1,600 expired items on their shelves in the dry grocery department alone. Now that stores have sold through most of their inventory on shelf following the COVID-19 spike in sales, those expired items have mostly been cleaned out. What is the best way for grocers to put together a plan to maintain this new level of freshness before expired items pop back up in stores? Date Check Pro has the answer. 

What Stores Should Expect From Expired Food 

In times of stress like this one, buying habits obviously start to change. While customers once bought a few items to get them to the weekend, they’re now stocking up on anything and everything they can get their hands on. Grocers expect to sell out of the basic items like: bottled water, chicken, meat, non-perishables, canned goods, milk, bread, and eggs, as well as cleaning products like Clorox wipes and disinfectant spray. However, the introduction of “panic shopping” has shown a trend in more unconventional products being sold in mass volumes. 

According to data from Agilence’s grocery reports, items like Sharpies and printer ink have seen a 10,000% increase in sales. Date Check Pro was able to talk with Raoul Ricard, VP of Business Development at Agilence, about what trends grocers are experiencing and what changes they can expect to see in the coming months:

DCP: What data has been most interesting to follow?

Raoul Ricard: “We’ve seen noticeable waves in our grocery data but it changes from region to region – even county to county in some cases. Four weeks ago, it was business as usual. Like everyone else, we started to notice toilet paper & napkins flying off the shelves but starting this week we’ve begun to see the trend of ‘replenishment.’ Consumers are now already stocked up on the essentials but they are returning to grocery stores for perishables and the other items they didn’t necessarily buy enough of. Deli items for making lunches for school age children continue to be a necessity as time goes on with the pandemic. What’s really been interesting is the weekly change in behaviors as this progresses. From normal business, to stocking up (canned/boxed foods and paper products), to work from home and school set up (General Merchandise), to replenishment (lunch for the kids, apple juice, bread etc.), and alcohol maintaining its increase.”

DCP: What unexpected items are selling out or spiking in sales at a time like this?

Raoul Ricard: “We have noticed that items like school supplies are way up in most grocery locations because most consumers are trying to condense how many locations they are physically shopping at. Products for homeschooling, such as notebooks, pens and pencils have dramatically increased in sales.”

With store inventory essentially wiped clean several times over, expired shrink will be low over the next few months. While shrink is normally stable throughout the year with only a few small fluctuations present, COVID-19 will greatly skew those numbers, especially since grocers don’t currently have labor hours being used to look for what’s left. Once stores are able to get back to their normal operations and sales return to normal levels and most frequently bought items, expired items will start to build up again. 

As shrink levels are down, grocers should feel comfortable pulling back from their spot checking schedules and rotation requirements. While close dates are still going to be present, the overwhelming surge in sales and speed of selling out doesn’t provide an efficient opportunity for spot-checkers to accurately report data. Products in the dairy and meat section can probably be skipped for about one month, and grocery can be skipped for about two to three months. Once shrink starts to ramp back up, spot checking schedules should return back to normal, especially with the high volume of dates that will need to be entered. 

How Long Before Expired Shrink Returns?

Take a look at one of our case studies with a mid-sized grocer starting from the day their store opened onward. Looking at a brand new store with completely fresh inventory is the best model we have to compare with today’s COVID-19 impact on inventory. From the data, we’re able to see expired shrink (in units) in a given month across three different departments: dairy, grocery, and meat. For each department, we see a build up each month, followed by a single month peak, and then relatively consistent expired shrink levels each month after. As you plan out resources for post-COVID-19 recovery, keep these timelines in mind for when labor hours should return to spot checking and proactive expired shrink prevention efforts:

  • Processed Meat – 2 months
  • Dairy – 3 months
  • Grocery – 5 months

How Date Check Pro Can Help 

With shelves being cleared and products being cleared from the system, there’s a clean slate for introducing or ramping up the way that your store manages expired food. For a short period of time, grocers are able to take advantage of the above trends to implement Date Check Pro at far lower than normal costs and move into the future more confident than ever in the quality of food being sold to shoppers. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how Date Check Pro can help your store feel free to set up a quick, 30-minute phone call or demo with one of our team members by filling out the information here.

How Agricycle Global is Reducing Food Waste and Empowering Local Communities

How Agricycle Global is Reducing Food Waste and Empowering Local Communities 200 200 Natalie Tatum

In 2015, college student Josh Shefner attended a school trip to Jamaica’s Blue Mountains to construct a fruit dehydrator for the local population. Now in 2020, Shefner is the Founder and CEO of Agricycle Global Inc., a vertically-integrated supply chain with three internal brands aimed at eliminating extreme rural poverty by reducing food loss and empowering rural women. 

Shefner’s first trip to Jamaica back in 2015 was led with high hopes and good intentions; constructing the fruit dehydrator would stimulate the local economy and also provide jobs for community members. However, the dried fruits struggled to sell in local markets and the farmers lacked the resources to export, brand, market and sell internationally. 

The concept soon evolved to address a more prescient problem: global economic opportunity.This catalyst led to Josh fighting with the global community gap for years to transform a school project into Agricycle Global Inc., empowering thousands of locals along the way. 

As a vertically integrated portfolio of ethically sourced and upcycled CPG brands, Agricycle manufactures and sells food-grade, zero-electricity passive solar dehydrators to preserve natural fruit abundances from remote communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean.

Agricycle was first supported by accelerators like gener8tor and Target Incubator, and now has sales across the United States through ecommerce websites like and in retail stores.

Since its founding, 35,000 farmers have been added to Agricycle’s global network of 7 countries, and over 3,000 empowered women-led cooperative members lead initiatives alongside the 21 Agricycle corporate team members around the world. The women who work in the Agricycle cooperatives make around $15 per day, up to 7x more than the average daily wage. 

Agricycle consists of three brands: The Jali Fruit Co., Tropicoal Ignition and What the Fruit

The Jali Fruit Co.:

Jali Fruit Co. sells high-quality, premium products from around the world through directly trading with smallholder farmers. By working directly with farmers, they cut out the middleman and make sure every batch of dried fruit is ethically-sourced with quality top of mind.

The average local daily wage in most of our cooperatives is $2/day. Jali ensures that their farmers make $15/day that goes directly to their own bank accounts, allowing them economic freedom to improve their overall livelihood. Additionally, Agricycle and Jali ensure that their farmers not only create bank accounts, but also establish a credit history.

Jali partners with nonprofits and local governments to provide additional training to the cooperative members in farming and agriculture. Learning food-safe manufacturing, market practices and financial literacy builds transferable skills for future employment.

Tropicoal Ignition:

Tropicoal Ignition provides better-for-everyone charcoal made using 100% coconut and palm from West Africa. 

Instead of slashing and burning trees, Tropicoal uses the shells of fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste. They then take the shells and mix it with cassava starch (another wasted byproduct) to transform these valueless waste products into premium charcoal briquettes.

Tropicoal burns hotter and lasts longer than traditional wood charcoal, saving the environment and your wallet.

What the Fruit?!:

Flour doesn’t have to only come from wheat. Made from 100% fruit, What the Fruit flour is gluten free, nutrient dense and has a low glycemic index.

Breadfruit has been cultivated by people of the Pacific Islands for thousands of years as a dietary stable. Not only is it gluten free and incredibly nutrient dense, it is high in vitamin C, fiber, iron and potassium. It contains pro-vitamin A carotenoids, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and other vitamins.

What the Fruit sources their flour from Jamaica through their ethical supply chain. Cooperatives of women are employed to harvest, process, and package the fruits into flour.


You can stay up to date with Agricycle Global Inc. brands by following their LinkedIn page here.

How Personal Utility is the Future of Retail

How Personal Utility is the Future of Retail 638 359 Natalie Tatum

With speakers from Walmart, Starbucks, Nordstrom and more, NRF 2020 showcased many different thoughts and ideas about what the retail landscape holds for 2020 and beyond. With the rise of micro-experiences and attempts to redefine customer service to foster more intimate relationships between companies and their consumers,  many industry professionals are citing personal utility as the driving factor behind retail’s growth. 

Researchers from PSFK in New York produce their annual Future of Retail report to provide strategic roadmaps for brands and retailers to deliver hyper-personalized service that meets the unique needs of every shopper in a post-experiential era. In the session ‘Humans are back: Why companies are putting a premium on the human element in the digital age,’ with PSFK President and Founder Piers Fawkes, Fawkes dives deep into the ways that any industry can harness feedback and machine learning to meet and anticipate their shoppers needs. 

Personal Utility:

Personal utility is the advanced computing, delivery logistics, and connected tech powering a hyper-personalized retail experience with the objective of anticipating and providing exceptional service. Retailers deliver personal utility through five categories: Inspire Me, Meet Me, Serve Me, Value Me, and Know Me. Each category Fawkes highlights here is broken down into detailed examples of those already doing it well and additional research and statistics that are pertinent for each delivery. Let’s take a closer look at the five personal utility categories:

Inspire Me: provide me with personalized recommendations and curated content to help me discover and choose the right products for my needs. 

We all know how difficult it can be to articulate your desires to an untrained or uninterested sales associate who might not know anything more on what you’re looking for than you do. L’Oréal solves this problem through Color & Co., a service that provides digital one-on-one consultation calls that help consumers pick out the best L’Oréal product for their specific need at the recommendation of L’Oréal experts and professionals. By providing expert care and advice, consumers are left feeling that their desires were heard, validated, and resolved beyond expectation. 

Meet Me: integrate shopping into my daily life, providing me with access to the goods and services I need in the manner that’s most convenient for me.

It’s no surprise that online shopping has taken over the retail marketplace. Malls and department stores around the world are closing at rapid rates due to an overwhelming number of consumers choosing to shop online versus in store. How can retailers expect customers to want to walk through their doors when they could just as easily shop at the click of a button? Insert Nordstrom Local. 

Nordstrom Local is the convenient service hub for online order pickup and returns, express alterations and style guidance, all with the same passion for customer service that Nordstrom is known globally for at the fraction of the store size. About the same square footage as your local Starbucks, Nordstrom Local provides shoppers an opportunity to interact with the brand in a convenient, efficient way that entirely exists to serve their immediate needs. Nordstrom says its customers in Nordstrom Local stores are returning goods faster and spending more money, giving the retailer a better chance of reselling returned products and continuing to leave their assisting reputation on customers in a fresh, new way. 

Serve Me: don’t just sell me a product, but provide me with a solution, making my life easier and ensuring I get the most out of my purchase. 

Buying a tool for a hobby or activity is more than just purchasing the item… you have to know how to use it. Think of all of the things you can order for your hobby and then think of how useless they would be without proper knowledge: a set of kettlebells (half of which you can’t even lift yet) for your desire to work out more, an embroidery loop for a first-time needlepointer up to their ears in floss, or a specialty tool set to fix that pesky leak under the sink. What good are these items if consumers don’t know how to maximize their usage? 

Equal Parts, a cookware company, offers their customers 8 weeks worth of free access to a cooking coach with the purchase of any Equal Parts cookware kit to help them develop skills and confidence in the kitchen. By giving them an opportunity to learn and grow around their purchase, consumers are able to maximize their dollars spent, often connecting the positive learning experience with the retail sale. 

Value Me: provide meaningful value that rewards my loyalty and shows me you’re there for the long-haul. 

Shopping somewhere where the associate knows and remembers you creates hundreds of opportunities for your connection to the store to both grow and strengthen. Think of the last time you got your favorite waiter at that one great restaurant you always go to – isn’t it nice how they always remember what you and your spouse want to drink and serve it to you before you even have a chance to ask?

Fashion retailer Ruti has introduced a series of cameras in their stores that scan and take photos of customer’s faces. The photos are then stored in the brand’s CRM along with information on their shopping habits and style purchases. While this may come off as an invasion of personal space and privacy to some, Rumi is treating their customers with the respect and assistance of a lifelong friend, analyzing every interaction to ensure that each one that follows will provide an even better shopping experience than the one before. 

Know Me: empower me with digital tools that allow me to control my shopping experience while continually working to make my experience even better. 

Fashion brands especially seem to find themselves racing neck and neck to produce the trendiest new items for the season – which can sometimes amount to even just a single week for a product’s 15 minutes of fame. When companies overproduce and don’t prioritize learning from data to predict new trends, they’re left with financial loss and an unimaginable amount of stock (we’re looking at you, fidget spinners.) 

Fashion brand Choosy uses data to uncover trends on social media then quickly designs its own products on the most popular styles and produces them on demand. While some consumers see this as a classic case of fast fashion, brands like Choosy and Forever 21 know their consumers are just looking for an inexpensive outfit that will look great in an Instagram picture. It’s not that Choosy doesn’t put the time and effort into r&d for new products, it’s that they simply know their customer, their needs, and how fast their taste can change – and how to change with them. 

Personal Utility in Grocery:

Now that we know how to maximize personal utility, how can we translate what we’ve learned to represent the grocery industry? Let’s take a closer look at the numbers behind the PSFK report:

  • 85% of surveyed individuals find a personalized experience where retailers automatically suggest, order, or recommend products that best suit personal preference appealing 
  • More than 90% of consumers are increasingly open to whatever products can get to their door the fastest
  • 64% of consumers say that it is very important or somewhat important than the brand provide educational or informational content that helps them get the most out of their purchase
  • 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers them personalized experiences 
  • 79% of customers are willing to share relevant information about themselves in exchange for contextualized interactions in which they are immediately known and understood

Grocery retailers looking to maximize their apps and digital reward system can maximize on the notion of 85% of individuals wanting retailers to automatically suggest, order, or recommend products that best suit their personal preferences. Consider how you can use your rewards app to suggest new products to customers that may fit the lifestyle the data shows that they’re living. Whether you have the opportunity to suggest healthier products, alternatives to products they only bought once or didn’t like, or similar products to ones they’ve purchased in the past, retailers are strengthening their relationship with the consumer by being a trusted adversary in the grocery buying process. 

Grocers looking to invest more in their store-to-door delivery programs should take note of the 90% of shoppers who are willing to shop at the retailer that can get their groceries to them the fastest. Investing more time and resources into staffing applicable individuals and ensuring they have the tools to accurately shop and deliver the items on the consumer’s grocery list in a competitively timely manner will surely lead to an increase in brand loyalty. 

Grocers looking to foster a closer relationship with their consumers could invest in helpful in-store signage, newsletters to be put in grocery bags, or informational pamphlets that provide helpful information on recipes, community incentives, and external resources in order to provide a more well-rounded experience for the consumer. With 64% of shoppers wanting to learn more about what they’re already buying, there’s no better time than now to go the extra mile. 

For grocers looking to enchant the 80% of shoppers wanting a more personalized experience, grocers should hyper-personalize their in-store micro-experiences. If the data shows that consumers are worried about the grocery store being a stressful environment, consider incorporating a shop-and-sip program, live music, or childcare services to re-define the atmosphere of the store. 

Even though data privacy is a growing tech concern, never be too afraid to try to get to know your customers better. With 79% of shoppers willing to share valuable personal information on their shopping habits in order to have a more fulfilling experience, grocers should jump at the chance to invest in the newest data to track their customers habits and emotions. 

Maximizing personal utility doesn’t have to be a chore. By inspiring, meeting, serving, knowing, and valuing your consumers, retailers of all industries can be equipped to strengthen their consumer interactions across all categories.

More information on the PSFK Future of Retail 2020 report can be found here. 

What We Learned from the Grocery Edition of the 2020 Retailer Preference Index

What We Learned from the Grocery Edition of the 2020 Retailer Preference Index 1280 720 Natalie Tatum

In the third annual Retailer Preference Index (RPI) for the U.S. grocery stores, Dunhumby  looks at the $700 billion grocery industry to answer what drives customer preference for grocery retailers, which retailers are winning and losing and why, and what grocery retailers can do to improve performance and win more trips.

Dunhumby provides a new perspective on the emotional connection behind what customers think and feel and why they shop at certain stores, all with the goals of understanding how these perceptions affect financial performance and helping retailers better understand their customers. 

Here are the most impactful things we learned from the 2020 Grocery Edition of the Retailer Preference Index. 

Customer Needs: 

While a few pillars of retail move spots in customers hearts and wallets, the price pillar is undoubtedly the most important pillar for shoppers of almost all incomes. Behind price comes the quality of product freshness and accessibility to private brands, prepared goods, product variety, the store experience, customer service, and the look and feel of the store. 

After price and quality comes digital, with easy ways to shop online or with a mobile app and the usefulness of the information provided. Operations follows with managing out of stocks, price consistency, stocking the right products and providing clean stores. 

Convenience, coming fifth in order of importance, represents having the right variety of products and convenient locations that allow shoppers to buy everything they need at one store. Speed both in efficiency of shopping and checkout comes in sixth place, and discounts and rewards including the ease of redeeming discounts comes last in seventh place.  

Top Grocery Stores:

The following grocers have a value core that is most aligned to their customer’s needs, delivering them in a way that is most relevant to their emotional connection and financial situations:

  1. H-E-B 
  2. Trader Joes 
  3. Amazon
  4. Market Basket 
  5. Wegmans 
  6. Costco
  7. Aldi 
  8. Sam’s Club 
  9. Walmart 
  10. Publix 
  11. WinCo Foods 
  12. Fresh Thyme 
  13. Sprouts 
  14. ShopRite

When asked what word came to mind when these retailers were mentioned, customers said convenient, cheaper, fresh, good, bulk, and great. 

Changing Value Consciousness: 

Following the last recession in the late 2010’s, consumers based their purchase decisions on price more than any other pillar of retail. Shoppers bought more sale items and got used to buying at lower prices. Shoppers also spent less on food, not only by seeking lower prices, but by buying less food.  

Shoppers also ate out less and cooked more meals at home and made bigger strides in curbing their impulse purchasing tendencies. They brought more private label brands, leading to an increase of shopping at more club warehouses, super centers, dollar stores and limited assortment stores. 

The “Fun” Factor:

With the hype of micro-experiences only on the rise, it’s no surprise that more shoppers are embracing the “fun” factor of getting their groceries. Leaders in the fun factor include Trader Joe’s, Fresh Thyme, and The Fresh Market. 

The “Fun” Factor is typically associated with grocers who capture a low share of their customer’s grocery wallet and  who provide a limited set of categories and products. Their limited categories allow them to deliver a well-aligned value core and focused innovation, but limit how much the customer will and can buy at a given location. 

How Traditional Retailers Can Win:

With big box stores and retailers topping the list of favorite grocers, how can traditional, regional retailers win? The equation is simple. 

Strong private brand + highly relevant assortment + highly relevant promotions = success

Quality is driven not so much in store experience, but more so through an assortment that meets their needs and allows shoppers to get all of the right products at a convenient location. While Walmart, Aldi and Dollar General have strong competitive advantages in price perception, private brands give traditional, regional grocers a resource to compete with. 

While they tend to trail in price advantage, traditional, regional grocers have a clear competitive advantage in promotion, information, and assortment relevance. When surveyed, discounts and rewards scored most important for those in late retirement and those that are empty nesters, but the numbers were high all across the board with little variation segment to segment. 

The Retailer Preference Index provides sixty pages of valuable information for grocers, retailers, and shoppers alike. To download the report, visit here.

What the Grocery Industry Can Learn from Nordstrom About Customer Service

What the Grocery Industry Can Learn from Nordstrom About Customer Service 453 299 Natalie Tatum

It’s no secret that Nordstrom is synonymous with customer service. We’ve all heard the age-old story of a customer returning tires to a Nordstrom and getting a refund even though the high-end fashion retailer doesn’t sell tires. Whether it’s an urban legend or a lesson on the legacy that a good customer service story can leave on our minds, Nordstrom’s customer service can teach more than the fashion industry something about customer care and satisfaction.

Nordstrom’s famous customer service can be broken down into two categories: their detailed care of the customer from the moment they walk into the door to days after their purchase, and the way they empower their employees.

In a 2014 Quora post, former Nordstrom employee Ambra Benjamin cited many examples of customer service excellence that helped Nordstrom stand out in the crowd, including that associates are encouraged to walk customers to the items they’re looking for instead of telling them where to find them, walking their purchase to the customer instead of handing it to them over the counter, and providing a one to one service model. These little details and experiences add a touch of luxury to the shopping experience and leave a lasting impression on the minds of the customers, even if they don’t realize it in the moment. If you’ve ever been to a Nordstrom, you’ll be able to recall the camaraderie of the shopping experience just as easily as you’ll be able to remember the purchase.

Sales associates are even known to go above and beyond outside of the store. One Black Friday, an intern passed out hot chocolate, coffee, and doughnuts to the growing crowd outside in an effort to keep them calm, comfortable, and congenial going into their mad-house shopping spree.

Shoppers aren’t the only ones being taken care of – Nordstrom has landed a spot on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For for 20 consecutive years. Employees cite the extensive training and educational opportunities within the company as their top reasons for loving where they work. Nordstrom also does a great job of hiring employees they can trust, emphasizing their famous “use your best judgment” mantra that’s almost as well known as the tire story. The company is also passionate about embracing the “Nordstrom Family” mindset. In a 2018 Business Insider article with former employee Aaron Valentic, Valentic said one of his favorite parts of working at Nordstrom was the company morale and culture.

“Sales associates were regarded at times as higher than managers, and if you were a minority you were seen as an asset. As someone who was gay, I never once felt that I was not welcomed or not an important part of the ‘Nordstrom Family.'”

While Nordstrom leads the fashion industry in customer satisfaction, grocers can learn from Nordstrom’s examples to recreate that specialized, intimate experience with a food-focused spin.

While it isn’t always efficient for baggers to bring each bag around to the customer like Nordstrom does, grocery employees can still step up their game with how they assist the customer with their purchases. Like Publix, other grocers can implement initiatives for employees to walk customer’s purchases to their car and help them unload and return the cart. While it takes the customer the same amount of time and roughly the same amount of energy to walk to the car and get situated for their drive home, eliminating one round of the heavy-lifting adds a luxurious touch to their grocery shopping experience.

The grocery industry is no stranger to creating comfortable environments in-store. With coffee shops, banks, and even childcare being offered in some stores, grocers are personalizing micro-experiences to their shoppers and their needs. Micro-experiences, whether being a specialist in-store to educate shoppers about a new dish they can recreate in their home or events like shop n’ sip, ensure that time spent grocery shopping is eagerly anticipated and not dreaded. Especially with online ordering and delivery at its peak, creating a comfortable environment for shoppers should be at the forefront of customer service initiatives in order to get customers back through the door.

Beyond the customer, grocers can encourage their employees to provide top notch customer service by treating them with the same respect and care. In a 2019 Investopedia article about the best grocery companies to work for, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Publix top the list because of their competitive salaries, enchanting work environments and stock opportunities for employees.

Even with automation at the forefront of grocery innovation, people will always need to get groceries and there will always be room to personalize the grocery-shopping experience. Enchanting shoppers with hyper-focused assistance and and  relaxing experiences, and providing employers with incentives to further their involvement in the company are just a few examples of what the grocery industry can learn from Nordstrom. With these tips, any grocer can become synonymous with customer service too!





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