The best thing about attending Groceryshop 2021 this week in Las Vegas is that it happened. So much has changed in our industry over the last 18 months and the need to physically meet and exchange ideas and experiences is palpable. The Groceryshop team put together a great event and we are all thankful they were brave enough to have it in-person. Here are my top 5 takeaways from the event…
Grocery is HOT 🔥
Gone are the days of good ol’ boys and c-suite suits who started out in the industry as checkout baggers. The people operating, creating and innovating in the grocery retail industry today are young, optimistic, curious and tech-savvy. They are willing to try new things, fail, learn and try again. They don’t care about the old boundaries that have historically insulated our industry from the creative disruption technology brought about nearly everywhere else.
Everything has Changed
Because grocery touches every consumer, multiple times a week, a simple 1% change in consumer behavior creates huge waves of change. This has always been the case. The 10-20% change in consumer behavior we experienced due to the pandemic – most notably in the adoption of online grocery shopping – has resulted in a tsunami effect. The phrase “It’s like the wild west right now.” was heard multiple times during the event to describe our current time and place in the grocery industry. And that particular kind of environment will attract some people and repel others.
Facing Tsunamis of Change can be Humbling
Each and every session or conversation I experienced at Groceryshop felt like a “leaning-in” to learning and understanding the current climate. Leaning in to share challenges and collaborate on possibilities. Old rivalries and big personalities took a backseat. The focus was on problem-solving and the need to do it quickly, which has opened minds and created some “strange bedfellows.” Who would have ever thought DoorDash would be a key sponsor and presenter at a grocery industry trade show? Much less form partnerships with grocers to help them compete for a share of eating occasions?
Experience is the Differentiator
These days the job of a retailer has become exponentially more complex, nearly overnight. More than once retail executives were pressed to answer the question, “If every retailer offers the same personalized discounts and online grocery services (often because many retailers rely on the same vendors to support those functions), how do they differentiate themselves?” The answer given most often was “experience”. But translating a differentiated store experience to a differentiated online experience requires knowing a LOT more about a consumer than just their purchase history.
The Relationship is the Reward
Consumers inadvertently create data trails all day, every day – where they go, what they buy, where they buy, what they search for, read and share. At some level, these data trails are a commodity. The insights derived from them are universal and thus by definition, not an opportunity for a single brand or retailer to differentiate itself. To break through and beyond, grocery marketers will need to create real relationships with real consumers. And to do that it will take a commitment to partnership, transparency, mutual benefit, and time.