Influencer Insights: Andrew Tull

Andrew Tull has been a staple in the Business Development and Start-up/ Entrepreneurship community for over a decade now. He specializes in technology solutions and focuses on integrating strategic business plans for sustainable company growth. He currently works for Tailwind Business Ventures where he helps to provide end-to-end technology solutions to real- world business challenges.  Before partnering with Tailwind, Andrew served in a variety of director and executive positions for companies such as, Switch Inc., Pragma Systems Inc., and more.

KG: What do you think are the biggest changes most impacting the tech industry in Austin?

Andrew Tull: An inability to attract, find, and keep quality folks in key roles, most particularly product management, product delivery, and technical architecture and development roles. 

KG: Where do you see the tech/startup industry in Austin headed 10 years from now?

Andrew Tull: I believe we will see a continued intersection of larger companies (Apple, Indeed, Facebook, Google) on the tech side. These companies will combine with a number of the key incubators (too many to enumerate) in town to drive forward an ‘Austin 3.0’ that will lead to a new wave of investing, as well as new industries coming to town. When you combine these tech companies and incubators with the massive growth engine that is US Army Futures Command, and the multi-decade significant impact that this group will be having, it speaks to a very bright future for the tech/startup industry in Austin.

KG: Who or what are you “rooting” for in the tech industry right now? (Anyone or a company you’d like to single out whose work you are appreciating or look forward to hearing more about, etc.)

Andrew Tull: No specific companies – our team is focused on helping custom software development with a number of key industry players currently in Austin. I’ll continue to root for continued and sustained growth in a new and diverse set of industries and market verticals. 

KG: How do you most like to stay up to date on tech trends?

Andrew Tull: I’m blessed to be part of a number of startups, incubators, angel funds, and other groups that keep me up to date with the new tech trends happening in and around Austin. 

KG: When you’re not in the office, what can we find you doing? 

Andrew Tull: Spending time with my amazing family, running or volunteering with Texas Search and Rescue (TEXSAR).

KG: What’s the best piece of personal and/or professional advice you’ve been given?

Andrew Tull: Always, always, *always* lead with ‘how may I help you’?

How Public Relations Impacts Qualified Leads

This blog post was provided by Charles Dimov, an experienced marketing professional and one of our former clients.

As marketers, we know that communications and public relations are important. They are part of a sound marketing mix. It’s good for the brand and helps drive awareness. But, what is it doing for qualified leads and lead generation? Of course, we all understand that it helps. If someone has heard of your brand from a third party article, they are more willing to interact with you online. Wonderful, but that’s all wishy-washy qualitative stuff! Is there tangible proof that public relations drives qualified leads? As a convert, here is my story that answers this question. Spoiler – the answer is YES, it does.


Startup Struggles


For the past three and a half years, I have led global marketing for a small retail software firm, OrderDynamics. In all regards, the company was a startup with a serious challenge. Four years ago, it was a 40-person firm, spun off from a larger organization. It had no discernible market presence. For the most part, no one in the industry had heard of us. There was no significant brand presence, compared to several goliaths in the industry like IBM, Oracle, and SAP. The flow of inbound leads was sporadic at best. To approximate, we had about 30 inbound raw leads per month.

These were certainly not marketing qualified leads (MQL), nor sales qualified leads (SQL). The inside sales process was completely focused on outbound efforts (events, list calling, followup). To top it off, web traffic dropped 75% in the year following the spinoff. Sales thought of marketing as an unengaged team working on its own. In hindsight, this was by no means a picture of success.


Public Relations & Qualified Leads


Starting with a vision, and marketing strategy (content centric – inbound), we added a communications / PR plan to the marketing mix. With buyer personas in hand, we focused on creating high-quality content, and on an ongoing public relations push. For a fast start, we outsourced this expertise.


Publishing educational, non-promotional content on a consistent basis was part of the plan. Content included white papers, topic briefs, data sheets, brochures, webinars, podcasts and ground-breaking industry research (developed in-house).

Through these initiatives, we established an ideal platform for a blogging strategy, using SEO to catch the interest of ideal buyers.


Good content gave us a chance to drive press releases, provide media quotes, submit non-paid bylines to industry publications, offer guest posts, and even interview on podcasts. These third-party public relations efforts started driving an influx in inbound raw leads. On the marketing funnel, raw leads converted to qualified leads with a growing number of prospective customers.


Turnaround


After ramping up our PR efforts, page views grew from less than 6,000 per month to peaks just shy of 18,000 per month. More importantly, the marketing department grew inbound leads to as high as 400 per month. Over three years, more than 240 third-party industry publications referenced OrderDynamics. This in just over three years. Twelve of these were quotes in Forbes magazine, with one full unpaid article written about our research in the publication.


Certainly, the sales team was engaged, and excited. Consistent, high-quality content marketing – supported by a strong SEO blogging strategy, and solid ongoing PR – completely turned around the business. Sales and marketing were now working together to fill the sales funnel. Additionally, sales reps saw and appreciated the clear benefit of marketing’s contributions.


Proof in the Qualified Leads


You may wonder, did PR really provide sales-ready qualified leads? I wanted to know this answer too. So, we closely watched our inbounds in the stages in the sales process, in sales calls, and through our qualification process. Over the past two years, from close to 300 qualified leads analyzed, most were attributed to SEO (organic search), at 36%. We found the next largest category to be the ‘Direct’ sourced qualified leads, the people who directly typed in our website address, at 33%. However, as a small firm starting with an almost completely unknown brand, these sources must be largely attributed to our public relations efforts.


If there is any doubt in your mind – public relations does work! And there are results to prove it. For instance, solid public relations execution drove 33% of our sales accepted leads (SAL – qualified leads).

Don’t skimp on this part of your budget. Work with a professional, communications-savvy and well-networked team like Ketner Group Communications. They are experts at gaining media coverage for your company, which in turn drives leads. Our work together helped me completely turn around our marketing efforts and business. All in all, investing in good public relations management just makes good business sense!

Finding My Way: Andrew Stonebarger

This blog post was provided by our intern Andrew Stonebarger

Finding My Way to Austin

Hello everyone! My name is Andrew Stonebarger, and I am a senior public relations student at The University of Texas at Austin. I was born in Nashville, TN, but I grew up in Syracuse, NY. Fun fact about Syracuse: it is one of the snowiest cities in America with an average snowfall of 123.8 inches per year! After living in basically the tundra for 13 years, I knew I needed to go to school in the south, so I packed my bags, drove 26 hours and found my way to Austin.

Moving 26 hours away to go to college was a tough task, but I’ve learned a lot because of it. In my time at UT, I have grown as a person, just as much, if not more, than I have as an intellectual. In addition, I found such a unique campus atmosphere that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Austin is a one-of-a-kind place with an amazing balance between college town and metropolitan city.  It has truly become my home away from home and has helped me grow so much more than I imagined. This is a special city; it’s hard to imagine my life and college experience anywhere else.

Finding My Passions

My journey to where I am today as a public relations major wasn’t easy. I entered UT Austin as an actuarial science major. I found myself bored and struggling. In turn, I started taking new classes and I found myself in PR 101. I thought to myself, “you’re a good public speaker; this’ll be a breeze.” I was dumbfounded when the professors first words were, “if you’re here because you’re a good public speaker and you think that’s PR, you are in for a rude awakening.” My heart was beating out of my chest, but I stuck with the class and grew to love it. The class was confusing, but refreshing. As I took more classes, my passion grew and I found myself in a new major.

PR allowed for a sense of creativity that I hadn’t experienced before. Every problem in mathematics had the same solution with different numbers, but in public relations, every problem requires innovation that allows me to express that creativity. As I finish my college career, I look back and hope one day I can shed light on what PR actually is to younger generations. Eventually, I want to introduce communications to a high school curriculum.

Outside of the Office

Beyond academics and work, I have a ton of hobbies. I play for Texas Men’s Volleyball. This year we went to Denver for NCVF Nationals and finished 9th! Other than volleyball, I play chess and I still can’t beat my Dad so clearly I need to practice more. I also love the NBA and college football. If you want to talk Finals or Free Agency, I’ll tell you where every star is going to end up or if you want to talk college football, I’ll tell you why UT is winning The National Championship this year.

Finding My Way to Ketner Group

As the summer drew closer, my nerves were growing. It was April and I still hadn’t secured an internship yet. I had an interview with Ketner Group and just had a gut feeling when I finished it. The gut feeling screamed, “Ketner Group is where you should be this summer!” When I got the offer, I was ecstatic. I knew once that happened, this was going to be an amazing summer. I’m only in my first week, but I have a good feeling about Ketner Group. Finding my way here is a huge step in the right direction; I can feel it.

I’m so excited to get to work here at Ketner Group Communications. I know there is a lot of knowledge at Ketner Group and there’s so much I can learn. I have a great feeling about this summer and am so excited to get started!

Influencer Insights: Mike Troy

As editor-in-chief of Retail Leader, Mike sets the editorial direction for the publication. He focuses on providing business intelligence to senior retail and consumer goods executives to help them become more effective leaders and drive growth within their organizations. Mike leverages extensive industry experience and first-hand experience to manage content for the publication.

KG: What do you think are the biggest changes (technology or otherwise) most impacting the retail industry? 

Mike Troy: At a high level, retailers are attempting to keep pace with shoppers’ rapidly shifting expectations. Trying to stay on top of constantly shifting customer behaviors driven by new technology is impacting retail in a big way.

KG: How do you most like to stay up to date on trends?

Mike Troy: The best way to stay up to date is to read anything you can get your hands on. Read through press releases, research reports, 10-Ks, S-1’s, conference call transcripts and stuff my colleagues at EnsembleIQ write.  It is also important to learn from peers in the industry. I actively attend key industry events and listen to the thought leaders who are inventing the future.

KG: Where do you see retail headed 10 years from now?

Mike Troy: I have no idea. I’m not as smart as I used to think I was because retail is changing so fast. With technology constantly changing, it’s hard to say where any industry is going to be 10 years from now. The next big thing could come along next week or next month and ruin what sounds like a good prediction today. Directionally speaking, there are some well-established trends in place, but anyone can predict those.

KG: You must get thousands of emails a day with pitches and ideas (including from us!). Which emails stick out to you the most and why?

Mike Troy: I wouldn’t say I receive thousands a day, but the ones that stand out tend to be personalized to my brand. I’m more likely to notice pitches that make it clear the sender understands my style of storytelling.

When you’re not writing or setting the editorial direction for Retail Leader, what can we find you doing? 

Mike Troy: I’m rehabbing a house that is taking way too long and costing way too much.

KG: What’s the best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?

Mike Troy: Tell the truth.

sustainability strategic messaging

Integrating Sustainability Into Your Strategic Messaging

This blog post has been provided by our intern, Katie Stone.

Earth Day is a special day to me. Not only is it a day that celebrates the Earth and its resources, but it is also my parent’s wedding anniversary. Though not intentional, the holiday seems fitting. Growing up, my parents taught me to respect the Earth through evenings spent watching nature documentaries and taking family trips to national parks. Now as an adult, I care deeply about the planet and climate change issues. Likewise, I know I am not the only member of Gen Z to think this way.

According to the 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey by CGS, 68% of Generation Z shoppers have made an eco-friendly purchase in the past year. The survey also shows that Gen Z ranks ethical business as one of its top factors when making a purchase. Therefore, retailers who aren’t using eco-friendly strategic messaging are going to be abandoned by the up-and-coming generation.

Be Transparent About Sustainability

Before you publicly declare your company an eco-friendly one, do a quick analysis of your company’s current practices. If your company has made, or is currently making some environmental mistakes, get in front of it. Be open and transparent about past mistakes while directing your messaging toward the future. Detail your company’s plans to reduce or eliminate its negative effects on the planet through proactive digital media campaigns. When your company reaches a goal, use social media, press releases and other PR tactics to get your message heard. A strategic approach to eco-friendly branding will strengthen your brand amongst Gen Z and your other target audiences.

Include Sustainability in Your Strategic Messaging

Developing strategic messages will establish your company as a thought leader in sustainability. Spend some time developing key messaging that aligns with the messaging you already have. Test out what works and doesn’t work. Then, work with company spokespeople to get all of your strategic messaging consistent and include it in traditional and digital media.

When you identify the messaging you want to use, it is important that the messaging is laced throughout your brand. One post on social media using #EarthDay isn’t going to cut it anymore. Demonstrating your company’s sustainable initiatives year-round will give your larger Earth Day campaigns more validation.

Flesh Out Your Community Relations Initiatives

Showing is often more important than telling when it comes to environmentally friendly initiatives, as it proves that your company genuinely cares about the environment. Fortunately, there are plenty of possible community relations practices. Here are a few earth friendly community relations ideas to try in your office:

  • Incentivize volunteer work
  • Get your office to participate in #MeatlessMondays
  • Donate time and money to local environmental charities
  • Start a rooftop garden, or sponsor a community garden
  • Encourage carpools and working remote

When your company takes part in community relations activities, make sure you include it in marketing pieces. For example, highlight the activities in a newsletter or write a blog about the experience. Visual content is key, so make sure you get lots of pictures and video. You can use this content on social media and other branding materials.

Find Your Approach to Branding

There are many different approaches that companies can take when branding themselves as sustainable. To sum up, find what works for your brand and run with it. Looking to build out your strategic messaging beyond Earth Day? Send an email to [email protected] – we love to talk branding!

Adrienne Newcomb, Account Supervisor, Ketner Group

Employee Spotlight: A Q&A with Adrienne Newcomb

Ketner Group has officially opened an office in New York City, and we sent Account Supervisor Adrienne Newcomb up to the Big Apple to take the lead on the new location. As one of our most talented and hard-working team members, we know the New York office is going to be in good hands. That being said, moving to a new state and opening a new office can be a huge undertaking. We sat down with Adrienne to ask her about her thoughts on the big move.

KG: What sparked your decision to move to NYC and open up a new KG office?

Adrienne: Growing up, I always thought I’d live in NYC one day – I think this began with The Baby-Sitters Club (a quick refresher: Stacey was from NYC and lived there until she moved to Stoneybrook; in book #18, the BSC members visit the city); however, I never actually visited until I joined Ketner Group and came to NRF in 2016. Since that first trip, I’ve been dropping comments around the office such as, “Whenever you’re ready to open an NYC office, just let me know.”

Last year after NRF, Jeff and Catherine called my bluff! They asked if I’d seriously want to move to NYC and open an office. I was in shock, but game for a new adventure. I’d been in Austin since I started at UT in 2006 and was ready for a change. NYC seemed like the perfect next step for both Ketner Group and me.

KG: What new opportunities are available to you and KG now that you’re in New York?

Adrienne: It might sound cliché, but the opportunities are truly endless in NYC. From networking to new business to talent and building stronger media relationships, NYC is the perfect place for KG’s own HQ2. In a few short weeks, I’ve already found myself at several networking events and new business prospects are quickly flowing in. I’m particularly excited about building a team here in NYC; the talent pool is huge, especially for PR.

KG: What has the transition to New York been like? What’s been the biggest difference working in NYC versus Austin?

Adrienne: On a personal level, it’s still a bit surreal. I’m currently subletting, and my dog is still in Texas with my parents, so it feels like an extended vacation without all of my normal day-to-day responsibilities.

Transportation. That’s the biggest difference. I LOVE not needing to drive (I don’t love losing my MetroCard…can’t wait until they get everything switched over to digital). Austin really needs to get on board with the whole rail system thing. The one caveat is that you have to be more thoughtful and intentional about your tasks and errands; I can’t just hop in the car and drive to the store every time I need something. Laundry is probably a close second; I used to do laundry daily. Now, I find myself trying to see how long I can go between washes.

KG: How’s your new office? 

Adrienne: Jeff and Catherine gave me the freedom to choose our office. Knowing that I wanted to live uptown and definitely didn’t want to work in midtown, my options were a bit more limited. But I found a great place at The Yard: Lincoln Square. More than any of the other co-working spaces I visited, I felt like it best matched Ketner Group’s vibe. I’m currently in a shared office with a dedicated desk, but will be moving into a private office once we begin expanding our team. And there’s dogs! And espresso! What more could you need?

Adrienne’s view from the office window

KG: What is your favorite part about living in New York so far?  

Adrienne: Right now, everything is new and exciting so it’s hard to choose one favorite part. I love checking out new restaurants and stores, exploring new neighborhoods, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. In case you were wondering, my least favorite part is grocery shopping, which is disappointing because I actually love going to the grocery store! And it’s not the prices, as you might expect. The problem is the crowds. It seems no matter when you go, it’s a madhouse and the shelves are half empty (maybe a few of our clients can help with that?). I might become a grocery delivery convert, after all.

KG: What are you looking forward to most about living (and/or working) in New York?

Adrienne: Personally, I’m looking forward to finding an apartment! Currently, there are very few listings for March, so I haven’t been able to see many places. As far as work goes, I’m really looking forward to building our team here in NYC and having the ability to regularly connect with our long-time media contacts in person.

NRF 2019

Ketner Group Takes on the NRF Big Show 2019

In retail, we know that the holiday madness doesn’t end once the ball drops in Times Square. Even those of you who identify with “A December to Remember” more than “Ford Truck Month” – and are still reconciling the fact that no one in your family loves you enough to shell out a year’s salary on a front-wheel-drive convertible parked in a snowy driveway – know it’s time to take one more deep breath from the bottom of your newly built Saint Nick belly and get ready for NRF 2019 in New York.

Although Austin isn’t exactly the North Pole, we’ve been hard at work the past few months getting everything ready to knock it out of the park for a major mid-winter event. And this year, building on years of experience our team’s had at the event and given that our agency experienced pretty incredible growth in 2018, we’re collaborating with our largest cohort of retail technology innovators to date – representing 18 clients in total. Therefore, we’ve coordinated meetings with media and analysts, promoted their presence via social media, overseen email campaigns and used every other conceivable medium to get us ready to take on the Big Apple with the enthusiasm of Buddy the Elf.

What’s In Store

We’re excited to feel the energy in the expo hall as we move another year away from the doomsday ramblings about the ‘retail apocalypse’. We’ve seen firsthand how innovative retailers partnering with innovative vendors have established a bulwark against Amazon’s encroachment. We’ve seen how enigmatic executives have rallied an industry in need of optimism and vision to become a catalyst for even greater change. We’re excited to hear stories of recent successes and learn about what the future holds for the industry and for the everyday consumer.

Although NRF stands firm as the last hurrah before we can officially call the holiday season quits, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be excited about having more time than anyone else experiencing The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Meet Us at NRF!

So, if you’ll be at NRF and would like to meet us to learn about our agency, our services or our clients – or would like to meet with any of them – please don’t hesitate to reach out! You can find us at [email protected] or feel free to find us helping our clients at their booths, including:

  • Columbus Consulting – Booth #3083
  • DisplayData – Booth #1910
  • DynamicAction
  • Elo – Booth #3655 (with partner and Ketner Group client, Shoptelligence)
  • GK Software – Booth #3267
  • GroupBy
  • Kibo – Booth #4419
  • Mercatus – Booth $4560
  • Mirakl – Booth #206
  • NGC Software – Booth #4523
  • Opterus – Booth #4911
  • OrderDynamics – Booth #240
  • PlumSlice – Booth #1200
  • Shopgate – Booth #551
  • Symphony RetailAI – Booth #3036
  • Theatro – Booth #1517
  • Zynstra – Booth #230
Katie Stone, Intern at Ketner Group

Meet Our New Intern: Katie Stone

This blog post was provided by our intern Katie Stone

Getting To Know Me

Hello everyone! My name is Katie Stone and I am the new intern at Ketner Group Communications. I recently graduated summa cum laude from Texas State University where I received my bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Public Relations. 

I am originally from Katy, Texas (yeah, I know, Katie from Katy). Even though there isn’t a whole lot to do in Katy, I love visiting home so I can spend time with my family. I also like to visit our crazy boxer mix Daisy. Though I have lived in Texas my whole life, I have been lucky enough to travel to many places. I have hiked through national parks in the United States and zip-lined through the Costa Rican canopy. I’ve eaten fish and chips in London and walked the streets of Rome. I hope to go even more places in the future. When I’m not traveling or visiting family, I love reading, cooking and binge watching the newest shows on Netflix.

How Did I Get Here?

Before joining Ketner Group, I did six different internships with companies and organizations such as the Freedom of Information Foundation, Leadhub and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area. At these internships, I learned a lot about running the perfect social media campaign, developing digital content people will actually click on, and the ins-and-outs of event planning.

While working internships and going to class, I was also heavily involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). While in PRSSA, I served as secretary on our executive board. I was also the Communications Director for the PRSSA 2018 National Conference – the largest annual gathering of public relations students and professionals in the world. Though I had a crazy schedule, the skills I learned made every minute worth it.

Despite my current dedication to the field, I knew nothing about public relations before I went to college. When I started at Texas State, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I needed to select a major. I selected Mass Communication and Public Relations at random. Thankfully, I fell in love with it.

I couldn’t be more excited to get started in my new position at Ketner Group Communications. I’m eager to work with the KG team and to learn about communications in the retail technology industry!

Intern Series: Starting a New Position

This blog post was written by our intern, Meghan Farrell. 

Starting a new position can be a daunting experience. You don’t know the company culture yet, you have many new faces and names to learn and you aren’t quite sure what an Account Executive even does. These are all common worries that new employees have when starting a new position – and that’s completely normal. However, there are some tips to keep in mind that will help make starting your new job less stressful. Let’s talk about some ways to successfully prepare for starting a new position.

Do Some Digging

Although you probably learned about the position during the interview, it doesn’t hurt to do some digging. Check out the company’s LinkedIn or team page on its website and find someone with a similar position as you. Once you find that person, check out some of the work they have been doing or subjects they have been writing about. This can help you access what you’re in for or topics that might be relevant to learn more about before your start date. At the very least, research some of the publications the company works with or shares on its social platforms and get familiar with the trends in your respective industry. By doing prior research, you will have a better idea of the dialogue that occurs in your new position.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Unknown

Starting a new position usually means doing things you have never done before – and that’s a good thing! You want a job that challenges and pushes you into the unknown because that will help you grow as a professional. You never want to get too comfortable with what you are doing because you then risk getting left behind. Take on some things you aren’t familiar with because getting as much experience as possible is beneficial, even if it doesn’t seem to fit your current role or field. Volunteer to help with clients you haven’t worked with before or projects that are new to you when you have the time. Through taking advantage of these opportunities, you will get familiar with the things the company does on a daily basis.

Confidence is Key

Although you are the new guy or girl at the company, that doesn’t make you less important than other employees. You have the skills and qualities that the job requires and you were chosen over many other applicants. Remember that when you begin your new position. It’s normal to feel like you’re at the bottom of the food chain as the new employee, especially when you’re young, but you have worked hard to be where you are and deserve to be there just as much as everyone else. However, there is a fine line between being confident in yourself and coming off as cocky, so make sure to keep that in mind. You want to let other employees know that you mean business without leaving a bad taste in their mouths because you will be working closely.

There’s No “I” in Team

No matter the position you are starting, you always want to be a team player. While being able to work individually is important, being able to work in a team setting is key and will benefit you throughout your job, especially as the new employee. Employers want to hire people who will increase the value of the organization as a whole, and that can’t be done single handedly. It requires the help and collaboration of many people, and you want to be a part of that. Additionally, the more you network, the more resources you will have as you adjust to your new role.

Hit the Ground Running

Although you may be nervous, the best tactic to start off strong at a new position is to hit the ground running. Find areas that may need improvement within the company and make suggestions on how to make them more frictionless. If there was a program that your previous job used to speed up daily tasks, let your employer know! Do research on ways other companies are doing things and suggest them at the next staff meeting. There are plenty of things you can do that let your employer know you are innovative and want to contribute to the advancement of the company.

As scary as starting a new position can be, it’s ultimately a positive thing and a great opportunity to grow as a professional. So, when you’re walking in on your first day with sweaty palms, remember some of these tips and tricks to get off to a good start. Good luck!

First Annual Groceryshop Brings Down the House in Las Vegas

In October, Catherine and Adrienne attended Groceryshop, a spinoff of the popular Shoptalk conference organized by the creators of Money20/20. We were joined by our grocery solution provider clients as we learned how the industry is quickly changing.

Catherine’s Take-Aways

The state of innovation and disruption in the grocery world is, in a word, amazing. At Groceryshop, Adrienne and I were lucky to get a front row seat to the fast-moving grocery/brand/CPG train. Let me tell you folks, put your seat belts on, because your favorite retailers and brands are set to change the way we think about grocery shopping.

Not that we have had any doubt as to the “state of the nation” for the grocery industry. We live and breathe these stories every day. But, we were completely blown away (in a good way!) by the amazing case studies and keynote sessions.  Speakers focused on how grocery retailers are pushing the envelope in technology innovation, of course. But, there was heavy emphasis on how leading brands and CPG companies are working hand in hand with their grocery brothers and sisters to make the entire shopping experience refreshing, convenient and engaging.

The general drum beat of the conference seemed to focus so much on brands and CPG and how they are working to set up their own points of sale and working diligently to gather their own customer data to build engagement. On the flip side, there were plenty of sessions that discussed how grocery retailers are using private label brands to help them build more direct brand relationships, and of course, to gather more data.

Adrienne’s Take-Aways

As Catherine attested, the convergence of retail and CPG, was amongst the hottest topics at Groceryshop. But making just as much noise was delivery and robots. If Groceryshop is representative of the broader industry, no one doubts it’s time for grocers to implement online. However, it’s still up for debate as how to best pick and fulfill orders to ensure they end up in the hands of happy customers.

Some lofty ideas for both picking and delivery were offered in the way of robots. During a keynote, Luke Jensen, CEO of Ocado, mesmerized the audience with a video of the company’s uniquely designed warehouses. In the video, a carefully orchestrated system of robots runs on a system of grids to perfectly pick customer orders. On that same stage, Albertsons announced a new partnership with Takeoff Technologies to provide picking robotics for the grocer’s warehouses.

On the delivery side, the question was bigger than just robots. Some companies like udelv proposed autonomous vehicles as the answer. But, many grocers aren’t ready to give up control to machines. They’re still trying to figure out if they should use their own people resources or partner with a third-party delivery provider. Throughout the show, speakers presented the benefits to both options. To me, innovators like Deliv, who announced $40 million in funding, stood out for its revolutionary crowd-sourced approach to delivery. Whatever the answers, grocers need to find a way to get product into the hands of customers, fast.

Take-Aways from the Groceryshop Stage

We could literally write a 10-page blog about Groceryshop, but we’ll leave you with a few quotes from the sessions. We encourage you to read what our friends at RIS News and Supermarket News had to say about this event.

On online grocery and how to make it profitable:

“It is a challenge to not fall in the trap of not throwing a lot of capital on engagement platforms without making it sustainable. As you improve the relevance of the offering, you change the nature of the engagement. We see more digital customers spending more time in stores, because the two are complimentary. Overall, it is important to improve the quality and efficiency of the operations, and improve engagement with customers.” – Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer

On attracting customers who are not brand loyal:

“You have to have a great product. From a design standpoint, you want to create products that people are proud to use. As well, the overall end-to-end customer experience must be on point, from the unboxing, the web site experience and the retail environment.” – Andy Katz Mayfied, Harry’s co-founder and CEO

On how big CPG is to Instacart’s business:

“CPG is such an exciting and fast-growing area of opportunity for us – we are seeing 200% growth year on year in that business. We will be investing a lot in CPG, but it will only be successful in the spirit of partnerships with retailers and CPGs.” – Apoorva Mehta, founder and CEO