Grocery Fulfillment: A Curbside Chat with Greg and Jeff

OK, we’ll admit it — the KG team likes to eat. And we have several very cool clients in grocery technology. So it’s no wonder that we spend a lot of time talking about the fast-changing world of grocery fulfillment. And in this blog, we’re taking a slightly different approach as our own Greg Earl and Jeff Ketner have an online chat about one of our favorite topics.

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A More Convenient Way to Get Your Groceries

Jeff: It’s the perfect day to chat about grocery fulfillment.  As I write, the KG office is getting its monthly mega-delivery of frozen dinners, snacks, sandwich stuff and everything else it takes to feed our hungry crew, courtesy of HEB home delivery. Our team’s ready to descend on the kitchen like a plague of locusts. And at noon, I’ll swing by HEB to pick up a Curbside order to take home, since our fridge at home is just about empty. Speaking of HEB Curbside, Greg, you’re one of its most outspoken fans — your love of curbside is probably only slightly behind your love of Cabo Bob’s.

Greg: While Cabo Bob’s transcends my love for everything in this world, I love HEB Curbside. As the area around my local HEB keeps developing, the store becomes more of a mad house. Even finding parking isn’t worth it for me. Being able to avoid the chaos, swing by and grab all of my groceries is a godsend. However, I will say that they could do a better job at updating their real-time inventory. Nearly every time I shop, they substitute items. This isn’t a deal breaker but can throw a wrench in my cooking plans every now and then.

I haven’t personally tried HEB delivery yet, but today’s office order went incredibly smoothly. Plus it’s much cheaper than when we used Instacart, right?

Be Careful – Not All Grocery Delivery Services Are Equal

Jeff: Yep, our first HEB Curbside pickup order was WAY less expensive than our Instacart deliveries. So I’m glad to see that Instacart is lowering its prices. Hopefully they can up their level of service, too; I tried Instacart one time with Central Market, my favorite grocery store in Austin, and it can politely be described as a disaster. The delivery was late, the communication from the person picking our order was incomprehensible, and I had a lot of trouble using my $15 off coupon code, which was the only reason we tried Instacart in the first place. A recent delivery experience from Randall’s, a perennial also-ran in terms of Austin market share, was far superior. I’m not sure who they use for fulfillment, but it was a surprisingly good experience.

Speaking of surprises, I find it interesting that our office is split nearly 50-50 among those who use grocery fulfillment and those who don’t. What’s up with our team here?

Believe It or Not, In-Store Shopping Advocates Are Out There

Greg: That’s too bad about your Instacart experience. I guess it’s difficult for them to maintain quality across all of their employees throughout the country. Speaking of quality, I think that’s exactly why some folk around here are torn on letting other people pick their groceries — especially when it comes to produce, which is very fair. I’ve received a few fruits or veggies in the past that I wouldn’t have necessarily picked for myself.  

However, some of the luddites around here just enjoy going to the store for the sake of grocery shopping – ridiculous! I think I can understand where they’re coming from though. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to pick out exactly what you want, roam the aisles and grab something that you didn’t even realize you wanted (a dangerous approach sometimes when your cart ends up well beyond your budget). Plus, a trip to the store is very worth it if there are free samples throughout the aisles.

The team especially enjoys shopping in-store at the more experiential/unique grocers including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco. When you consider the option to drink a beer while shopping at Whole Foods, it does sound much more enjoyable. As for Whole Foods/Amazon delivery, the only experience I’ve had was extremely disappointing. I tried to order some prosecco for the office because Amazon touted a free two-hour delivery promotion. However, this ‘free delivery’ required a minimum that we didn’t need to reach and the ‘two-hour delivery’ meant I could select a two hour window, not that the item would be delivered within two hours of ordering. Going to Twin Liquors down the road saved me a lot of money and time. I’m curious about placing an entire grocery order though.

Jeff: Interesting! You’d expect a better experience from Amazon based on how fast they’ve been rolling out Whole Foods delivery – maybe it’s more worth it for an entire order. There sure are a lot of options out there and I don’t think we can expect the industry to slow down any time soon. There are a lot of factors for grocers to consider — cost, product selection, inventory, customer service, etc. I think we both are looking forward to seeing these services get even stronger and more rewarding, right Greg?

Greg: That’s right, Jeff. Unlike some of the colleagues, I’d honestly love to never have to think about getting my own groceries. Maybe I should move back home…

In the meantime, I can just eat Cabo Bob’s for every meal.

Flashback (Black) Friday

Working at an agency where I can obsess over retail, I’ve started appreciating the impact it has on my life. I love the industry because as NRF says, “Retail impacts everyone, every day, everywhere,” and it’s true. As I sit down to write this blog, waiting for inspiration to hit, vivid retail memories come to mind.

A Retail “Remember When?”

One of my earliest memories of Black Friday was in seventh grade when a classmate chose an early-morning shopping spree as a “birthday party” of sorts. The day after Thanksgiving, her mom picked up our group of friends in the family van, passing back orange juice and brown-bag breakfasts to enjoy as we headed for the mall. The year was 2002 – “back then,” stores didn’t open until 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. We were among the first people inside when the security gates were lifted. At that age, Black Friday to me wasn’t about Christmas gifts or strategizing my purchases. It was the thrill of the hunt, feeling like a grown-up in the holiday bustle and looking for bargains. I remember buying a pair of trendy sunglasses for less than $2 and thinking, “this is so fun!”

Knowing what I do now about the current retail landscape, I wondered if a little Googling would provide more perspective on that memory of mine. The furthest back I could go was 2004, but it was still a fun window to the past. Try it for yourself… the Black Friday Archive serves up more than 850 ads from the past 15 years. You’ll get a kick out of all the landline phones with Caller ID and portable DVD players, and you can make your own observations on the evolution of Black Friday.

The “Black Friday Creep”

I’m a Target girl through and through, so I started exploring its ad archive first. In 2004, deals started Friday at 6:00 a.m. By 2010, Target opened at 4:00 in the morning, then midnight in 2011, and 9:00 p.m. Thursday in 2012. You already know the rest of the story. In the year 2018, many stores will open before some families have sat down to eat their Thanksgiving meal. When looking at the collection of past ads, it’s easy to see how this trend evolved. Slowly but surely, Black Friday sales crept into middle-of-the-night territory, and then into the Thursday evening hours. And this year, JCPenny made headlines when it announced it would open at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That’s earlier than any other retailer yet.

For the first time ever, forecasts predict Christmas sales in the U.S. to surpass $1 trillion, and this year, the first day of November was very noticeably the kick-off of a big push to shop. Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, and others started special promotions the day after Halloween, all competing for a share of your wallet. In the years to come, we’ll continue to see retailers dazzling us with deals and experiences each of the 54 days between Halloween and Christmas. Whether Black Friday will continue to be an important 24 hours of retail activity remains to be seen.

Smile, Then Shop

Four years after that birthday party, where did I find myself the Friday after Thanksgiving? In “Zone 1” of Bath & Body Works, working my first day as an employee there (side note: probably not the wisest day to start a retail job). That day is no less vivid than my first Black Friday memory. I was stationed at the store’s entrance with shopping bags and a ‘Tester’ bottle of peppermint lotion. Frenzied shoppers breezed right by me, too focused on the center-store deals to pay me any attention. I’ll never forget how frazzled yet energized I felt. This year, I don’t plan to do much in-store shopping, but I’ll leave you with this: if you’re gift hunting in-store this holiday season, be nice to retail workers. Even if it’s just a smile at the nervous high school girl trying her darndest to make your “offline” shopping experience a fun one.

Forget HQ2: This Is the Big News About Amazon and the Retail Industry

Amazon and its strategies are always at the forefront of my mind. Working with retail clients operating across all sectors, I’ve seen firsthand the impact Amazon has on a thriving retail scene. On Tuesday, Amazon announced its decision to split the company’s second headquarters between Northern Virginia and New York City. So, let’s take a look at what this really means for the retail industry.

Not a Bang, But a Whimper

In almost every way, it seems Amazon’s feverishly anticipated HQ2 announcement was anti-climactic. Few other companies have the resources to add 50,000 jobs over the next few years. But as is often the case with Amazon, the eCommerce giant is doing a host of other things retailers should focus on this holiday season.

For example, Amazon is on track to drive 80% of ecommerce growth this year. This will almost certainly account for more than half of all eCommerce sales during the holiday. That’s on the heels of Amazon’s Q3 sales of $56.6 billion, an increase of 29%.

Amazon’s first-ever toy catalog arrived in mailboxes last week, signaling Amazon’s intent to duke it out with Target and Walmart for toy supremacy following the demise of Toys “R” Us (did anyone really shop there the last few years?). Amazon is also offering free shipping for all holiday orders with no minimum purchase, even for non-Prime members.  Amazon is on track to become the #1 apparel retailer in the U.S. And that’s not to mention the hundreds of brick and mortar locations gained through the Whole Foods acquisition, and Amazon’s own branded moves into physical retail with Amazon Books and Amazon Go.

So, What Does It Mean?

Does this spell doom and gloom for the rest of retail? Not at all. In the face of Amazon’s dominance, the most innovative retailers are thriving, too. Projections indicate retail sales this holiday season will increase nearly 5%, the largest gain in recent years.

Our friends at IHL Group also noted that net retail store openings are outpacing closings by a margin of two to one. Yes, retailers that failed to embrace innovation (Sears being the “prime” example) are dying. However, a new generation of dynamic, exciting retailers are more than filling the void. And stalwarts such as Walmart, Macys, Nordstrom and others have kept pace to remain relevant in a retail landscape that’s changing at the speed of Amazon.

Back to HQ2: it’s exciting news for Crystal City and New York, and congratulations on winning 2018’s biggest economic development prize. But it’s all the other cool stuff happening with Amazon and the retail industry that will be the important story in the long run.

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

Shop if You Dare: Spooky Halloween Data and a Premonition of the Holiday Season

Today’s the day we’ve all been waiting for, ghouls and goblins alike. Children are trick-or-treating, parents are eating their candy and the country is celebrating peak fall weather and aesthetic. However, Halloween isn’t just the spookiest day of the year, it’s also a significant retail holiday that kicks off the upcoming holiday season.

For most, it’s easy to forget that Black Friday is less than four weeks away but here at Ketner Group Communications, retail’s always on our mind – which is why I’m dressed up as ‘J.C. Pennywise (It)’ to celebrate Halloween and the rapidly approaching holiday retail season.

Halloween Retail Projections

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, total spending for Halloween is expected to reach $9 billion, the second highest in the survey’s 14-year history and similar to last year’s record of $9.1 billion.

Seventy percent of Halloween celebrants plan to hand out candy, 50% will decorate their home or yard, 48% will wear costumes, 32% will throw or attend a party and 30% will take children trick-or-treating. Also, whether or not pets want it, pet costumes continue to gain popularity, with nearly 20% of celebrants planning to dress their pets in costumes this year up from last year’s 16%.

Where are people shopping? According to NRF, 45% of shoppers will visit discount stores and 35% will go to a specialty Halloween store or costume store. Additionally, 25% will visit department stores, 24% will buy online and 24% will scour grocery/supermarket stores.

Possessed Stores

Following the untimely demise of Toys ‘R’ Us this year (RIP), you may have recently seen their storefronts back in business. But don’t be fooled. These abandoned locations have simply been possessed by the likes of Spirit Halloween and Halloween City, pop-up stores that are only open for a few months each year leading up to the holiday. Also called the “hermit crabs” of retail, these Halloween stores quickly move into empty storefronts – making closed Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us locations perfect spaces for the Halloween season. This also points to the ever-growing, opportunistic pop-up trend that utilizes events and relevant audiences to reach customers in unique ways.

What’s Next?

What should we expect once we wake up on November 1st, thankful that we made it through the frights and dangers of All Hallow’s Eve? Almost immediately, we’ll begin hearing about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and the holiday shopping season will be in full swing. In fact, Target already announced its strategy for the holidays – it will offer free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase required starting on Nov. 1. Meanwhile, Nordstrom announced that from Dec. 3 through Christmas Eve, they will offer “early bird” pickup before stores open their doors in the morning – and even around the clock at 23 locations. We’ll undoubtedly see more retailers expand fulfillment options during the holidays in order to compete against each other and Amazon Prime’s reliable, simple delivery options.

Meanwhile, with Toys ‘R’ Us gone and Sears a member of the walking dead, the question of who will take over these retailers’ business and customers this holiday season reverberates. We can expect to see retailers clamoring to take advantage by more aggressively promoting deals on toys like we never saw when Toys ‘R’ Us was the dominant industry player, with Target and Walmart matching Amazon step for step.

We hope that you enjoy your Halloween festivities this week and are as excited as us for the holiday season to begin. 2018 retail forecasts for the holidays look very promising, but beware… there are always frights waiting around the corner.

Austin’s Domain: Who Says Shopping Has to Be Boring?

I’ll start with a confession: I don’t really like shopping, which is a surprising admission for someone who’s worked with enough retail technology companies to populate a small mall. My idea of a great shopping trip is spending five minutes on my laptop, finding a reasonably good deal, ordering what I need online, and then calling it a day. I’m one of the millions of reasons why ecommerce sales continue to skyrocket, year after year. (And yes, my Amazon Prime account gets a hefty workout every week.)

Here’s my second confession, though: I love observing retail trends and the creative ways that retailers are reinventing themselves to get people off the couch and back into their stores. And what’s happening at the Domain, Austin’s premier shopping destination, is particularly intriguing to me. Retail is transforming at a dizzying rate, and the Domain is a microcosm of the changes in the industry.

For those of you who live outside Austin, the Domain is a thoughtful mix of retail stores, restaurants, hotels, apartments, offices – and a hugely popular Whole Foods – that’s known as Austin’s “second downtown.” It transformed 300 acres of formerly vacant Texas scrubland into a dog-friendly, family-friendly destination that’s fun to visit – even for a shopping curmudgeon like me.

I’ve had multiple occasions to visit the Domain in recent months, and each time I’ve come away convinced that it exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance.

Clicks to bricks

Warby Parker, Away, UNTUCKit, Bonobos, b8ta and Casper are some of the hottest e-commerce brands around. They all have brick and mortar stores at the Domain, too, along with Amazon Books, as my fellow KGer Amanda noted in a blog earlier this year. Physical stores are playing an increasingly important role for online retailers, and some of the best can be found at the Domain. (Tip for Amazon power shoppers: take your returns to the Amazon Books location. They’re happy to take them, and they won’t mind if you purchase a book or two while you’re there.)

Turning shopping into an experience

“Experiential retail” is one of the biggest themes in retail right now, as evidenced by the 13.4 million search results on that term in Google. Retailers are focused on creating experiences you simply can’t get online – for example, sampling the coolest tech gear on the planet at b8ta or trying out a Casper mattress. But it’s not just about the experience at each individual retailer. A destination like the Domain makes the entire shopping trip an experience, with green spaces, a splash pad for kids, outdoor restaurants, an entertainment district that rivals Austin’s famed Sixth Street, and a compelling lineup of retailers, which brings up my final point.

Making it fun

People flock to the Domain because it’s fun: a great place to take your out-of-town friends who want to shop, eat dinner, let the kids run around, and experience something that’s uniquely Austin. There’s something for everyone, from luxury brands like Tiffany and Neiman Marcus to brands that are aimed squarely at the mainstream. The Domain is anything but boring; and as retail consultant Steve Dennis points out, it’s a bad time for retailers to be boring. The Domain has taken that mantra to heart.

I may not like to shop, but the Domain has won me over. And it reinforces why I love working with technology companies that are helping drive some of the changes in this fast-paced, fascinating industry.

In Defense of the Supermarket

It’s expected that by 2022, 20% of all grocery sales will come from online shoppers. And with 70% of consumers purchasing some of their groceries on the web, I’m definitely in the minority, having never ordered groceries online myself.

I’m not opposed to online shopping or curbside delivery. They’re great options for those with kids, those who have lost their patience dealing with always-full parking lots, or those without access to reliable transportation. We could all benefit from wider aisles and shorter checkout lines. Time is an important resource, and most of us feel like we don’t have enough of it.

Call me a traditionalist, but I like going to the grocery store. It makes more sense for me, whether I’m grabbing a few things or doing a week’s worth of pantry stocking. With brick-and-mortar, I can also avoid navigating the world of memberships and high delivery costs. While I make my shopping list in advance, the endless products I see as I browse the aisles can serve as meal inspiration. The unmissable “sale” stickers help, too. Also, like many others who shy away from online delivery, I like to pick out my own produce. Fifty-nine percent of complaints against online grocery services revolve around receiving undesirable or mishandled produce.

The art of the grocery store

While many grocery stores still have room for improvement, a massive amount of psychology and planning goes into getting consumers to spend more, from the store’s scent to the sugary cereals. Everything’s been thought out and tested by science, like the fact that supermarkets make it hard to find a clock or a window, so you lose track of time and keep shopping. We’re still debating what is the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping, and if there’s an ideal genre we can all agree on.

Did you know that spraying water on produce serves only to make it look fresher? The most expensive items are at eye-level, and products geared toward children are placed lower. Dairy products are kept as far from the entrance as possible, so shoppers have to pass by more items on their way to essentials. Supermarkets have been so strategically planned to keep shoppers within their doors and spending more that it’s almost a shame not to be the subject of their mind games.

A changing industry

For those who haven’t stepped foot in a grocery store lately, it might be time for a visit. With the use of a mobile phone, it’s easier for shoppers to look up where items are, or receive promotional items as they walk down a specific aisle. In addition to location-based benefits, mobile devices have also helped with checkout, which has served as a major pain point for decades. A 2015 study found that 88% of consumers want retail checkout to be faster, and with self-scanning technology, it’s now becoming common to avoid the checkout process altogether. Hopefully, hands-free shopping carts will be the next mainstream innovation. Clunky carts with one rusty wheel are so 20th century.

I’m fiercely loyal to shopping at my grocery store (America’s third favorite), and it helps that they’re starting to address the pain points that made consumers turn to online shopping in the first place. But more than just addressing current issues, brick-and-mortar grocery stores should also offer their own unique in-store benefits, to ensure shoppers like me are visiting. It all goes back to how we all want our time to be spent efficiently, and grocery retailers should strive to ensure that brick-and-mortar shopping is worth it.

A New Mom’s Take on Amazon

Almost two weeks have passed since Amazon’s most successful Prime Day yet, and between then and now, you’ve likely seen a good deal (no pun intended) of recaps. The purpose of writing this blog is not to provide another analysis of the retail event, but rather to share my Amazon perspective as a new mom.

But before I jump in, here are some highlights from Prime Day:

  • A record-setting 100 million products were sold for an estimated $4.2 billion. (Chain Store Age)
  • Early website difficulties cost the retailer an estimated $72 million in potential sales. (Internet Retailer)
  • Retail Leader breaks down all the numbers you could ever hope to know about Amazon Prime Day here.
  • I enjoyed Retail Dive’s discussion on their podcast, “Conversational Commerce.” Have a listen: Amazon Prime Day cues up the holidays.

Our Amazon spending analysis 

Did you know you can download a report of your complete Amazon spending history? Caution: it may be eye-opening! I spotted the tip in an article and was curious to know just how much money we’ve spent over the years.

My husband and I jumped on the Prime bandwagon early in our marriage, lured by the free shipping. In 2015, we placed a mere 13 orders from Amazon – probably just breaking “even” if you compare the average cost of shipping against the annual membership price. By the next year, that number jumped to 76, as we used e-commerce more and more to fulfill our personal and household needs.

Drumroll please… in 2017, my husband and I spent more than $3,500 on Amazon. Seeing a dollar amount that included a comma was a bit shocking, but I felt more at ease when I evaluated the nature of these purchases: we weren’t just buying impulsively when we saw a good deal. The 124 orders made last year for the Reeds will tell you a lot about our stage of life. In addition to pantry staples, toiletries, and dog food, we also bought: everything to “complete” our Amazon baby registry; gifts for Christmas and birthdays; and a significant amount of diapers and wipes.

Another status check

We’re more than halfway through 2018, and the Reed family is on track to surpass the number of orders placed on Amazon last year – 79 so far! And I’ll tell you what – not much has changed.

  • After my maternity leave, I splurged for a robot vacuum cleaner to make keeping up with chores easier on this working mama.
  • As our daughter became more mobile, our shopping cart was full of baby gates to try and items to “baby proof” our home.
  • When we threw our daughter’s first birthday party last month, I turned to Amazon for everything from her outfit to balloons.
  • What’s that? My daughter needs a Disney-themed outfit for a dress-up day at daycare? Thanks, Amazon! And clothes for me too, please. I don’t have time to shop in-store, and Amazon returns are just so dang easy.

I would be lying if I said our Amazon purchasing habits aren’t instinctual. It’s a habit now – we have a need, and we turn to Amazon first. We even purchased Dash Buttons for laundry detergent and dog treats. Amazon deliveries grace our doorstep weekly. We ‘Prime Now’ – is that a verb? – groceries when we’re in a pinch. We’ve taken advantage of the expanded streaming benefits, most recently binging “Downton Abbey” on Prime Video. As our family grows, and the demands on our time do too, I can’t imagine our Amazon activity slowing down.

I’m in good company

After my deep dive into the spreadsheet of our spending, I was curious to know how my Amazon lifestyle compared to friends. So, I created a simple Survey Monkey questionnaire, shared the link via Facebook, and watched the responses roll in…

“I tend to purchase on Amazon out of convenience, even if an item is more expensive.”

“I set up Amazon subscriptions for things I want to or tend to forget about – toothbrushes, air vent filters… I know when they are delivered, it’s time for me to change them out.”

“I use Amazon even more now that they have same-day, one-day and Prime Now shipping speeds.”

“I buy as much as I can online to save myself from making trips to the store.” 

“Amazon makes my life easier!”

Other insights:

  • More than 50 friends participated, and all but two said that the price increase ($99/year to $119) would not affect their decision to renew their Prime Membership. Yes, it was a large jump, percentage-wise, but the pros of “being Prime” still outweighed the cons.
  • The amount of money my friends spent in 2017 varied greatly, ranging from $400 to as much as $8,000.
  • Most friends were on-track in 2018 to spend the same as they did last year or more.

As much as I love a good bargain… 

You may be thinking, “So Amanda, what did you buy on Prime Day?” And the answer, my friends? Coincidentally, not a thing. I love Amazon as much as my friends do, apparently, but I’m more excited about the day-to-day convenience and experience than I am about a 36-hour promotional event.

Retail Pop-Ups are Popping Off

Pop-ups are everywhere these days. What once started as an occasional, opportunistic trend has blown up to become an extremely POPular (nice one, Greg) industry worth billions of dollars that seemingly every brand and celebrity wants a piece of.

Just within the past few weeks, some interesting pop-ups have been announced:

  • Abercrombie & Fitchhas partnered with SBE Entertainment Group, a lifestyle hospitality company, for a series of co-branded events and pop-up shops at select SBE properties over the upcoming months.
  • Nordstrom, as part of its [email protected] program, has teamed up with Casper Mattresses to launch its Sleep-In at Nordstrom collection until August 26th at select locations.
  • Sephora will host an interactive beauty “house” in Los Angeles that will bring technology, products, and industry experts together for two days in October.
  • Plenty of brands will be present in the Hamptons for another highly anticipated summer of retail pop-ups.

Who’s Popping Up?

While iterations of pop-up shops have existed throughout history, Target is credited with launching one of the first contemporary pop-up shops in 2002 when it designed a Christmas-themed store on a boat on New York’s East River. Since then, we’ve seen a litany of pop-up shops by high profile players – from general consumer brands like Adidas to luxury brands like Tiffany & Co, to celebrity brands, such as Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics and Gwyneth Paltrow’s pseudo-medicine lifestyle brand, goop, and more.

The music industry has taken a special interest in pop-ups. One of the most effective is Kanye West, who since his Yeezus album, has launched pop-up merchandise shops coinciding with his album releases that have fans lining up for the exclusive products. The most recent were his #ProjectWyoming merch bonfires for his latest album, Ye, where fans gathered around bonfires, listened to the album and purchased merchandise. Other artists have followed suit, ranging from Rihanna to Kendrick Lamar to Justin Timberlake, whose most recent album spurred a “Man of the Woods” shop in New York with Levi’s and other brands.

The Key to Successful Pop-Ups

While pop-ups obviously sell merchandise and products, more importantly, they sell an experience. In an era where long-term retail space can be expensive, e-commerce grows stronger, and customers want to be entertained, pop-ups are the perfect way to offer a completely unique experience, anywhere.

A great way to reach people is to figure out where they congregate and go to them. Nordstrom, for example, launched pop-up pods at SXSW and other music festivals across the country in 2016 to offer their shopping experience to thousands of festival-goers. They undoubtedly did their research to make sure these attendees were their target audience, and reached thousands of relevant music-lovers who were probably in a (possibly alcohol-induced) spending mindset.

Whether it’s at a festival or on a street corner, brands are seeing the benefits in the unique and flexible experiences that pop-up shops offer. As physical retail becomes more digital, pop-up shops will undoubtedly become even more unique and prevalent. With the right approach, they will allow any brand to reach new customers, bring a sense of exclusivity, or just simply engage their core audience in a new and exciting way for years to come.

Not My Dad’s Grocery Store — But I Think He’d Approve

I have retail in my blood, so it may not be too surprising that I’ve spent much of my career focused on retail, grocery and CPG technology. Mom retired from the Sears credit department back when Sears was a healthy, viable company that was well-respected in the industry. Dad spent his career at the U.S. Postal Service but always had a part-time job in a grocery store or meat market for as long as I can remember.

They’d both be fascinated by the rapid changes in retail and grocery, especially Dad, who was intrigued by Jeff Bezos way back when Amazon was merely an online bookseller. So, with Father’s Day just around the corner, it seems only appropriate to focus on the huge changes in the grocery industry that Dad always had his foot in.

The Rise of Online Grocery

Here’s a sampling of some recent data points that underscore the magnitude of those changes:

  • Online grocery sales will reach 20% of total grocery retail by 2025, climbing to $100 billion in consumer sales, according to a study by the Food Marketing Institute, conducted by Nielsen. Amazon is the clear leader here, with 18% percent market share and $2 billion annually in online food and beverage sales. Dad would, no doubt, be surprised that the online bookseller, now the giant of online retail, is Disruptor #1 in today’s grocery industry.
  • The same report notes that 1 in 4 U.S. consumers are buying some of their groceries online, and more than 70 percent will participate in online grocery shopping within 10 years. Click and collect numbers are higher, according to Nielsen Homescan data, although frequency is low, which Nielsen believes makes sense, since it’s a new service.
  • Of those shoppers buying online, Coresight Research notes that 51% opted to pick up at the store through click and collect, while the rest chose to have their groceries delivered.
  • Online shopping isn’t just about small orders, either. Fung Global Research notes that online grocery will increasingly capture larger orders. (As I write, our office just received a “pantry loading” Instacart order with snacks, breakfast foods and more Amy’s frozen dinners than you can count, ensuring that KG’ers don’t go hungry.)
  • Brick-and-mortar grocery isn’t being left behind, either. Our client, Symphony RetailAI, pinpointed some of the trends that are reshaping traditional grocers in its Supermarket 2020 findings: displacing center-aisle items with prepared foods, where shoppers spend 3X-4X more than other areas; farmer’s markets in every store, featuring local produce; reducing the number of aisles in each store and focusing on highly curated items, with an endless aisle available online; and a higher proportion of private label goods.

Back to Basics

Would Dad recognize today’s fast-changing supermarket? I think he would – after all, these changes are all about offering shoppers an increasing array of choices for where, when and how they purchase groceries and other essentials. Ketner Group is fortunate to work with a number of clients that are helping shape the modern grocery industry, including Mercatus, GK Software, Symphony RetailAI, Displaydata and others. It’s one of the most fascinating, and fast-changing, segments in retail today.

In a sense, I believe that all the advancements in technology are helping bring grocery stores around full circle, to a day when grocers knew their local customers and catered to them. Who needed Instacart in the ‘60s? Several of my family’s local grocers in Wichita Falls offered home delivery to customers – you’d simply phone in your order, then pay your tab at the end of the month. Credit checks? No need for them; Kouri’s Grocery, for example, knew its best customers by name.

Today’s new grocery technologies are helping bring back an era of greater personal service. Of course, it’s impossible for regional grocers to know every customer by name. But online shopping, personalization and mobile apps help create a deeper level of customer knowledge, along with offers that can be fine-tuned to each shopper. These technologies are also helping regional grocery chains compete against the likes of Amazon and Walmart, helping ensure that they stay relevant. I think Dad would approve.