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Three Key Takeaways from GroceryShop 2019

Jon Reily
Jon Reily
Kristen Groh
Kristen Groh

This year, the GroceryShop conference brought more than 3,000 attendees and 200 speakers to Las Vegas. Consumer product (CP) brands and retailers of all shapes and sizes came to talk about the rapid transformation of the grocery industry. And we were thrilled to be among them, to meet with key clients and to sponsor this innovative showcase.

CP companies and grocers are facing an increasingly complex dynamic of ever-changing consumer needs, diverse competition, fragmented points of sale and intense investor pressure. During the conference, speakers and participants frequently discussed these shifts and how quickly today's consumer discovers, shops and buys products across all categories. No segment is immune to this change, and it is coming quickly to grocery.

“The definition of convenience has fundamentally changed. For digital natives it is embedded in how they view the world. We are transforming how we operate to be more high-tech, which enables us to service consumers better.”

Carolyn Tastad , Group President, North America & Executive Sponsor, Gender Equality, Procter & Gamble

While last year’s event focused on the disruption and disruptors in the category, this year the conversation centered on the need to transform through this time of change

Over the four days, a few key themes emerged:

(1)   To win with today’s consumers, brands must connect their total commerce and engagement strategy across all touchpoints and consider all routes to market.

Leaders from Mars, Tyson and Frito-Lay all shared the unique ways they are addressing consumer needs across the full omni-channel ecosystem, to be present when and where the consumer might be looking. For Frito-Lay, this means using data to understand when a consumer may be interested in their product based on what else is in their digital cart.

For example, tomatoes, cheese, beans, onions and guacamole look like a 7-layer dip in the making, and Frito-Lay uses these indicators to trigger a message to the consumer that they may also want to pick up some Tostitos.

For Mars, makers of Extra Gum, a partnership with a dating app reminds consumers to pick up a pack of gum before the big date. And, Tyson is focusing on key partnerships with platforms like E-Meals where consumers can plan meals and have all of the necessary grocery items delivered to their homes.

Even Anheuser-Busch is focusing on how to better serve the on-demand digital consumer through their complex and highly regulated distributor relationships, by focusing on partnerships with platforms like Drizly, an alcohol-delivery service, and Replenium, a replenishment service.

And, P&G has diversified its Tide portfolio to address very specific consumer needs across a broader range of channels, such as its Eco-box, designed specifically for ecommerce with less waste, and even retail solutions like Tide Cleaners, where customers can drop off laundry for cleaning.

(2)   For today’s consumers, choice, personalization and alignment to values are more critical than ever, and brands are responding with increasingly relevant products and experiences.

Startup brands like Mymuesli and GenoPalate are creating customized foods based on preferences and even DNA. Large companies, like Pepsi Co/Frito-Lay, are tapping into the trend by using buying behavior from across its portfolio to curate snack and beverage packs for different snacking needs, then selling them through online channels as care packages.

“Consumers are empowered with information and technology more than ever. Shopping is more than just a trip to store.”

Anil Aggarwal , GroceryShop Founder and Chairman

P&G is focusing on how technology is affecting the way the company can connect with consumers. Its IOT-driven Oral-B toothbrushes give users real data about their brushing habits and personal dental needs. But, as Carolyn Tastad pointed out, today’s consumers want brands that reflect their values. In that vein, P&G launched cleaning brand EC30, whose value proposition is to leave no trace, which is why their products are sold online, direct through subscription.

The rise in new categories such as meatless and allergy-friendly, with brands like Beyond Meat and Enjoy Life, also serve as evidence of this value-based demand, and both startups and traditional companies are focusing on delivering for these consumers.

(3)   In order for traditional companies to meet the demands of today’s consumers and thrive in this complex, omni-channel landscape, they have to focus on the right talent, mindset and ways of working, and open themselves to new and evolved relationships.

Nearly every session had some mention of the important role culture, organization and talent play in their companies’ ability to transform in order to meet the evolving needs of the consumer and the market. Brian Sappington, Chief Digital Integration Officer, NA, of The Coca-Cola Company, talked about the creation of the digital integration organization and how the term “integration” was the most important element of that team. Their remit is to build a shopper engagement capability at the core, then scale it across the organization. He noted that to be successful, the team needed to have a growth mindset, empowered people and the psychological safety necessary to take risks, test and learn. “If your culture isn’t right,” he said, “if people don’t believe in the mission, it’s really hard to get anything done.”

Mars is broadening the organization beyond its walls to leverage the power of crowdsourcing talent in innovation. Bringing in outside expertise raises the level of thinking to address product innovation challenges, but it also opens them up to totally new solutions they may not have been looking for, such as ways to leverage plant-based butter in their chocolate.

When Mondelez acquired Enjoy Life Foods, it made the strategic decision to keep the organization intact, rather than integrating into the broader company. However, Mondelez wanted to learn from its success, so it embedded four employees into the organization to help Enjoy Life navigate the larger organization and to bring back learnings to other brands.

Reinvent the Experience

Person with a shopping cart
Amazon Echo speaker
Plastic shopping bag

How it's always been done won't work in the ever-changing digital era. Organizations need to rebuild to reflect the customers’ needs and wants — everything, anywhere. The digital world for grocery will look much like the digital world for other retailers at different points on the transformation spectrum.

“We believe that technology without human touch is not relevant, it is about having that personal interaction. Our shoppers are our secret sauce, we want to make sure they feel valued.”

–Kelly Caruso, CEO, Shipt

Grocers, as well as CP companies and retailers, need to ensure they are on the forefront of digital transformation, not waiting on the sidelines for change to come to them. Building an organization made for digital, as opposed to loading up an existing organization with new digital capabilities is critical. Organizations that embrace this change now will be in the driver’s seat in the future.

Jon Reily
Jon Reily
Vice President and Global Commerce Strategy Lead
Kristen Groh
Kristen Groh
Vice President, Consumer Products, North America

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