February 01, 2023
My grandfather, who worked in supermarkets in New Jersey, knew the best customers in all of his stores. He liked to hang out with them in the spaces, talking about their lives, their families and their needs. If anyone likes to make their own pickles, they have a bag of Kirby pickles waiting for free. He wanted to make sure that he would have no reason to shop anywhere else.
I’ve always thought that if a technology company could do this, being a business in any way, it would have something very special to offer food retailers. A genie in a marketing bottle.
At the recent FMI Midwinter conference in Orlando, the emphasis was on technologies that helped retailers improve customer experience. Even technological innovations such as automated teller machines should be done with a focus on how they will help consumers, the conference was told. As Charlie McWeeney, vice president, technology, innovation, & strategy at Wakefern Food Corporation, said, retailers need to “take repetitive tasks off their partners’ plates and help them improve the customer experience.”
Perhaps these companies need to look at the customer experience in a new way. Instead of replacing the merchant with technology, we need to increase the store staff with the right tools to connect with consumers at the time, place and mood. Encourage store managers with details of what makes a customer interested and the ability to reward them with incentives that will bring the desired results of loyalty and increased wallet.
“We talk about surprising customers, so the first time you see them, the moment you find them in the store, it’s important,” Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s executive chairman, told me at the FMI event. He would have been better off with my grandmother.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: Which technology will most help retail stores sell to their customers? What skills training or other strategies can ensure that associates who are freed from repetitive tasks do things that improve customer service?
“Which technology will most help retailers sell to their customers?”