Insight Report 12 minutesFree Report

Groceryshop 2023 Day Two: Technology and Partnerships in the Grocery Space

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Coresight Research is a research partner of Groceryshop 2023, which is taking place September 19–21, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Groceryshop is an annual conference that helps businesses navigate the evolving grocery landscape, exploring the latest business models, advanced technologies and shifting consumer behaviors.

In this report, we present our top insights from the second day of the event.

Groceryshop 2023 Day Two: Coresight Research Insights

Unified Shopping Experience: The Shopper Must Be The Focus

A consumer-centric retail strategy takes full advantage of physical stores and consumer data to create engaging experiences both online and offline. However, devising effective omnichannel strategies is something that continues to challenge many retailers. According to the “Strategies for Omnichannel Fulfillment and Delivery” session, that is because many in the space still view omnichannel as simply a combination of the digital and physical channels. Instead, panelists stated that omnichannel is about the movement of goods and how retailers deliver those products to customers. Jennifer McKeehan, Senior Vice President of Transportation and Delivery at Walmart, put it quite succinctly: “different customers want different things.” As such, brands and retailers should focus on getting products to customers when and where they want them, regardless of channel. The rest of the panel agreed that a laser focus on customers’ needs is the key to making unified commerce work.

When discussing the future of unified retail, the discussion centered around what many believe will be the biggest forthcoming change to unified retail—bringing local, “mom-and-pop” stores into the online delivery world, whether through delivery platforms, such as DoorDash, or partnerships with retail giants, such as Walmart. “If quick commerce is going to be profitable, it will not be the pure players; it will come from the brick and mortars,” explained Mustafa Bartin, Chief Retail-Operations Officer at Migros Turkey Retail.

McKeehan during the “Strategies for Omnichannel Fulfillment and Delivery” session
Source: Groceryshop


The conversation around unified retail continued later in the day during a conversation between Dave Steck, Vice President of IT Infrastructure and Application Development at Schnuck Markets; Jody Wasbro, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Experience Design at WD Partners; and Ben Miller, Director of Original Content at Groceryshop. There, Miller revealed that “greater benefits will come from placing the shopper experience, rather than channel management, at the heart of thinking… Shopper experience in one retail vertical or channel will drive shopper expectations in another.” The session also touched upon how building flexibility into aspects of the store experience is critical in adapting to shifting shopper needs, regardless of the channel.

Miller discusses the importance of the shopper experience
Source: Groceryshop


Game-Changing Efficiency and Future-Proofing: AI’s Impact on the Grocery Sector

The adoption of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), generative AI and automation will redefine grocery operations by improving efficiency, enabling data-driven decision-making, elevating customer experiences and transforming supply chain management.

AI in Grocery

As stated during the opening remarks on day one of Groceryshop 2023, generative AI, as well as AI more broadly, was certain to be a main topic of discussion during this year’s event—and the second day did not disappoint! During the enlightening “The Future of AI in Grocery” panel, Ben McKean, Founder and CEO of Hungryroot, an online grocery service, took attendees on a deep dive into the technology’s potential usage in the sector. Hungryroot built its entire platform with AI, developing an algorithm that uses preference data to determine the ideal grocery basket for each customer, depending on their dietary and flavor preferences. However, according to McKean, Hungryroot does not heavily advertise that its platform uses AI, as AI still makes some a little uneasy, and customer retention is based on customers’ trust in the algorithm.

Still, while some customers may feel uneasy about AI now, McKean believes that in just five years, consumers will want AI to do much of the work of building grocery lists and grocery shopping for them. An additional benefit is that it saves customers money, as consumers throw away around 20%–30% of the groceries they buy, a statistic AI could help change. McKean also pointed out the benefits of AI from a grocer standpoint, stating that AI-assisted facilities have 80% less spoilage than typical grocery stores.

Moving forward, McKean sees the integration of other types of AI, as well as other emerging technologies, to significantly impact the grocery sector. For instance, he stated that machine learning (ML) is good at predicting customers’ wants and needs, while generative AI can help customers understand why algorithms are making certain decisions (something Hungryroot is currently working on).

McKean during the “The Future of AI in Grocery” panel
Source: Groceryshop


In another session, “Generative AI Tools for Grocery & CPG,” panelists discussed how AI has the potential to shatter organizational siloes, especially given the fact that 75% of executives have stated they feel they could go out of business if they do not adopt AI within the next five years, per the session. The panel gave straightforward advice for those who want to adopt the technology: simply jump in and start playing with it! On the other hand, Miller of Groceryshop warned those not interested in using generative AI until it is “perfect” that they may fall behind those willing to adopt the technology now, learning and growing with it.

When considering automation of any type, including AI, investments need to be led by the desired business outcome, according to the “Leveraging Automation Across the Organization” session. There, panelists discussed how, although generative AI and other types of automation have enormous potential to drive better decisions, they should not be considered replacements for human beings. Instead, these types of automation empower employees with insights to make better decisions.

The Power of Technology

AI was not the only technology discussed on day two of Groceryshop—various emerging technologies can potentially transform many parts of the grocery sector, from store operations and associates to customers’ experiences both in stores and online. David von Laskowski, President and CEO of the Picadeli Group and the Greenfood Group, discussed how technology can not only reduce waste, but also labor hours and staff dependency. For example, according to Laskowski, a European retailer used cloud-connected telemetry to enhance shelf life and food safety, reducing labor hours by 50%.

Emerging technologies can also provide essential consumer and product insights. For instance, Picadeli’s tech-enabled salad bars extract shopper data, allowing grocers to be part of the wellness trend while also seeing strong recurring profits. Similarly, automated shelf intelligence technologies can both reduce controllable out-of-stocks by 80% and provide significantly more insights than traditional, manual shelf scanning, according to Brad Bogolea, Co-Founder and CEO of Simbe Robotics. Jacqueline Claudia, CEO of SmarterX, explained that these types of insights can drive associate efficiency and bottom-line results.

Laskowski discussing how technology can reduce waste
Source: Groceryshop


When devising engaging in-store experience, Matt Eichorn, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Freeosk (an omnichannel discovery platform), stated that multi-sensory content is key. In-store sampling is just one method of engaging customers in stores, one that leads to more transactions and data insights, as well as one that fosters a discovery mindset in shoppers, according to Eichorn.

During the same session, Neha Singh, Founder and CEO of Obsess, an experiential e-commerce platform, provided attendees with three ways to drive success with immersive, online experiences:

  1. Engage consumers with entertaining content, such as recipes and curated playlists
  2. Drive return on investment with branded games, which can also provide companies with an opportunity to teach consumers more about the brand
  3. Utilize spatial data to optimize all experiences; this data should be collected from day one

Singh was not the only one to provide a blueprint for Groceryshop attendees. After stating that retail media networks (RMNs) in physical stores are “the real opportunity,” Shariq Siddiqui, Founder and CEO of Veeve, explained the aspects an RMN needs to be effective—an RMN should be high-speed, low-tech, require little operational oversight and capital expenditure, and provide a high return on advertising spend.

Siddiqui covering RMNs
Source: Groceryshop


New Growth Opportunities: The Essential Elements of Shoppable Videos

Diversification beyond traditional offerings will unlock new revenue streams—notably, shoppable videos and livestreams are a growing opportunity for many companies, one that Coresight Research has covered extensively. Now, shoppable TV advertisements are another new opportunity for brands and retailers. These advertisements can feature a variety of engaging features, such as scannable QR codes that can instantly add products to shopping baskets or lists.

These methods of engagement were discussed in-depth at the “Mastering Shoppable Video” panel, which featured Kevin Miller, Chief Marketing Officer at The Fresh Market, and Jessica Hendrix, President and CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi X. Shoppable videos and livestreams work due to the elements they provide—“navigation, education and inspiration”—meaning these elements should be key focus areas when creating shoppable videos. Miller and Hendrix also stated that these videos and livestreams should promote new or limited-edition products to create urgency and collaborate with influencers or even other retailers to provide an experience that cannot be obtained anywhere else.

When looking for inspiration for shoppable videos and livestreams, the panelists recommended considering how China-based companies were able to elevate the shoppable video experience during the pandemic by gamifying the videos.

The “Mastering Shoppable Video” session
Source: Coresight Research

Win-Win Relationships: Partnerships Across the Grocery Space

Retailers can better adapt quickly to changing consumer behavior and market trends through effective shopper-centric collaboration with their suppliers, but shared goals and a single version of the truth are key. Another important pillar of win-win relationships lies in data sharing.

The effectiveness of win-win partnerships was discussed across many of the sessions of day two of Groceryshop 2023. For instance, when discussing how digitally native brands can partner with retailers, Heather Wallace, CEO of Curology, revealed how many customers were unaware that the brand was direct-to-consumer only, leading the company to partner with retailers and bring its products into physical stores. She explained that relationships between retailers and brands are strongest when they are true and mutually beneficial, not simply transactional.

McKeehan of Walmart shared similar views, stating that the company is looking at effective partnerships with other retailers to deliver mutual wins. Alanna McDonald, President of Mars Pet Nutrition North America at Mars Petcare, also urged brands to find win-win solutions with retailers, both brick-and-mortar and online, through a variety of means, including creating more efficient supply chains and sharing data and consumer insights.

Dave Steck, Vice President of IT Infrastructure and Application Development at Schnuck Markets, likewise discussed effective partnerships, although this time in regard to RMNs. According to Steck, Schnucks has started partnering with other regional grocers not directly competing with Schnucks to create a larger, more effective RMN. These partnerships also provide the company with a chance to collaborate with other retailers, relationships Schnucks can leverage in the future.

Wallace, CEO of Curology
Source: Groceryshop


Organizational Evolution: Empowering Employees

A culture of adaptability and continuous learning will drive success for grocery retailers: grocers that foster an environment of innovation, empower their workforce and prioritize customer-centricity will be better positioned to navigate industry shifts effectively.

As previously covered, emerging technology has the potential to transform the grocery sector. However, before adopting new technologies or hiring new tech-focused talent, companies must consider the impact of those technologies on their existing structure, culture, workforce and processes. Digital transformations require talent that is both adaptive and flexible; as such, when hiring new talent, companies need to determine if the talent has the ability to learn new skills and change course when necessary. In short, adaptive employees are superior as they can be trained for any skill set or situation, according to the “Hiring and Upskilling Digital Talent” session.

The panel also covered the importance of empowering employees, both longtime workers and new hires. Employees should feel confident exploring process changes and taking on new projects without top-down direction; if they do not, a company must change its training and employee engagement processes. Employees who are empowered to make important decisions are not only more engaged and satisfied, according to the session, but they are better prepared to tackle issues that management may not see or have the time to deal with.

Luke Anderson, Chief Information Officer at Cub, sympathized with brands and retailers looking to attract adaptive tech talent, stating that data scientists with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees will likely always find the job postings at Google and Meta more appealing. However, he revealed that smaller companies can still attract top tech talent by leaning on the brand, its values and, perhaps most importantly, how it connects to people. Anderson also reiterated that real talent is more about flexibility, a willingness to learn and intellectual curiosity than it is about what degree someone earned or where they earned it from.

Anderson discussing empowering employees
Source: Groceryshop