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The WPP Global Retail Practice

Groceryshop: Efficiency and Efficacy?


by Gwen Morrison

Last week’s Groceryshop in Las Vegas was sold out to an impressive audience. Topics ranged from Health and Wellness to Supply Chain Innovation and Next Generation Business Models.
The category doesn’t get much hype at other major retail industry shows. But this year, grocery is on fire!  Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed, explained that if the same conference had been planned 18 months ago, no one would have cared. He cited Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods as accelerating interest and innovation in the category.  With brands experimenting with online direct selling, subscription schemes, and fulfillment, Chieh sees a convergence: CPG’s behaving more like retailers and retailers behaving more like CPG’s.
The range of innovation and practical anecdotes shared offered a wealth of insights to the audience. The leading edge technology of Ocado’s fulfillment centers is dazzling.  Luke Jensen, CEO described how Ocado saves hours of labor through investments in robotics, analytics, AI, Machine Learning, to come up with the solutions for tomorrow. Beyond testing efficiencies of order picking, they’ve  experimented with human preferences. For example, Ocado tested offers allowing shoppers to save money against product alternatives that are lower in calories. Lo and behold, there was more than four times the uptake for saving calories versus saving money.
On the other side of the coin is Fairway Market, founded in 1933 as small format grocery in New York City. Genine Fargnoli, EVP IT, shared their mobile journey. Her cathartic observation is that the shoppers’ use of mobile in-store is taking away from the contact between consumer and staff. She sees the need to bridge that gap. While they just launched a new mobile app, they’re keeping their eye on the prize to create the best customer experience and engage employees in the process.

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