LAS VEGAS — Yael Cosset, chief digital officer for Kroger, has some advice for retailers considering how to integrate e-commerce and accompanying innovations into their business model.

“The biggest learning from my perspective is you have to have a very solid strategy to start with and really stick to your plan, stick to your prioritization — otherwise it gets easy to get distracted and then it doesn’t come across as a cohesive offering to the customer,” Cosset said Oct. 28 at Groceryshop, a new industry event focused on innovation. “We’ve made a deliberate point of staying on strategy and really narrow the scope of partnerships to make sure they deliver high impact on the customer experience in a short time.”

Kroger has invested heavily in analytics, has pickup and delivery available for 90% of its customers, and has partnered with Ocado, a company that builds automated fulfillment centers, to decrease the cost of picking and packing online orders.

In e-commerce, Cosset sees an opportunity to deliver a better customer experience through more than just time savings. The data gathered through online shopping also allows retailers to present more useful offers to individual customers.

“As you improve on the relevance of your offering, whether it’s a service or a product, you change the nature of that engagement,” Cosset said. “For us, in our world, it means higher frequency. We are becoming higher share of mind, and that translates into more frequent shopping.”

He expects personalization of this kind will soon be standard.

“The role of data and precision in making the experience curated and relevant is table stakes, and we continue to invest not only in capturing that data but getting smarter on how we take advantage of it,” Cosset said. “Personalization based on basic demographic data will no longer make it work. Customers want more choice, and they want to spend less time selecting. That equation itself means somewhere in the middle somebody has to be the filter, and if that filter is just good, then you become obsolete and irrelevant, and if that filter is fantastic, then you save me time, you give me great experience, and then I will come back. And that’s how we’re focused as a retailer.”

The overarching challenge in strategizing about e-commerce offerings and other innovations is timing, Cosset said.

“If you get too fast or too far ahead of the customer, while it may capture headlines, you’re going to create a lot of tension and friction in your business model,” Cosset said. “If you get too far behind, you lose the opportunity to remain relevant. So it’s that constant tension of should we accelerate, should we slow down with regards to the customer, and where we are related to their transformation journey.

“Technology has opened many doors and has been a huge source of improvement in our lives, but not everybody is adopting it the same way and at the same pace,” Cosset said. “We need to be conscious of the fact that we have over 60 million families that we need to satisfy with our services.”


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