Instacart founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta speaks during one of the keynote sessions at the inaugural Groceryshop event.

LAS VEGAS — Executives from Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons, Lowes Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market, Wakefern, Schnuck Markets and other retailers discussed data, e-commerce and experience at new event Groceryshop.

Created by Shoptalk founder Anil Aggarwal, Groceryshop brought together retailers and consumer packaged goods companies Oct. 28-31 for education and conversation on the disruptive innovation happening in the industry and how to adapt to it. Along with fast-paced education sessions and dozens of speakers, Groceryshop featured an expo with technology companies that provide solutions for retailers and suppliers.

Together, the presentations formed a picture of how retailers are strategizing and investing for a future in which they expect online grocery to play a major role.

The Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen have projected that 70% of people will be grocery shopping online by 2024. In addition, more and more in-store purchases are being influenced by digital content.

More than 2,100 people came to Groceryshop — 25% of whom are C-level executives and another 25% of whom are vice presidents — and Aggarwal expects that number to grow to more than 3,000 next year.

“The on-site feedback was incredible,” Aggarwal said. “People consistently came up to me and others on our team to let us know they were having an amazing experience. At a high level, attendees shared that they felt an event like Groceryshop, that focuses on technology and innovation, was missing and desperately needed by the grocery and CPG ecosystem.”

While the event focused on CPG companies and retailers, there were several names and faces familiar to the produce industry. Frank Yiannas, currently the vice president of food safety for Walmart and soon to be the deputy commissioner for food policy and response for the Food and Drug Administration, spoke about blockchain technology and transparency.

BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot talked during the same session about what he described as the food safety advantages of greenhouse growing — mainly that the process is not outdoors. Jordan Bass, head of e-commerce for Los Angeles-based The Wonderful Co., spoke on a panel about using product content online to build brands.

Marc Oshima, chief marketing officer of Newark, N.J.-based AeroFarms, and James Rogers, CEO of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Apeel Sciences, also presented.

Yael Cosset, chief digital officer for Kroger, gave one of the keynote addresses at the event and provided perspective on how the growth of online grocery may affect retailers in coming years.

“I think the physical store is going to play a different role in the customer’s experience, a lot more experiential,” Cosset said. “The need for that proximity, when you think about fulfilling those e-commerce orders, will probably force some reallocation of space in that physical footprint, so I would expect a normal grocery store to have a significant share of their square footage dedicated for fulfillment of orders — whether that order is shipped or driven or ready for pickup at the store is the customer’s choice — and then the rest of the store will be centered on experience.

“I believe food and food experience will take a central role in any retail store,” Cosset said. “It’s going to become, in the grocery space, a critical component for long-term success.”

Other keynote speakers included Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta and Ocado Solutions CEO Luke Jensen. Instacart works with grocers throughout the U.S. to pick, pack and deliver online orders, and Ocado has partnered with Kroger on automated fulfillment centers to significantly decrease the time and labor required for that process.

In other sessions, speakers discussed trends that retailers and suppliers can tap into to maximize their online presence.

Susan Stacey, senior vice president of retail and consumer for market research firm GfK, spoke about ways to increase impulse sales online.

“Think about how many times you’ve thrown something else into your online or mobile cart just to gain some benefit like reduced prices, hit a spending threshold for free shipping, getting extra points, etc.,” Stacey said. “These are all strong inducements to add more to the cart and increase basket size. Also, suggestions on complementary products can drive impulse.”

Retailers also spoke about using data from loyalty programs to present more compelling offers to shoppers. Albertsons takes this to another level with price personalization via its Just for U program.

“When a customer signs up for this program, when they log in, they see offers and personalized prices of items they buy or items they would find relevant,” Vivek Kalpande, group vice president of loyalty, personalization and analytics, said during a presentation. “That is because we have a very deep understanding at this time of not only what these customers buy, we know what lifestyle and life stage they are, we know from digital what their purchase intent is, so we put all of it together to deliver a very personalized experience, especially in terms of offers.”

Kalpande said feedback on the program has been very positive.

In addition to the education and expo at Groceryshop, the event included a hosted meetings program that paired up sponsoring companies and retail executives.


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