It’s All In The Delivery

The ways we eat meals continuously evolve as our lifestyles, social dynamics and workloads change. The frozen TV dinner changed the landscape of meals in the 1950s, streamlining meal prep with readily portioned trays that could be popped in the oven for easy weeknight meals. Tupperware enabled make-ahead meal prep possible, as well as proper storage of leftovers for reheating later. The mainstream introduction of the microwave in the 1980s, lead to more adaptations of ready-to-eat meals (and of course, the HotPocket).

Take out and delivery used to only be synonymous with pizza and Chinese food; fast food was burgers and fries (itself an evolution from street food vendors and bar food). Now we have apps that will coordinate pick up and delivery from just about any restaurant you could possibly want, at the touch of your finger tips; we gleefully hunt down specialty food trucks or trek down to the food truck lot, serving as our modern day, anywhere food court. Our busy schedules may not even lend themselves for meals, which has lead to a rise in snacking, a whole different conversation but one that I wanted to at least acknowledge.

So, while all this should beg the question Does anyone really cook anymore? Quite a contrary movement has taken place. Instead, there is appreciation for the home-cooked meal. The traditional route still involves grocery shopping for items needed for recipes, cooking the recipes at home; the routine is broken up by inspiration found on recipe sites, blogs, Pinterest and those droolworthy videos popping up in your feed that make all cooking look easy. According to Joe Scartz, TPN’s Managing Director of Digital Commerce and Integration, “Grocers have seen the trend move toward simple prepared meals now for years and they have tried to fight back with white label brands and grab and go meals.”

Retailers are also offering up opportunities to streamline the traditional process through omni-channel retailing of buy online, pick up in store: Walmart grocery is available in limited areas; CVS is testing CVS Express for a rollout later in 2016; Harris Teeter Express Lane has been around for awhile, also offering home delivery; Ahold’s Peapod is a online grocery service delivering orders and providing them for pickup; Amazon Prime Pantry is gaining speed as well, just to name a few. Inspiration becoming a final product precipitates social sharing of successes or pride in fails.

Meal delivery services, for those who can afford it, offer an alternate route with the modern convenience of having everything you need boxed up for you, ready to assemble/cook, so you can post it to your social media, aka humble brag “I made this.” What was once relegated to weight loss programs like Jenny Craig, these meal services now embolden people to be their own top chefs in the kitchen, with recipes that range from updated American traditions to ethnic fusions with unusual ingredients, previously found only in restaurants. The types of services available seem to only be limited by an entrepreneur’s imagination: local farm-to-table services, gluten-free services, food allergy services, high-end, unique services, etc.

A natural fit for its brand, Weight Watchers has partnered with meal service Chef’d to provide points-approved options that work well with their diet plan. Blue Apron has taken the lead of the services, with a somewhat customize-able recipe offering and subscriptions with meals for 2 and larger families as well; their price range is roughly $60 to $140 per week, depending on the number of meals delivered. Blue Apron also offers wine solutions as well, to partner with the meals. The convenience takes away all guess work and is winning with folks who alternatively, ate out or brought home meals on a regular basis.

We’re seeing how retailers are adapting to our ever changing foodie landscape, what can brands do to adapt? “Brands should be doing more to partner with the home delivery meal services if they want to attract this type of consumer. That being said, while consumers “barely” have to go to the store, 97ish% of all of grocery shopping is still done in-stores of various formats. It’s one of the slower ecommerce categories to catch on but that is changing, slowly,” says Scartz. To that point, “Brands need to worry less about the fresh food meal delivery service and need to worry more about being shut out of impulse purchase as grocery ecommerce does grow. For example, once a consumer creates a list for Amazon.com, they are apt to reorder the same products. Same goes for Instacart or Peapod or whatever. Brands need to market and merchandise on those platforms with an eye toward subscription, especially as omni-channel retailing becomes more the norm.”

Amazon vs. Walmart: Summer Showdown

Amazon has done it again. Just when we thought they couldn’t bring us anything better than free two-day shipping, they are delivering us with Black Friday in July… and, promising even better deals!

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Amazon announced July 15th as “Prime Day”. Let the countdown to midnight begin! The “Lightning Deals”, exclusive to Prime members, will run throughout the day. It’s guaranteed to drive people to try the Prime membership. My husband is one of the many signing up for a free 30-day trial to join in the shopping frenzy. I’m sure he’ll be online at midnight when it starts, hoping to be among the first to partake.

Right now, Prime is subscribed to by 45 million members, each spending about 3X what non-prime members spend. Amazon is determined to shave more and more from competition and they are clearly making progress. Why shop anywhere else?

Well… since announcing Prime Day, Target and Best Buy have announced sales to make sure everyone’s favorite digital giant doesn’t pull their shoppers away. But the real fight is going to be with Walmart. And, what could be better for shoppers? The of two largest retailers in the world in a price-war determined to win our loyalty? Yes, please.

To sweeten the deal, Walmart is lowering the threshold for free standard shipping with purchases from $50 to $35. And, they will be sure to point out to shoppers that anyone can partake in their deals… not just paid subscribers like Prime. Walmart spokesperson, Ravi Jariwala, told USA Today, “We just don’t believe you should pay a fee to get a better price.”

Walmart’s move to counter is testament to how fierce retail competition continues to be and they do have the power to change the conversation. They are smart to jump in the game. But, does it matter if Amazon seems to be the one always leading? Despite already being a success, this is another example of Amazon constantly innovating how they do business in order to continue to drive sales and grow customer relationships. They continue to change the retail landscape. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Wondering who is going to win this fight? This business insider chart comparing the two behemoths provides some interesting insight.

Let the epic showdown begin…

Shopping just got easier.

As I scroll through the many Greek yogurt options on Walmart’s snazzy new online grocery list, walmart.com/grocery, adding several quickly to my cart, I realize this is a jackpot. And, its free. I hear other retailers like Peapod, Stop & Shop and Giant offer similar services at a cost. Looks like I just found another reason to shop at Walmart!

For now, Walmart’s new online ordering and drive-thru pick-up is (for now) is only being tested where I am, in the retail giant’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. The whole process is based on the French company Chrono Drive, which pioneered the model Walmart is using for its grocery drive-through and pick-up program. After several visits and tours of Chrono Drive locations in France, Walmart’s executives brought the idea to Bentonville. It has been a huge hit with everyone in town.

Walmart’s online ordering and drive-thru pick-up (formally called Walmart Pickup-Grocery) has been one of the most exciting and talked-about launches for our local community. Social media is abuzz, and everyone is trying it.

My husband and I both work, and between after-school activities and social commitments, grocery shopping barely fits into our “to-do” list whenever we can spare the time. But now, this new service allows my husband and I to create a grocery list online, where we both add items to the list, which will save us a ton of time. The entire process is so incredibly simple to use. I can populate my list during a break while still at work. Then I just choose a pick-up time. Either of us can easily drive through the pick-up store—which resembles a large gas station—then enter our phone number on the touchscreen kiosk at one of the parking bays. In minutes, our groceries are brought straight to the car and loaded without us having to park, navigate a cart through a busy Supercenter or stand in line at checkout!

Eureka, not sure this could be any simpler or make my grocery shopping experience any easier! The concept is now in testing in Bentonville, Arkansas and if successful you can count on seeing a new location pop up near you!

All Things Walmart

It’s that time of year again. Northwest Arkansas welcomes thousands of Walmart Associates and Shareholders from around the world to their annual Shareholders meeting. The meeting takes place on Friday, June 6 at Bud Walton Arena on the University of Arkansas Campus in Fayetteville, but events and concerts will be taking place all over Northwest Arkansas throughout the week. Northwest Arkansas REALLY becomes all things Walmart.

The buzz is all about what celebrities will be here. Last year, Hugh Jackman andTom Cruise hosted the meeting . Several musicians sang, including: Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson and John Legend.

Doug McMillion, Walmart President and CEO, will speak at Friday’s meeting and has already mentioned a few key strategic areas of discussion:

  1. Serving the customers through relevant and personalized experiences
  2. Expanding opportunities for Associates
  3. Driving operational excellence
  4. Serving communities through a deeper focus on social, environmental and local responsibility

Bill Simon, President & CEO of Walmart U.S., Shares His Story

Today, the TPN Bentonville office attended the Benton County Single Parent Scholarship Fund luncheon. Bill Simon, President & CEO of Walmart U.S., spoke at the event. Instead of speaking about how Walmart and the Walmart Foundation give back by supporting the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, it was a much more personal speech.

Mr. Simon was very real and down to earth. He discussed his upbringing in a single parent household with four siblings. His mother never graduated from college, and she did any odd job she could to help support the family. She instilled in her children the value and importance of an education, that being average or being exceptional is a choice, and the importance of giving back. Because of this, Mr. Simon, along with three of his siblings, all graduated from college. Two of them even went on to receive their Master’s degrees. While Bill’s mother never got the chance to earn her own college degree, she believed she earned six- thanks to her children’s accomplishments.

Besides gaining an appreciation for Mr. Simon and his personal story, we were reminded that while Walmart may have its share of detractors, they do give back to the communities in which they serve. Mr. Simon specifically mentioned the $4 prescription program, which he helped implement, as well as the emphasis and importance Walmart places on helping the community – illustrated through their everyday low prices, the practice of hiring veterans and associates without college degrees, and making it easier to shop with one-stop convenience.

From the Westside: Fresh & Easy Exits US Market

It comes as no surprise to many retail watchers that British parent company Tesco announced this morning that it will attempt to sell all 200 Fresh & Easy stores, located in California, Arizona and Nevada. Incredibly, the chain did not make any money during its 5-year duration in the US.

It’s an unfortunate situation for the small-format, innovative stores that launched in 2007 with high hopes for bringing fresh food to “food deserts,” or areas that were underserved by supermarket and grocery store chains. Initial plans were to launch 1,000 stores in California & other western states before expanding east. Those plans were scaled down due to the economic climate as well as lack of performance & profit.

Why did Fresh & Easy fail? Theories abound. Primarily, the US grocery market is competitive, with well-established banners under Kroger, Safeway, and SuperValu brands.There’s also increased competition from high-end/specialty/independent grocery chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, as well as the rise of mass-market retailers with grocery components, notably Walmart and Target.

Fresh & Easy also pursued a self-service check-out model that was not popular with consumers who are used to cashiers, especially for high-volume, check-out intensive purchases. The chain also did not offer vouchers or coupons, which US grocery shoppers are accustomed to. In fact, many grocery chains highlight their coupon program as the primary draw for shoppers, even offering shopping incentives such as double coupons. Fresh & Easy also made a push to sell ready-made meals which were not necessarily compatible with local shoppers and their habits, mainly because shoppers in the west tend to grocery shop once a week and look for a wide range of products rather than shopping more frequently, where they’d be more inclined to shop for a grab-and-go/ready-made product.

Finally, Fresh & Easy launched with a high percentage of private label brands and a reduced SKU assortment in the center of the store. Many consumers were unable to find the brands they were used to purchasing, leading to frustration and an additional shopping trip. Many shoppers willing to give the new concept a try visited once and never returned.

Ultimately, the store failed to find it’s niche in the competitive US grocery landscape and solve a real need for consumers. It tried to introduce a new way of shopping that wasn’t compatible with US shopper needs, desires or patterns.

Retail analyst Neil Saunders of Conlumino in London said “Retail history will likely record Tesco’s American foray as something of an unfortunate misadventure.”

Shopper Marketing and Baseball: The Gold Standard

Baseball fans know that a Perfect Game is every pitchers dream.  Only 23 major league pitchers have accomplished this feat.  There’s an equally elusive feat in the world of shopper marketing: Perfect Compliance.

Recently, our team was doing store walks with our client and stumbled upon a pallet we had designed.   The in-store execution didn’t match the intent of our rendered design. And when you’re standing with your clients, your first reaction is to ask “well who built this wrong!”

Our team quickly jumped into action and, while trying to rebuild our display, we had a bit of an “ah-ha” moment.  Without instructions and many more items on our to-do list, how would we have set this up?  The answer?  Probably not that differently…

gipper john display build

Every shopper marketer strives for 100% display compliance.  But the reality of retail is our designs may not execute the way we dreamed them up or even worse, they could not execute at all.

But, there are a couple things we can do as shopper marketers to improve our odds of pitching Perfect Compliance.

1) Spend more time in store.  There are few activities that are easier and more valuable than walking the store with your peers.  Even better, ask if you can accompany a field sales rep on a store call or ask if you chat with the store manager.  Ask how they go about building displays and executing POP materials and listen to the challenges they face.  The intel is invaluable.

2) Design for the least common denominator.  Don’t build for the biggest, grandest format.  Instead, start thinking about your design in terms of the most likely thing to be executed.  Make that element perfect, than build nice to haves on top of that.

3) Consider the 5 minute rule. If you were building this item in store and you only had five minutes before moving on to your next task would you 1) have the information and tools handy to build it correctly and 2) have enough time to complete the task?  Make sure your retail kit has all the instructions, hardware and even tools needed to complete the build.  After all, it’s cheaper to include a handful of extra clips and a screwdriver in the kit than to have your materials sit in a back room forever.

What other ideas or suggestions do you have for Perfect Compliance?  Leave your feedback in the comments section!

Short-Term Cuts Lead To Long-Term Pain

As recently reported by Bloomberg news, shoppers are fleeing Walmart for rivals in large part due to massive cuts in staffing leading to a shortage of stock support…which in turn leads to empty shelves. According to one shopper interviewed,

If it’s not on the shelf, I can’t buy it,” she said. “You hate to see a company self-destruct, but there are other places to go.”

It’s not as though the merchandise isn’t there. It’s piling up in aisles and in the back of stores because Wal-Mart doesn’t have enough bodies to restock the shelves, according to interviews with store workers. In the past five years, the world’s largest retailer added 455 U.S. Wal-Mart stores, a 13 percent increase, according to filings and the company’s website. In the same period, its total U.S. workforce, which includes Sam’s Club employees, dropped by about 20,000, or 1.4 percent. Wal-Mart employs about 1.4 million U.S. workers.

When will companies learn that making decisions with an eye only on the immediate benefit to the balance sheet (and by extension, the shareholders) is rarely what’s best for the long-term health of the company? It’s odd for a corporation the size of Walmart to neglect the very basics of retailing such as having product available for customers, but this is the world we now live in, where “growth” and artificial savings take the place of the bedrock principles held by founder Sam Walton. Time will tell if they can right this ship before Target and Costco make irrevocable gains. Go check out the full article to read the rest of Walmart’s woes.