Progressive Grocer

JUL 2016

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138 | Progressive Grocer | Ahead of What's Next | July 2016 rom omnichannel marketing and empowered associates, to virtual reality, fresh produce "megatrends" and more, en- lightenment from all walks of the food industry flowed freely from the podiums and in the aisles of last month's co-located FMI Connect and United Fresh confabs in Chicago. Indeed, the post-show contents of our re- porters' notebooks contain a cache of new story ideas, angles and sources that promise to keep us energized and occupied for the foreseeable future. In the interim, I'm compelled to borrow a page from the trade show exhibitor's playbook by sampling some of the most noteworthy nuggets we overheard while fanning out across McCormick Place. Among the most impactful aspects of the annual indus- try event was the tech-centric "show-within-a-show" Pulse, which pinpointed the critically important omnichannel aspects of food retailing. Presented collaboratively by Progres- sive Grocer, our sister publication Retail Leader and FMI, the first-ever Pulse ignited an electrifying spark on the show floor with a two-day lineup of retailer panels, keynote presenta- tions, and one-to-one and group business meetings in an intimate, interactive environment that set the stage perfectly for learning and discovery. As one of several thought-leader presentations, tech expert and Fox TV host Shelly Palmer urged Pulse cohorts to resist the notion of drilling down to single shoppers, and instead focus on clusters of shoppers who act similarly, to help guide store-level decisions by finding the patterns and common elements of what's most interesting. "Yes, we have a lot of data and tools, but humans still interact with each other … and with stores. Adjust your thinking." —Shelly Palmer, host, Fox TV's "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" Another highlight I found intriguing was the general ses- sion featuring celebrity chefs/restaurateurs Mario Batali and Robert Irvine, who discussed a range of hot topics. Both Irvine and Batali — who were as authentic and engaging as they were approachable and astute — urged grocers to make better use of social media to connect with consumers. "You want to tell people what you're doing and what you're not doing," said Ir- vine. "It's a great way to drive people into your stores." He also challenged his grocery trading-partner audience to embrace and champion their roles as purpose-driven merchants. "Food changes people's lives. You are part of that. Food is not handcuffs." —Chef Robert Irvine Straight from the practice-what-he-preaches playbook, Batali, co-owner of Chicago's and New York's Eataly dining/retail hybrid, implored attendees "to constantly hit [shoppers] with tastes and samples" as part of an ongoing culinary learning experience. "Show me five steps to make something in eight minutes, and I'll be your customer for life." —Chef Mario Batali the last word Connect and Reflect Fresh from his keynote address to the United Fresh 2016 delegation, Craig Boyan, partner-in- chief of San Antonio-based H-E-B, was also spied absorbing — and, likely, silently applauding — Batali's mandate to grocers to be fearless and "let the people who work in your stores be the stars." Evidence that Boyan and Batali are of one mind can be traced to the former's remarks a day earlier about the industry's 30-year pattern of "under- investment" in its people. "How do you show your people that you care about them? That you are investing in them? The way out, we think, is by investing in our people. The most important thing is great partners and greater leadership in every store." —Craig Boyan, president/COO, H-E-B Batali's suggestion for grocers to add "vegetable butchers" to encourage exploration, impart education, and foster interaction between store associates and produce shoppers, also reinforced a defining point made by Anne-Marie Roerink, principal of San Antonio-based 210 Analytics, during her presentation of FMI's Power of Produce "megatrends" study. "As a mature category, driving growth in fresh produce requires innovation, including more dedicated customer service/outreach, greater staff accessibility and more knowledgeable produce de- partment staff." —Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics Meanwhile back on the show floor, PG Managing Editor Bridget Goldschmidt captured the following memorable gems that further depict the industry's changing times: "Virtual reality will play a big role in times to come." —Bharat Rupani, Interactions, on the future of experiential marketing "It's about getting customers to change their mindset, to scan products first instead of looking them up on Google." —Mike Briggs, Qliktag, which is working with GMA on the SmartLabel initiative "It's a focused artificial intelligence platform — not generalized AI, like killer robots." —Gary Saarenvirta, Daisy Intelligence, ex- plaining how his solution helps retailers determine how to promote and price products Finally, while it's no secret that FMI's annual industry gathering has taken its share of jabs in recent years for lighter crowds, fewer food-focused exhibits and, in consequence, decelerated dynamism, evolutionary changes to the annual show format are also afoot. "As our industry continues to morph and adapt … we are taking steps to change the event to increasingly reflect the food retail industry of today, which is why we're committing to boldness and agility." —FMI President/CEO Leslie Sarasin There's no question that the diversif ication of shop- pers and proliferation of channels present real challenges for the industr y. It's therefore a must for allied partners to absorb expertise — and respond accordingly — to impel continued evolution. PG F Meg Major [email protected] Twitter @Meg_Major/@pgrocer

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