It’s 10:00 am, two weeks before Thanksgiving, 2028. While enjoying my mid-morning cup of coffee, my personal virtual emissary initializes and reminds me that it’s time to get started on my Thanksgiving game plan, and asks me, “Is now a good time?”
‘Yes, let’s go for it,’ I respond.
After answering a few questions—“What are we doing this year, the classics? Want to add anything new? Dinner at 6:00? Same number of guests as last year?”—the plan is delivered, complete with the grocery list, schedule (things to do one week ahead, two days ahead and the day before, the day of), copies of my tried and true recipes, suggestions for a couple of new things to throw in the mix, along with tips for how to make this year’s celebration the best yet.
I review the grocery list and place my order.
Not only are the groceries delivered just when I need them, I also get discounts on kitchen tools, cooking classes—make-ahead desserts, the perfect gravy, cranberry sauce reinvented—and spa services to set the stage for a stress-free holiday.
The good news is that we don’t have to wait until 2028 for this kind of grocery shopping experience. Thanks to advances in digital technology and analytics, the kind of intelligence needed to deliver connected, contextual customer experiences is available today.
And, with machine learning and augmented intelligence capabilities, grocers can continue to learn more about their customer behaviors and motivations with each interaction.
In the video, “How the pace of innovation in retail has redefined connected customer experiences,” Seeta Hariharan, GM and Group Head of TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group, talks about how retailers can deliver differentiated and memorable experiences.
“The key I believe is for retailers to offer what we call connected customer experiences,” Seeta explains. “Connected customer experiences don’t look at interactions at one point in time, but over a period of time and preferably over the life a customer’s journey.”
While the grocery sector took longer than other vertical industries to become digitally disrupted, the disruption is taking place. The grocery stores that respond by focusing on the customer experience will thrive.
Kroger is a grocer at the leading edge, with innovative customer experience initiatives and partnerships, including:
Lab Stores: Kroger’s Kitchen 1883, a lab store opened in 2017, is a gathering place where customers can experience Kroger’s food in a relaxing, community-centered environment. Kitchen 1883 gives Kroger’s the opportunity to test recipes it may use in to-go offerings and meal kits while engaging more deeply with their customers.
The 1819 Innovation Hub: Kroger is participating in the University of Cincinnati’s 1819 Innovation Hub. As Chris Hjelm, Kroger’s EVP and chief information officer, said, “The effort is another way the company is investing to create the ‘now and future of retail’. It will provide the Kroger Technology team with a creative space to partner and develop solutions to redefine the grocery customer experience.”
Partnerships: This month, the Kroger Family of Stores announced a partnership with Geoffrey’s Toy Box. Displays of 35 children’s toys, ranging in price from $19.99 to $49.99 will start appearing in participating Kroger stores to make holiday shopping more convenient for their customers. In October 2018, Kroger also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to introduce a food waste prevention and recovery curriculum for K-12 students in the U.S. In addition, Kroger is talking with Ace Hardware about allowing the hardware supplier to host pop-up kiosks in Kroger stores.
Many other grocers—Wegman’s, Publix, Central Market, and Whole Foods to name a few—are also exploring ways to offer connected experiences, products and services across all stages of food preparation. Examples include meal kits with everything to prepare a meal at home, prepared meals to reheat at home, ready-to-eat meals to eat on the run, cooking classes, holiday hotlines, ordering online, curb pick-up, home deliveries, catering, restaurant service, onsite and in-store dietitians, nutritionists and macrobiotic experts and chefs.
As customer needs evolve and new technologies emerge, grocers must make delivering connected grocery shopping experiences their mandate. This will require collaborating with other brands to offer new sources of value that are timely, personalized and delivered in the right context.
Your customers are ready for Thanksgiving 2028 today. Are you?