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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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The Innovation Conversation: The Talk @ ShopTalk



Content Guy's Note: The goal of "The Innovation Conversation" is to explore some facet of the fast-changing, technology-driven retail landscape and how it affects businesses and consumers. It is, we think, fertile territory ... and one that Tom Furphy - a former Amazon executive, the originator of Amazon Fresh, and currently CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners (CEP), a venture capital and venture development firm in Seattle, WA, that works with many top retailers and manufacturers - is uniquely positioned to address.

This week, insights and analysis from the recent ShopTalk conference.

And now, the Conversation continues…


KC: One of the things that seemed clear from all the stories I read about ShopTalk, and our subsequent conversations, is the fact that more and more bricks-and-mortar retailers seem to have accepted the notion that collection actionable data - and then actually using it - is the best way to compete with online retailers, which have easier access to it and a greater ability to employ it. I’m wondering the degree to which it was your sense that this is a real shift as opposed to just talk, especially in the grocery segment, which I’ve always thought has largely mismanaged - or even ignored - the loyalty data to which they’ve long had access.

Tom Furphy:
Based on the session descriptions, the content and much of the reporting you would certainly have a sense that data collection and leverage is becoming an important theme for retailers in their quest to deliver compelling shopping experiences. Especially in light of the competition from online retailers. However, I have to say, I think the industry is still mostly paying lip service to this.

Most retailers admit they would like to use customer data more effectively. Yet very few are actually doing so. We heard a number of sessions where retailers talk about data, yet the best they’re doing is offering targeted discounts. Something they should have been doing 10 or 15 years ago. The exhibit hall sported several companies that collect and analyze data for retailers. But what I felt was missing is how to actually apply the data in a way that benefits the shopper and enriches the shopping experience.

We saw lots of examples of service providers using AI, Machine Learning and even robotics to drive efficiency and scale. We saw smarter shelf labels, more refined personalization, robotic facilities and task automation that was all fairly interesting use of data and technology. But I was left wondering how it would truly benefit the customer.

One presenter, who I will not name, pitched his company as allowing retailers to “monetize their shoppers” by leveraging their customer data to attract brand dollars for targeting. While there are absolutely benefits to using data to market to shoppers, which when done right can benefit the shopper and add to the bottom line, the notion of “monetizing shoppers” makes me cringe.

Retailers shouldn’t ask “How can I use customer data to sell more? Or how can I monetize my shopper?” They should ask “How can I use customer data to make my customers’ lives better?” Be it helping them run their daily lives or making the retail experience richer, data can be used to unlock so much goodness. Yet somehow retailers cannot get over the hump.

KC: It is interesting to me - and not just me - that a greater emphasis on the use of customer data by retailers is taking place at the same time as there is a lot more focus on privacy issues, with a lot more discussion about potential regulation by the federal government. To what degree was this dichotomy on display at ShopTalk?

TF:
I didn’t see this dichotomy on display, but perhaps I was not in the sessions where it was discussed. Outside of Amazon and maybe a few others, I don’t see the data being used at a scale where retailers are that concerned. I think folks realize that the big platforms, like Google and Facebook, have a responsibility here because the data is an asset that they monetize externally. Retailers use it internally, directly with their customers. So as long as it is kept secure and is used in a meaningful way to benefit shoppers, retailers should be fairly covered from a privacy standpoint.

I had a number of conversations throughout the week with service providers, manufacturers and retailers that work with the larger platforms. They are trying to wrap their heads around balancing the new privacy standards of the larger platforms with generating and using the data in meaningful ways. The more it’s protected, the harder it is to use commercially. But that’s probably a good thing given the breaches and abuses we’ve seen.

KC: I found it interesting that Erik Nordstrom, co-president of the retailer that bears his family’s name, commented that their biggest problem is an “inability to move fast enough,” and that the company needs “to be more agile.” That’s remarkable to me, because I think most people would observe that Nordstrom has been as fast and agile as anyone in the retail business. Is this him just being self-effacing, or are things moving so fast that even Nordstrom, which is at the head of the retail class, can’t keep up?

TF:
Courtney Reagan of CNBC interview with Erik Nordstrom was one of my two favorite sessions of the week (the other being Jim Donald’s session). He has such a practical view of his business and strong focus on the customer. Ms. Reagan was asking him questions about the economy, the state of retail and the outlook for department stores. He avoided answering and kept coming back to talking about the shopper and solving her needs. That’s what they think about all day, every day. He talked about store services and the new inventory-less Nordstrom Local format that focuses on services.

He said that he doesn’t think about the economy other than in the context of what it means for his customers. He said that he’s not an authority on the retail industry. When asked about the prognosis for the department store sector, he didn’t answer. He said he doesn’t think of Nordstrom as a department store. He thinks of his company as a fashion retailer.

A couple folks that I spoke with afterward said they were underwhelmed by Erik’s session. They were expecting him to espouse great knowledge about many subjects and share insights into all the cool things that they’re working on. He did discuss many of their innovations. But did so without a sizzle reel, flowery words or broad proclamations. It was clear that he’s a merchant solving problems for his customers. It reminded me of Bob Wegman and Jeff Bezos. They both cut through the clutter to focus on their customer. Retail needs more of this.

Erik did say that Nordstrom struggles with moving fast enough. As technology and shopping trends emerge, he wishes they could be faster at putting them to work for their customers. And you’re right. Nordstrom’s speed and agility is at the head of the retail class. But because they are so obsessed with the customer and keeping up or staying ahead of them, they feel they need to be doing better.

I had a chance to catch up with Erik and ask him about BevyUp, our company that Nordstrom acquired last year. I was super impressed at how well he knew the team and could speak specifically to the technology and to the team and their contributions. This is a leader that knows and cares about his business deeply.

KC: Finally, I know you think that ShopTalk is one of the best conferences around, along with its Grocery Shop offshoot later in the year. Can you tell me why, and why retailers need to embrace these shows?

TF:
It really is a great show. The range of content is spot on for the industry. And as I look back over the four years of the conference, it has evolved each year. The first couple years were about discovering capabilities and business models to serve the new shopper. It was about sizzle and inspiration. Then it shifted to how companies are using technologies and new models to serve shoppers in meaningful ways. It was about possibility. Now it’s about how companies are scaling and working toward profitably and owning the next generation of shopper experience. It’s about application and scale. You can really see the progression staying in step with the times.

As someone that tends to live in the CPG and Grocery segments of the industry, I did recognize the impact of splitting Groceryshop off into its own show. I used to really struggle to hit all the sessions that I wanted to when the content encompassed all retail verticals. With the grocery content removed from Shoptalk, I had few conflicts and was able to focus on a broader set of capabilities and perspectives outside of our industry. If you had to pick one of these two conferences, I would recommend to anyone in our industry to hit Groceryshop first, then Shoptalk second if you have budget for both.

One of the things I really like about Shoptalk/Groceryshop is that attendees have a great opportunity to interact with retailers and brands. There are thousands of pre-arranged speed dating sessions between retailers, brands and service providers. The feedback that I’ve received on these has been very positive from both sides of the desk.

Also, there is ample opportunity to network in the formal settings, in the hallways or at off-event gatherings. Unlike traditional industry conferences where retail and manufacturer executives hold private sessions and seemingly work hard to stay out of the spotlight, very senior executives can be found engaged in deep conversations everywhere.

It was a great show for our CEP companies. I was humbled by the attendance at an evening event we held during the conference. We brought together a truly impressive group of brands, retailers, platforms and partners. We had a great time and it was a thrill to see our clients and partners interacting with such great energy!

The Conversation will continue…

Wednesday Eye-Opener: Past Tense

by Kevin Coupe

It was just a couple of weeks ago that the last Blockbuster store in the world - in Bend, Oregon - got an enormous amount of attention in the media, largely because it represented a retailing world now virtually obsolete. Blockbuster, after all, once had more than 9,000 stores and was ubiquitous on the retail landscape. And then there was one.

All of which made the New York Times story about another retail outlier - Scarecrow, a video rental store in Seattle - particularly interesting. (What’s with the Pacific Northwest and its ability to hang on to obsolete retail formats? It makes me want to check out the region’s best buggy whip retailers.)

The Times writes that “once video stores were the only place cinephiles could find favorite films after they left theaters. Then came the internet. The rise of online streaming services was a convenience for movie lovers, but it spelled, too, the end of an era … As for Scarecrow, it survived bankruptcy, the threat of closing and the death of its charismatic founder. In 2014, it became a nonprofit. And now, after 30 years, with more than 132,000 titles — many on VHS, laser disc and DVD — it is as much a cultural warehouse as anything else.”

But that’s not good enough for Kate Barr, Scarecrow’s president, who worries that it isn’t good enough for these films to be preserved in a museum-like setting. She believes that they are a vital part of our cultural history, and need to be experienced, not just preserved.

Barr, the Times writes, “worries that a dearth of vintage movies means voices from earlier generations won’t be heard. She points to hard-to-find documentaries and little-known gems by black or gay writers and directors. ‘Who is making decisions about what titles get seen?’ she asked. ‘I think it is important to not lose sight of the importance of movies. They reflect culture. They are cinematic history. It is important to keep these documents’.”

Barr tells the Times that running Scarecrow “is harder than she imagined. The store has added community events to attract new customers, sought donations and offered perks to members, including renting out video players. But the Hollywood filmmakers who used to venture north have not come to the rescue.”

(Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and film critic Roger Ebert used to be regulars, but apparently haven’t been around for a while. Ebert, of course, has an excuse - he passed away in XXXX.)

It is a fascinating story, and I feel a kinship with Scarecrow - it is a fair criticism that most movie services and channels focus on newer movies, big hits and so-called “tentpole” franchises. That said, it is hard to convince some folks that they should be exposed to films that some of us perceive as part of our cultural heritage, but a lot of people think of as just being old.

I have both such people in my family. No matter what I do, it is hard to convince my daughter that anything in black-and-white is relevant, or that the car chase in Bullitt is actually better than (and certainly the touchstone for) any of the chases in the Fast and the Furious movies.

And yet, both of my sons like old movies … and my oldest son, when interviewing for a job at a cable channel, startled the executive interviewing him when, asked what his favorite movie was, replied, “The Third Man, with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.” (Maybe I just did a better job parenting the boys … or at least showed them more classics. It also is possible that my daughter takes after her mother, with whom I have a running argument about John Ford’s The Searchers - she thinks it is ponderous and boring, while I think that it is one of the best movies ever made. When The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance popped up on cable the other night, I didn’t even ask her to watch with me. I don’t need the abuse.)

Despite my respect for what the folks at Scarecrow are trying to do, I’m not sure you can force feed culture - or anything, for that matter - to consumers who are not interested or engaged with the art form. (I feel that way about opera.) I’m glad that Scarecrow exists, and it is on my list of places to visit next time I get to Seattle … but it may be that serving as a museum for such cultural artifacts and as a living, breathing - and yes, even Eye-Opening - rental store for those who love the form will have to be enough.

At least it is something.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From Samuel J. Associates...

"It’s a bad time to be in the business of selling groceries, and the headlines are as bleak as you’d expect: "The Retail Apocalypse Is Coming for Grocery Stores" ... "Grocery Retail ‘Bloodbath’ Is Here" ... Conversely, it is a great time — arguably the best time ever — to buy groceries."
- New York Magazine/Grub Street


At Samuel J.Associates, we have a response to this assessment:

Bull.

We think it is a great time to be selling groceries, whether you are a retailer or a supplier. That’s because a more educated and demanding consumer, no matter the demographic, will reward businesses that are innovative, disruptive, and in touch with what people need, even if they don’t know they need it.

And, we know this: Those businesses require, and are fueled by, great people.

People who don’t just get the job done, but who set the tone in an organization, establish cultural and business priorities, who build teams, and who are able to not just adapt to competitive realities, but see the future and thrive in it.

And yes, ignore dire warnings about a "retail apocalypse" and see opportunities.

At Samuel J. Associates, we have a winning record of connecting great talent and innovative businesses ... as well as innovative talent with great businesses. We exceed your expectations so that you can do the same thing for your customers.

No bull.

Click here to find out more.

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Instagram Launches New Checkout Service

TechCrunch reports that social networking service Instagram is launching a new checkout service that will enable users to buy items they see on the mobile application without leaving it to visit the products’ websites.

More than 20 brands are participating in the program, including Adidas and Warby Parker.

Instagram will charge each of the brands a “selling fee” for each transaction, though it is not saying at this point it is not defining the amount of the fee; it is, however, saying that it expects the fee to come out of the brands’ profit, with consumers not charged anymore for their purchases.

Relevant brand images will feature checkout “tags” identifying them as qualifying for the program. According to the story, “After users buy something within Instagram, they’ll be able to track it from a new ‘Orders’ section of their profile that shows the status of an order, plus options to cancel, initiate a return or contact the merchant. They’ll also get a notification from Instagram when the order ships.”

TechCrunch writes that “Instagram’s ad business could also get a boost as Checkout could convince brands that the social network produces better return on investment because there are fewer steps before purchase. For now, only organic posts from the launch partner merchants will feature Checkout buttons, and ads aren’t eligible. But Checkout-equipped ads could be a gold mine for Instagram…”

KC's View: I guess this makes sense for Instagram, but my concern for the retailers is that they are putting Instagram in the position where it can disintermediate them from their customers. It is not clear to me that this is exactly what is happening, but it is the big thing that I’d be concerned about.

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From The Organic Produce Summit...

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Starbucks To Launch Revised Loyalty Program

Starbucks said yesterday that it plans to make changes to its mobile app-based loyalty program, making it easier for members to accumulate points and then cash them in for free items.

CNBC writes that while “the number of rewards members increased 14 percent from the first quarter a year earlier,” and now claims “more than 16.3 million people as active members, who account for about 40 percent of Starbucks' transactions,” the coffee retailer “has struggled to keep customers coming back as its latest drink innovations have largely fallen flat with consumers.”

It has, however, “been more successful persuading customers to use its mobile app, which lets them skip the long line by ordering and paying ahead of time. The app also builds awareness for the program by pushing nonmembers to join and gives the company more access to customer data, which can help them fine-tune promotions and new products. And as Starbucks prepares to launch delivery to a quarter of its stores by the spring with UberEats, it's working to add delivery orders as another capability of the Rewards app.”

The revised program will “eliminate the two tiers of Starbucks Rewards: green and gold levels. Before the changes, only gold members, who earned 300 points to ascend to that tier, were able to redeem their stars for free food or drink.”

The cashing-in options will range from the use of 25 stars to get an espresso shot to 400 stars for select merchandise or at-home coffee.

Customers get two stars for every $1 spent.

KC's View: Simpler is better, I suppose, but this feels a little desperate on Starbucks’ part.

It does seem a bit like heightened competition is having an impact, and this is Starbucks responding to new competitive realities, as opposed to setting the competitive tone.

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Industry Drumbeat

From WAFC...

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Industry Drumbeat

From Cornell University...


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Archaeologists Sour On UK Candy Maker Promotion

The New York Times has a story about how a new promotion from British candy manufacturer has enraged the archaeological community there, with one curator describing it as “quite possibly the most shocking, ill-advised & irresponsible” campaigns in memory, since it “actively promotes the gleeful destruction of archaeological sites and undermines years of public heritage education.”

So what did Cadbury do to earn so much hostility?

According to the Times, “The company recently marketed its Freddo Treasures chocolates with an advertising campaign that urged consumers to ‘grab your metal detector and go hunting for Roman riches’ and other artifacts at specific sites around Britain and Ireland. A website for the campaign suggested that adventurers ‘dig up Viking silver on the River Ribble,’ ‘hunt for precious rings in Fermanagh’ and ‘mine for Saxon gold in Chelmsford, Essex’.”

The thing is, digging up anything at such sites isn’t just immoral and unethical. It also is illegal, something the British government has made clear to Cadbury.

Mondelez International, which owns Cadbury, said in a statement quoted by the Times that “it had not meant ‘to encourage anyone to break existing regulations regarding the discovery of new archaeological artifacts.’ The company said it had taken down the website and was working on ‘directing families to museums where existing treasures can be found’.”

KC's View: It may be a little late. Seems like a pretty good bet that some idiot will be arrested for bringing a shovel to some protected site … though maybe a little less likely in England than in America, where history is regarded by too many people as something that happened last week.

I do think that this misstep reinforces an ideas for which I have long argued here and elsewhere - that companies need to create cultures in which at least one person at the tables where decisions are made has the responsibility to disagree with the conclusions of the majority. That’s the lesson of World War Z, by the way … and I think it is critical that group-think be challenged whenever and wherever possible. (I rent out my services as a professional contrarian for such purposes, just FYI … which would amaze the Dominican nuns and Irish Christian Brothers who would regularly smack me around for asking questions.)

Kroger Says Florida Will Be Site Of Another Robotic Warehouse

Kroger said yesterday that it will build a new automated warehouse facility, powered by robotics technology developed by UK e-commerce retailer Ocado, in the Florida community of Groveland, in Lake County, west of Orlando.

According to the announcement, “Kroger has committed to building 20 CFCs, powered by Ocado, to accelerate its ability to provide customers with anything, anytime and anywhere. The CFC model – an automated warehouse facility with digital and robotic capabilities, also known as a ‘shed’ – will be replicated to serve customers across America. Last month, the retailer announced plans to build two additional CFCs in Central Florida and Mid-Atlantic. America's first CFC will be constructed in Monroe, OH, a suburb north of Cincinnati.”

KC's View: You’d think that near Orlando they wouldn’t use robotics, but rather would have audio animatronics.

New Yorkers Remain High On Amazon’s Abandoned HQ2 Project

The Wall Street Journal reports that a new Siena College Research Institute poll shows that 67 percent of New Yorkers are unhappy about the chain of events that led to Amazon deciding not to open a second headquarters campus in Long island City, in New York City’s borough of Queens.

Only 21 percent thought it was a good thing that Amazon bailed out of the New York City project.

In fact, more people supported the Amazon NYC project than supported marijuana legalization (53 percent).

Three of the activist groups that opposed the Amazon project responded to the poll by saying it was an incomplete assessment of voter sentiment that didn’t take into account the larger social and economic issues involved.

KC's View: Oy.

I continue to believe that the death of the Amazon HQ2 deal in New York City represents a failure of imagination and storytelling by all of the players involved … and that there is plenty of blame to go around.

Amazon should’ve seen this coming - it wasn’t hard to imagine that there would be some objections, and it could’ve not just been prepared to answer tough and serious questions, but could’ve anticipated them and built tangible cultural responses into its proposals.

The government officials - especially the Mayor of New York City and the Governor of New York State - who backed the deal certainly should’ve been sufficiently in touch with the political climate to know that there would be objections, and they could’ve built answers to those tough and serious questions into their narrative.

Instead, we have nothing but recriminations, with the Mayor XXXXXXXXX getting particularly ugly about by being willing to imply that the turmoil in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ personal life was responsible for the decision, without being willing to actually say it and certainly not explaining the logic behind his conclusions. (He seems to think being coy is cute, but instead he just looks petty and disingenuous.)

It was interesting recently to see on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Donny Deutsch, one of the city’s most prominent advertising executives and a proponent of the Amazon deal - arguing that it would not just lead to Amazon’s investment, but also significant investment by thousands of ancillary businesses developed to serve the Amazon development - said that he’s actually considering a run for mayor. He seems to think that he can use the collapse of the Amazon deal as a metaphor for the collapse of intelligent, nuanced leadership.

I think he may be right, which would mean that the idea of Amazon’s HQ2 coming to NYC may live longer than the actual project.

Food Journalist Mark Bittman To Launch Online Culinary Magazine

Mark Bittman, who earned fame and fortune as a food writer for the New York Times as well as a prolific cookbook author, said yesterday that he is launching a new online food magazine, Salty, that will reside on Medium, an online platform and publisher.

In an email to subscribers to his newsletter, which is a separate business, Bittman writes that “Salty’s goal is to showcase the links between food and just about everything else: agriculture, politics, history, and labor; culture and cooking; identity, family, and love. It’s a new, ongoing, and exciting project, one in which we intend to involve lots of different voices and views.”

The New York Times, which writes in its lead that “Mark Bittman wants you to know he’s not dead,” notes in its coverage that after three decades with the Times, Bittman “s bounced around … He spent less than a year at Purple Carrot, a vegan meal-kit start-up. He wrote a column for New York Magazine and Grub Street. He started a newsletter. He posted recipes on his personal website. All along, he said, he had the idea of creating his own publication.”

KC's View: I think that Bittman is absolutely word class when it comes to this stuff, and I’ve already subscribed. Like-minded individuals will do the same.

The MNB Walmart Watch

Reuters reports that Lionel Desclee, the new CEO of the Walmart-owned Seiyu supermarket chain in Japan, said that rumors of the chain being sold are inaccurate.

"I'm not here to sell a business," he said. "Absolutely not at all.”

The story notes that “Walmart first entered the Japanese market in 2002 by buying a 6 percent stake in Seiyu, and gradually built up its stake before a full takeover in 2008 … Japanese media reported last year that Walmart considered selling Seiyu, and that a sale could amount to around 300 billion to 500 billion yen ($2.69 billion to $4.48 billion).”

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Industry Drumbeat

From FMI...

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FastNewsBeat

• The New York Times reports that “a federal jury found Tuesday that Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup was a ‘substantial factor’ in causing a California man’s cancer, dealing a significant blow to the company as it aggressively defends its products against thousands of similar claims … Tuesday’s verdict concluded the first of two phases in the federal case about the possible health risks of Roundup and whether Monsanto misled the man, Edwin Hardeman, about those risks.

“Mr. Hardeman used Roundup to control weeds and poison oak on his property for 26 years. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015.”

The next phase of the case “will focus on whether Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer AG last year, should be held liable for partly causing Mr. Hardeman’s cancer, said his lawyer, Jennifer Moore. Ms. Moore said lawyers would seek to prove that Monsanto manipulated public opinion and science to play down Roundup’s health risks.”


• Kroger said yesterday that it is selling its Turkey Hill business, which manufacturers a variety of dairy, ice cream and beverage products, to an affiliate of private equity firm Peak Rock Capital.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Kroger said last August that it was exploring options for the Turkey Hill business.

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From Webstop...

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Report From The Grass Roots

• Maybe investors should be careful about having too much confidence in the degree to which marijuana could be a cash cow.

The Sacramento Bee reports that “California has too many marijuana farms — growing too much product — and if nothing is done it will devastate the industry, according to a 2019 cannabis harvest projection.

“Vessel Logistics, a San Francisco-based cannabis distribution company, found that more than 1,142 acres of cannabis farms hold state permits. They can produce up to 9 million pounds of crop every year, but the permitted wholesale market can realistically support 1.8 million to 2.2 million pounds.”

And California isn’t alone. “Oregon growers are producing twice as much cannabis as the state market can support, and that there is ‘more than six year’s worth of supply sitting on shelves and farms,’ according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.”

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Industry Drumbeat

“RETAIL 2020: What’s The Future (WTF)?” - A New Presentation by Kevin Coupe


In this fast-paced, interactive and provocative presentation, MNB's Kevin Coupe challenges audiences to see the fast-evolving retail world through a radical new technological, demographic, competitive and cultural prism. These issues all combine to create an environment in which traditional thinking, fundamental execution, and just-good-enough strategies and tactics likely pave the path to irrelevance; Coupe lays out a road map for the future that focuses on differential advantages and disruptive mindsets, using real-world examples that can be adopted and executed by enterprising and innovative leaders.

Constantly updated to reflect the hand crafted news stories covered and commented upon daily by MorningNewsBeat, and seasoned with an irreverent sense of humor and disdain for sacred cows honed over 30 years of writing and reporting about the best retailers and retail strategies, “RETAIL 2020/WTF” will get your meeting attendees not just thinking, but asking the serious questions about business and consumers that serious times demand. See a sample at left…




Here’s what Lori Stillman, Executive Vice President - Analytics, Insights and Intelligence, Advantage Solutions, has to say about a recent appearance:

"Kevin joined us as a moderator and facilitator for a two-day client executive event we hosted. His role in the success of the event went far beyond his time presenting and sharing his great wisdom and content. From the moment our planning process began and we selected Kevin as a key part of our program, he dove in and worked with our team to review session topics, ideate on programming and help ensure our overall event delivered on the goals we had established. His quick wit, deep industry knowledge and ability to synthesize conversations into key take-aways enabled us to hit a home run!”

And, from Joe Jurich, CTO of DUMAC Business Systems:

”Kevin recently participated in and spoke at our Annual User Conference.  Our group consisted of independent retailers, wholesalers, and software vendors – a pretty broad group to challenge in a single talk.  While his energy, humor, and movie analogies kept the audience engaged, his ability to challenge them to think differently about how they go to market is what really captured them!  Based on dinner conversations afterward, he appeared to have left everyone thinking of at least one new approach to their strategy!”

Want to make your next event unique, engaging and entertaining? Contact Kevin at kc@morningnewsbeat.com , or call him now at 203-253-0291.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

A New Retail Tomorrow Podcast: The View From SXSW

Prepare to be dazzled. This Retail Tomorrow podcast comes from the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, and features a provocative look at the changing shape of retailing, a discussion of why retailers should target being “fluid” rather than “frictionless,” and how a new definition of experiential marketing can be a literal game changer for retail.

Our guests:

• Amber Allen, founder/CEO/Chief Strategist at Double A Labs;

• Becky Banasik, VP of merchant success at DOSH;

• Marie Chevrier, founder/CEO of Sampler;

• and Nancy Giordano, the strategic futurist who created Play Big Inc.

Here’s where you can check our guests’ websites: Amber Allen Becky Banasik Marie Chevrier and Nancy Giordano.

The Retail Tomorrow Podcast is sponsored by the Global Market Development Center (GMDC), seeking to focus not just on best practices, but next practices. This podcast, as well as past editions, also can be found on the site. In addition, check out more details about GMDC’s Retail Tomorrow initiative here.

Pictured below, from left to right:

Kevin Coupe, Amber Allen, Becky Banasik, Nancy Giordano, Marie Chevrier





Your Views: Gone To Seed

Got the following email from MNB reader Dennis Reinen about our decline-of-the-farmers-market story:

I believe it is quite simple as to why Farmer’s Markets are failing, they are costing themselves out of the market. The price between what you buy in your local grocery store versus a farmers market were much closer in the past than they are today.



Regarding Walmart’s decision to abandon a price-matching program, one MNB reader wrote:

Kroger ended their price matching program here a few years ago.  I suspect very few shoppers at either Kroger or Walmart used it or even were aware of it.  And can you imagine being behind someone at a checkout lane who has dozens of items and numerous competitor weekly sales circulars seeking multiple price matches?  Kroger has a scan right guarantee, the item is free up to $5 if it scans incorrectly, but in my experience the cashier first just tries re-enter the correct price and you only get it free if you remind them of that Kroger policy.  One cashier even told me “I never heard of that”.

From another reader:

Price Matching is one of the reasons I rarely shop at Walmart (there are other reasons, but that is another topic).  I had picked up a few items and got in line behind a lady that had a basketful of merchandise.  Walmart does not have near enough cashiers and each cashier already had several people waiting in line, so I waited patiently behind the lady.  Seemed like every other item that was scanned, the customer pointed to a competitor ad that she carried with her, of the same item with a lower price.  It seemingly took forever for her to check out with myself and others behind me patiently waiting. 

One would think that Walmart would review the competitor ads and make price adjustments before customers came in to price match.

 
And another:

The logic of “we’ve seen a significant reduction in usage and redemptions from Savings Catcher” therefore our customers know they are receiving the best price is faulty at best and potentially outright wrong. I contend the reduction in redemption of Savings Catcher can be directly related to when you could no longer scan your receipt but had to use the Walmart App to get the discount. I stood in line behind more than one person who had difficulty accessing the app while in the store and gave up resulting in not being able to submit the receipt to Savings Catcher and it isn’t automatic, you still have to submit the receipt to get the Savings. I almost always saved a little something by using Savings Catcher. I will stop using the app to pay once it doesn’t benefit me and have considered moving the majority of my grocery shopping to someone else.

And still another:

I agree with the person who said Walmart lies …  They killed this program intentionally with methodical changes until it became to difficult to use.  Initially, you could use the Walmart app to scan your QR receipt code as soon as you checked out.  Then, the app changed, and you had to manually enter it most of the time.  Additionally, where they located scanning within the app became more and more difficult to locate.  Then, they changed it again and the only way to use it was to use “Walmart Pay” to do your transactions or you could not scan the receipt, nor manually enter it.  When the program first began, I came in late that year and still saved over $100 which was awesome to use around Christmas.  Second year I saved the whole year and it was easily over $300.   Last year, with all the changes and my refusal to use Walmart Pay to purchase items, I saved nothing.  If they always had the lowest prices, then savings would have always been $0!!!   Personally, as soon as HEB comes into my market, I’ll stop using WM all together.  For now, I don’t really have a choice due to rural location.



We reported yesterday that Burger King has launched a kind of coffee subscription club - customers can pay $5 per month, which entitles them to one small cup of hot coffee per day at restaurants participating in the program. The promotion is available via Burger King’s mobile application. The tag line: “Enjoy BK Café for a month for the price of a large cappuccino from Starbucks.”

One MNB reader responded:

The only issue I see is I am not willing to drink Burger King Coffee everyday for any price. I don’t see this appealing to anyone who regularly drinks Starbucks as IMHO there is no comparison.

Which was along the same lines as this email from MNB reader Joy Williams:

Burger King sells coffee?

Well, that’s what they call it.

PWS 54