In-store robots, Reducing returns, and NRF Big Show - Weekly Snacks #89

Campaign corner

Back to basics. Lowes Foods, a regional grocery chain, has introduced a new campaign for its private-label brand, Brown Bag. This brand is known for excluding seven unhealthy additives, such as artificial flavors and high-fructose corn syrup, from its range of over 900 products. The campaign features a character named "Basic B" a humorous take on an online influencer who is extremely enthusiastic about Brown Bag's simple and healthy ingredients. This initiative highlights Brown Bag's commitment to offering products without harmful additives.

Ah, nuts. At a gathering, a man unexpectedly sprays his clothes with sparkling water while opening a bottle, leading him to exclaim in annoyance, "Ah, nuts!" Out of nowhere, a woman appears from the coat rack and suggests a different perspective. She asserts that the phrase "Ah, nuts!" ought to be used positively, specifically to express appreciation for Planters nuts.

Retail technology

Post-purchase communication. Communications after a purchase should seamlessly integrate with the overall customer experience, maintaining a consistent and engaging feel. Scott Streit from Yeti highlights their approach of keeping customers informed throughout the post-purchase process, including returns, resulting in high engagement with their communications. This strategy aims to ensure customer satisfaction and encourage future purchases.

In-store robots. Stop & Shop's in-store robot, Marty, initially introduced to spot spills and hazards, has evolved into an unofficial mascot and a symbol of positive innovation for the Ahold Delhaize chain. Karen Mitchell, the company's chief marketing officer, explains how humanizing Marty, complete with googly eyes and a friendly appearance, has helped lower barriers to tech adoption among consumers and employees. Marty, which also assists in identifying out-of-stock items, has been well-received by the community, even celebrated with a store-wide "birthday party," further integrating the robot into the brand's identity and customer experience. Just like Tokinomo's robotic POP displays, Visibubble and Shelfobot, Marty manages to attract shoppers' attention. 

Expertise in retail

NRF Big Show. Where are you most interested in seeing how AI, particularly GenAI, can reimagine the retail shopping experience as well as retail’s overall practices? What advice would you have for chains and smaller retailers exploring AI investments? These are the questions that retail experts answered in one of Retail Wire’s discussions. Here’s what Neil Saunders mentioned: 

In-store smart carts. Do you see personalized ads on in-store smart carts still facing privacy concerns or other hurdles? Or do you see smart carts ideally positioned to support retail media networks? Various retail experts shared their thoughts on this topic in one of Retail Wire’s discussions. Here’s what Lisa Goller stated: 

In other news…

 Reducing returns. Melodie van der Baan, CEO of Max Retail, highlights the growing issue of product returns, which has become a year-round challenge, particularly after the pandemic. She notes that while large retailers like Walmart and Macy's can recoup losses through in-store returns, online-only retailers face greater challenges. Van der Baan suggests that consumers share the responsibility for reducing returns, advocating for thoughtful purchasing and considering donations over returns to minimize waste. She also emphasizes the importance of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) offering flexible return policies to maintain customer loyalty, despite the challenges and costs involved.

Pandemic’s impact. As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, its impact on retail continues in several key ways. Firstly, the rise of the hybrid workplace has altered shopping patterns, with people shopping more locally or online, leading to a potential decline in foot traffic for stores near corporate centers. Secondly, the pandemic gave a significant boost to e-commerce, a trend that's expected to continue despite the recovery of physical stores. Thirdly, inventory management remains a challenge, with AI expected to play a major role in streamlining supply chains. Additionally, omnichannel services like curbside or in-store pickup remain popular, while self-checkout stations may see a decline due to concerns over shrinkage and theft.


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