Category: Online

15 Mar 2017
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Competitive Intelligence 101

The Sherlock Holmes of Retail

The phrase “competitive intelligence” is tossed around among competitive retailers and pricing strategists looking to grow revenue and expand their reach. Formally defined, competitive intelligence is the act of defining, gathering, analyzing and distributing intelligence about products, customers and competitors in order to make strategic decisions.

But what this really sounds like is a socially and legally acceptable form of spying. Companies that use competitive intelligence methods are putting on their black ski masks and waiting in stakeout vans with binoculars, ready to observe and analyze their competitors every movement.

This kind of “spying” is actually one of the oldest forms of ensuring market competition and drives the system of exchange that our livelihoods depend on. A basic study of economics tells us that markets are sustained by simple supply and demand models. When the demand for new Legend of Zelda video game increases, Nintendo is smart enough to increase their prices and the quantity that they supply to legions of insatiable gamers.

Profitable choices and strategic pricing is dependent on looking at external factors and the ecosystem of markets around you. Companies who want to thrive in a competitive environment know that they have to study two major areas: their customers and their competition. The two share a magnetic-like attraction, linking them together and linking the success of the company with their push and pull.

But to simplify things even more, let’s take a look at the classic lemonade stand example. Sally spends her summer vacations selling lemonade for 2 dollars a cup and expects about 15 sympathetic parents to visit her stand and buy a daily cup. When another lemonade stand opens up across the street, Sally notices her customers waning.

Infuriated, she grabs a recording device, her binoculars and heat-resistant trench coat and hovers around her competitor’s stand only to discover that the other lemonade stand sells lemonade for 75 cents a cup.

Now armed with this information, Sally can re-re-price her lemonade at 75 cents or less and make an informed and strategic move to stay the queen of lemonade sales.

Retailers like Sally want information about the prices that their competitors are charging, so they’ll be able to assess their own prices and make adjustments accordingly. By expanding the scope of our lemonade example to include the millions of industries and retailers with a diverse range of products and services, it’s safe to say that we’re getting a little closer to the heart of competitive intelligence as it exists in the real-world marketplace today.

The (C)ompetitive (I)ntelligence spy tool kit can be broken down into a strategic four-step method:

  1. Plan. Companies need to crack open their laptops and begin their Google stalking. In other words, retailers need to have a plan for what information they feel will benefit them. If retailers are asking the right questions, they’re asking about their competitor’s mission and history or their competitor’s target customers. They’re asking about which products are being priced at what cost and what special feature of that product attracts customers. They’re asking about promotions and advertisements.

 

  1. Collect Data. Retailers accumulate information by utilizing competitive intelligence programs or platforms. CI tools like MissionControl address the largest questions retailers might have about how to be successfully competitive with their pricing strategies and promotions. MissionControl is just one of the many innovative technologies out there that retailers are latching onto. There are hundreds of free and private programs that help companies analyze features of their competitors such as Quantcast, Knowledge360 or CIRADAR.

 

  1. Analyze the Data. Put your smartest and brightest to work extracting information that can be beneficial to understanding your own business in relation to the other markets. Alternatively, there are companies out there like Engage3 that collect the data and help set strategy with advanced analytics and insights. For Sally, it was figuring out that 75 cents would steal the neighborhood moms away from her stand.

 

  1. Make Changes. Implementing new pricing strategies, promotional programs or re-evaluating inventory are some of the many ways retailers then act on the data they’ve acquired. Sally quickly made the change and started pricing her lemonade at 50 cents. It worked like a charm.

 

Using competitive intelligence is like being the Sherlock Holmes of retail, and it is amongst one of the fastest growing business strategies of the 21st century. As long as there are Sally’s in the world competing against other lemonade stands, competitive intelligence will continue to play an important role in the social and economic foundations of the retail industry.

18 Feb 2017
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Shopping Revolutions: The Future of Grocery Stores

Drive Through Supermarkets? A Revolution in Grocery Retail

Traditional grocery stores are phasing out and rapidly losing appeal to the 21st century shopper. With millennials at the height of their rule and a growing shift towards online and instant shopping, the existence of the list-making and cart-pushing shopper is moving towards extinction.

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the greatest change in U.S. food shopping behavior is the extent to which food shoppers now rely on non-supermarkets as a source of grocery supplies. Long gone are the days when you opened your fridge, made a shopping list of necessary items and spent the morning cruising through the aisles of the closest and most cost-effective grocery store.

The changing mindset of the average consumer who demands an easier, faster and more convenient shopping experience has forced several industries to adapt. Conventional supermarkets are not as appealing in a world with a diverse amount of shopping options, and major retailers are actually starting to feel the pressure to adapt and meet a new set of needs.

From smaller store formats to online shopping, big grocers are wiping the beads of sweat off their foreheads and largely divorcing the “traditional” store formats.

Here are the top 3 ways large-scale grocers are innovating to win back their customers:

1. Convenient Store Formats

Large grocers have been creating smaller, easily-navigable versions of their mother stores with the format of a typical convenience store. Connected to gas stations, the idea is to create a quick and easy shopping experience for consumers who are bound to stop for a bite to eat as they wait for their tanks to fill up.

This past month, Walmart has been a huge player in the game and unveiled their newest convenient store, a “C-Store,” in Rogers, Arkansas. The 25,000 square foot building offers a hot food bar with quick to-go meals such as paninis, nachos, hot dogs and sausages. The new store offers a similar format to that of a classic 7-11 with coolers of beers, sodas and other beverages as well as aisles stocked with grocery staples: milk, eggs, frozen meals and pizza. Walmart has experimented with this type of store in the past in Crowley, Texas and other regions in Arkansas.

Kroger, one of the world’s largest grocery retailers, also opened up their version of a C-Store in College Station, Texas last year. Their take on the smaller store format features 16 gasoline pumps, convenient merchandise and a barrage of coffee and fountain beverages. If the goal is to make act of grocery shopping convenient at a variety of locations, then these grocers are hitting the target. Filling up gas will now become part of the same errand as grocery shopping.

2. “Grocerants”

Most grocery stores like Safeway, Whole Foods and Raley’s design their deli and hot meals sections to be an easy, sit-down spot for hungry customers to munch on a quick meal. There’s never been anything particularly attractive about the food options in these delis, so grocery stores have decided to switch their focus and hone in with full force on revamping and glamorizing these in-store eateries.

Meet the newest revolution in dining experiences: the grocerant. It’s a hopeful attempt at creating a hybrid between grocery shopping and fine dining by picking high-end restaurants or restaurants with name recognition and incorporating them into the store layout.

The supermarket chain Hy-Vee has a Market Grille Restaurant in over 20 of their stores. A Whole Foods in New York City has a Yuji Ramen inside their store. A Gateway Market in Iowa even has a beer program, where consumers can fill up pints from the in-store bar and shop with a beer in hand.

If the idea is to attract customers back into stores by offering them tasty, well-known dining options, the food has to be tempting enough to get them to sit down to a meal. Grocers figure that customers are probably more inclined to use the time before enjoying their meal or after the calorie boost to shop for products.

Grocers will be able to yield a better experience for the shopper if the shopper can save on time and money and consolidate their day’s errands, like eating, into a one-stop shopping excursion.

3. Online Services

Technological innovations have been one of the most dynamic tools for shopping evolutions. Making a shopping list? There’s an app for that. Comparing prices between similar items? There’s an app for that. Need groceries delivered? There’s even an app for that.

Over the last few years, grocers like Safeway, Raley’s, Costco and Wholefoods have begun utilizing online shopping platforms and delivery systems with the aid of tools such as Instacart or Google Express. These kinds of services completely remove the need for consumers to set foot in a grocery store.

Amazon is the Stephen Curry of grocery innovators, as Amazon has made huge strides in emerging into the grocery retail market with Amazon Grocery, Amazon Pantry and their newest technological revolution, Amazon Go.

Amazon Go is Amazon’s first physical grocery store and has the format of a traditional store but promises the convenience of online shopping. They reel in customers with the tag, “No lines, no checkout- just grab and go!” Customers walk in, scan their phones over a sensor that detects their account within the Amazon app, grab whichever food items they want off the shelves and simply walk out of the store when they’re finished. Amazon’s “Just Walk Out Technology” uses sensor fusion and computer vision to identify the item that was put in the physical cart and adds it to the virtual cart on the app. The Amazon account is later charged and sent a receipt.

The first store opened up in downtown Seattle, and Amazon is eager to announce additional locations for their new stores in the next few months.

Grocers have had to become more creative, strategic and innovative in the way they market to consumers and grow relationships. With ideas such as grocerants and Amazon Go already taking off in earnest, there’s no predicting the upcoming innovations and evolutions grocery retailers will be fighting to bring to the table.

Photo Courtesy: CSNews