When you think of health and wellness in the retail setting, what often comes to mind are better-for-you products, in-store health services, and other high-profile topics.
However, there are other health-related subjects that don’t get as much exposure, but are still highly important. These include anti-hunger programs, and efforts to reduce food waste.
Supermarket giant Kroger is taking a big stand on both of these issues in a major new corporate commitment. It launched a “moonshot” initiative called Zero Hunger| Zero Waste back in September aimed at “ending hunger in the communities Kroger calls home and eliminating waste across the company by 2025.”
More recently, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based retailer unveiled television and radio ads in some 191 media markets nationwide to build awareness of the campaign during the holidays. This is being supplemented by store-level customer giving programs benefiting local food banks and hunger-relief organizations, and “Kroger’s year-round, industry-leading, fresh food donations program,” the company said.
“We understand nutrition plays a critical role in wellness, and we want to make sure our program contributes to people having balanced meals,” Kristal Howard, Kroger spokesperson, said in an interview for this blog.
In the U.S., some 42 million people struggle with hunger, and roughly 72 billion pounds of food are placed into landfills each year, according to the company. The challenges of large amounts of food being unconsumed while people face hunger are linked. Discarded food can be donated for anti-hunger efforts.
“As America’s grocer and one of the largest retailers in the world, we are committing to do something about it,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger chairman and CEO, in a recent statement.
Kroger’s program includes the following goals and activities:
Create a $10 million innovation fund as part of The Kroger Co. Foundation to address hunger and food waste.
Expand food donations to provide some three billion meals by 2025 in Kroger market areas.
Donate “more balanced meals” through Kroger’s fresh food donation efforts.
Advocate for public policy solutions to tackling hunger, which include pushing for continued funding of federal hunger relief programs.
Eliminate food waste by 2025 and develop transparent reporting on this effort.
Push for public policies that support waste prevention and diversion of waste from landfills, including with recycling , composting and other sustainability efforts. Kroger aims to achieve the “Zero Waste 2020” goals contained in its sustainability report.
Health and wellness drives a plethora of activities across Kroger’s wide-ranging portfolio. This includes organic, natural and better-for-you foods; sustainable packaging; pharmacy; specialty pharmacy, clinics, and other areas.
Having Kroger’s muscle behind efforts to combat hunger and food waste will boost industry-wide achievements. Already since its initiative was launched just a few months ago, Kroger donated nearly 3 million meals, Howard said. This indicates the momentum is growing for successful attacks on these challenges in the near future.
IN-STORE EXPERIENCE RATINGS SHOW SUPERMARKETS FACE KEY CHALLENGES,
ACCORDING TO NEW RETAIL FEEDBACK GROUP STUDY
Millennials Rate Core Experience Factors Lowest; Aldi Outperforms Grocers in Planned Spending
LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. (December 13, 2017) — The Retail Feedback Group (RFG), a leader in providing actionable
stakeholder feedback, today released the 2017 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study. The research, now in its
tenth year, found that while supermarkets receive the strongest marks in quality and variety, Aldi has a decided
advantage in value for the money and a slight edge in the checkout experience. Further, Millennials gave lower
ratings than older shoppers in every aspect of the supermarket visit.
Overall Satisfaction Lower During Prime Selling Time
Supermarket shoppers gave an overall satisfaction (OSAT) rating of 4.42 on a 5-point scale before 3 p.m., but
this mark fell to 4.36 between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Several factor ratings were substantially lower after 3 p.m.
than earlier in the day, including cleanliness, quality/freshness, staff friendliness, and value for the money.
Supermarkets Strong in Quality and Cleanliness but Moderate in Customer Service
Supermarket shoppers rated quality/freshness of the food and groceries (4.45) and cleanliness of the store
(4.40) as the two strongest core experience factors. Associate friendliness – the highest-rated service factor –
received a more moderate rating of 4.34, followed by associate helpfulness/knowledge (4.24), checkout
speed/efficiency (4.23) and associate availability (4.19).
Opportunity to Improve in Variety in Emerging Categories
While supermarkets score well on general variety & selection (4.38), scores register lower on natural & organic
items (4.05), ethnic/international products (3.97), allergen-free items (3.97) and locally-sourced items (3.96).
Low Value Rating but High Marks for Advertised Sale Items
Receiving the lowest score among all core experience factors, value for the money spent on this visit registered
at 4.18. Drilling down deeper, the results show meat prices (3.98), produce prices (4.03) and everyday prices
(4.03) all generated low scores in the supermarket channel, while advertised sales items scored much higher
(4.38). Note that 76 percent of shoppers refer to one or more advertising/sales vehicles – traditional, social,
mobile and digital – before or during the visit.
Doug Madenberg, RFG Principal noted, “These survey findings point to a critical need for grocery retailers with
a physical presence to step up their game. When people shop in a supermarket, the overall experience,
assortment, and value proposition need to be excellent in order to earn their next visit. There are too many
grocery options available online, in hard discount stores, and across other formats, for an average or sub-par
supermarket visit to be acceptable.”
Aldi Making Inroads While Walmart Scores Lowest
Shoppers who visited an Aldi in the last 60 days are more likely to recommend the store (4.54 on a five-point
scale) than supermarket shoppers, who give an average rating of (3.66). Further, 33 percent of those who
shopped at Aldi say they plan to shop there more than now in the next 12 months versus 21 percent for
supermarket shoppers and just 10 percent for Walmart. In core experience ratings, Aldi shoppers give value for
The Retail Feedback Group | 8 Briarfield Drive, Suite 100 |Lake Success, NY 11020| RetailFeedback.com
money the highest marks (4.68), and also score Aldi higher than supermarkets on checkout speed (4.30).
Walmart shoppers give lower scores on the all the core experience factors.
Millennials Give Supermarkets Low Marks on All Core Experience Factors
Millennials scored supermarkets the lowest on all core experience factors, as well as overall trip satisfaction.
Boomers, on the other hand, rated overall trip experience and nearly all core experience factors highest (and
only one area – staff knowledge/helpfulness—was rated equal by both Boomers and Gen X).
Brian Numainville, RFG Principal, observed, “The fact that overall trip satisfaction and all of the core experience
factors register lowest among Millennials should be a call to action for supermarkets. Traditional supermarkets
must find ways to make the supermarket more appealing and relevant to younger shoppers or risk becoming
endangered as Boomers age and purchase less.”
Meal Kit Usage and Experience
Overall, just 14 percent of all supermarket shoppers tried a meal kit delivery service in the last year, but
Millennials showed stronger trial versus Gen X or Boomers. Blue Apron, Home Chef and Hello Fresh were the
three services used most. Top reasons for meal kit usage were home delivery (46 percent) and to save time (45
percent). Of those who did not use a meal kit, the main reasons were that they were too expensive (48
percent) or there was no interest in meal kits (44 percent). Meal kit users were most satisfied with quality of
ingredients (83 percent highly satisfied) and least impressed with value for the money spent (65 percent highly
Overall, 15 percent of shoppers also indicated their primary supermarket has a meal kit offering. Of those who
purchased a meal kit from their primary supermarket, the top reasons given were good value (54 percent),
quality of ingredients (53 percent) and to save time (51 percent).
Grocery retailers, food distributors and media outlets can obtain a free copy of the full report or request an
interview / presentation of the results from the principals of Retail Feedback Group at
email@example.com. The study is based on a nationally representative study of 1,200 supermarket
With more people buying online, FedEx and Postal Service trucks are on the road seven days a week. “We don’t talk in business days,” a postal official said. “We’re delivering every day.”CreditEmon Hassan for The New York Times
For a recent commercial, FedEx tried something unusual. It was not set in a bustling office. It did not feature one of its distinctive delivery trucks, or even a single package.
Instead, there was a smiling Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, ringing a doorbell and waving an app in the face of an unsuspecting homeowner. The message was simple.
“It’s about letting the customer know they can have control over the destiny of their package,” Raj Subramaniam, FedEx’s chief marketing and communications officer, said.
Increasingly, its customers are consumers themselves. And as the holiday shopping season approached, with online retail surging, the three giants of package delivery services — FedEx, United Parcel Service and the United States Postal Service — had to strategize on new ways to address people at home.
That represents somewhat of a departure for the major parcel services, specifically FedEx and U.P.S., which have traditionally focused on their relationships with retailers and that business-to-business connection. The Postal Service has been the nation’s mail carrier since 1792, yet only more recently have packages become an area of emphasis.
But with e-commerce sales expected to eclipse $100 billion this year for the first time, according to research by Adobe, somebody has to deliver all those goods to all those doorsteps. Today, there is more competition over the “last mile” — getting packages into the hands of consumers — than perhaps ever before. Companies like Uber, Postmates and LaserShip are trying their hand at on-demand and same-day deliveries, while Amazon may soon introduce its own delivery service, Seller Flex.
This has prompted some couriers to rethink what they are offering and how their messages are reaching different customers.
James Cochrane, senior vice president and chief customer and marketing officer for the Postal Service, said that, for most the year, the company tries to showcase e-commerce brands and the packages they deliver in its advertising. But, now, during the peak shopping season, it is emphasizing households and neighborhood relationships.
“This time of the year, we get on the porch,” Mr. Cochrane said. “The rest of the year we’re in the warehouse.”
U.P.S. said it expected to deliver 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, a 5 percent increase over last year. It expects about 65 percent of those packages to be delivered directly to homes, a spokesman said, about the same as last year.
That has prompted a variety of initiatives aimed at the “end customer,” said Louis DeJianne, U.P.S.’s vice president of retail marketing. Though Mr. DeJianne said ad spending remains steady throughout the year, the company has tried to highlight some of its e-commerce-related offerings through an increase in digital ads. Among them are U.P.S. Access Point, which allows customers to pick up packages from a locker at a designated location; Saturday deliveries; and a program that makes it easier for customers to handle returns.
“We looked at how consumers engage with the retailer from searching, buying, checkout, delivery, on through to return,” Mr. DeJianne said. “When we analyze the needs of retail, we recognize that reverse logistics is also important to the consumer.”
A few years ago, the Postal Service sought to end its Saturday delivery practices for budget reasons. Now, the Postal Service is delivering packages even on Sundays in major cities during the holiday rush. An estimated 6 million parcels a day will be delivered this December.
“Everyone is being held to a new norm,” Mr. Cochrane said. “Having seven-day delivery gives us an advantage in the marketplace. We don’t talk in business days. We’re delivering every day.”
The National Retail Federation said that more people planned to shop online this year (59 percent) than ever before, and already there have been delivery hiccups. Last week, U.P.S. said some package deliveries had been delayed as it struggled to handle a surge of online orders on Cyber Monday.
The rate of growth for e-commerce has not been surprising, Mr. Subramaniam said. But, increasingly, he said FedEx — which counts e-commerce as 20 percent of its overall portfolio — is being held to a higher standard for three elements of its service: reliability, convenience and control.
That’s shaped the corporate messaging, which has focused on informing residential customers about ways to customize delivery options (such as the ad featuring Mr. Brees) and emphasizing the scope of FedEx’s logistical network, which one recent ad described as working like “magic.”
“That infrastructure is not something that can be achieved overnight,” Mr. Subramaniam said.
Patrick Fitzgerald, FedEx’s senior vice president of integrated marketing and communications, said same-day delivery accounted for only a small percentage of the overall shipping landscape.
Satish Jindel, the founder of the SJ Consulting Group, which advises transportation and logistics firms, said he did not expect Amazon to pose a major threat to the existing couriers. But, he said, the explosion of delivery demand has been a catalyst for change.
“If they don’t do it, there are a lot of small companies coming into business who are glad to do it on Sundays and Saturdays,” he said. “It will create a whole new dynamic in the parcel industry.”
Mr. DeJianne said Amazon remains an open and communicative customer of U.P.S.
“As we’re moving forward with our strategies, we’re often at the table with them discussing their strategies as well,” he said. “We have a good relationship.”
Still, even without Amazon in the mix, delivery services are dealing with changing customer demands.
“It used to be that shipping was more about business days,” Mr. Cochrane, of the Postal Service, said. “Or you’d shop and shipping would be five to seven days. But expectations have changed.”
And in 2017, the tech giants sought to project their power even further. Facebook built its lead on Snapchat by gradually swiping away the best part of the upstart’s app. Apple released a new iPhone designed to conquer augmented reality, the next frontier. Microsoft took swipes at Amazon, Apple, and even startups like Slack. Google doubled down on building its own hardware.
To my mind, though, the single biggest and most aggressive move this year was by Amazon, with its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods. It wasn’t a tech deal, in the traditional sense. But it caused ripples that go beyond just groceries — ripples that are slowly turning the entire US economy into a case of Amazon versus everybody else.
It’s a mark of how seriously Corporate America now takes Amazon: When Amazon acts, the world reacts. And as we enter 2018, it’s becoming clear that either you’re against Amazon, or eventually, you might just become part of Amazon.
Shares of Alibaba fell on Thursday morning, despite an exciting news story involving the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut, which is rushing to shake up the way people buy cars in China. Alibaba seems to be taking a page from Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, with the continued push into physical retail. The plan outlined by Alibaba, is to open two giant car vending machines in early 2018, shaped like a futuristic tubular building with a giant cat’s head on top.
Having monopolized the online world, Alibaba continues to push offline with investments in Chinese bricks and mortar retailers.
Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said back in November, “physical stores serve an indispensable role during the consumer journey, and should be enhanced through data-driven technology and personalized services in the digital economy.”
“By fully integrating online and physical channels together with our partners, we look forward to delivering an original and delightful shopping experience to Chinese consumers,” he added.
So how does this vending machine work?
The smartphone user must open Alibaba’s Taobao app to scan a car. The app will then process the picture and let the user pick a color and other basic options.
Next, the app will require the user to take a selfie to confirm their identity. Once confirmed, the app will arrange for a test-drive at a car vending machine.
To retrieve the car, the customer will gain access through a facial recognition device at the staffless vending machine. According to the company, a “super member” does not need to leave a deposit to retrieve a vehicle.
Once the identity is confirmed, the multi-floor vending machine will rotate cars like a ferris wheel until the car is found. The test-drive is limited to three days, after which Alibaba can arrange for the sale or the user can choose a different model. Alibaba members are limited to five test-drives per month, where Alibaba is relying on its financial services arm to vet members before borrowing.
Alibaba said it will open two locations starting in January 2018 (Shanghai and Nanjing), and it plans to open “dozens” more across China later in the year. The vending machine concept blended with car buying, is an attempt by the company to streamline the buying process to as quick as opening a can of soda.
“Our thinking behind the Car Vending Machine is focused on helping users solve certain problems they face in the car-buying process. To do that, we are building a physical, experiential store that offers staffless car pickup through facial-recognition, three-day ‘deep’ test-drives, and a one-stop-shop that displays [cars from] all mainstream brands at once,” said Huan Lu, marketing director of Tmall’s automotive division.
Newly release figures show both truckload linehaul rates as well as those for intermodal shipments moved higher again in November when compared to a year earlier while they also showed declines from the month before.
The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index increased 6.3% over November 2016, with the index at 131.2. This marked the second best reading so far in 2017, but is down 1% when compared to October.
Overall, the trend showed pricing for trucking is growing ever stronger and continuing to gain momentum. After being negative for 13 months in a row, the index has not only been trending positive on a year-over-year basis for eight months now, but the amount of change continues to increase as well.
“In just the last five months, our pricing forecast has increased from -1% to 2%, to 0% to 2%, to 2% to 4%, and now giving us reason to believe the risk to our estimate may be to the upside,” said Donald Broughton, analyst and commentator for the Cass indexes. “The current strength being reported in spot rates is leading us to believe contract pricing rates should keep rates in positive territory well into 2018.”
The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index measures market fluctuations in per-mile truckload pricing that isolates the linehaul component of full truckload costs from others, such as fuel and accessorials, providing a reflection of trends in baseline truckload prices.
Meantime, a look at the intermodal side showed total shipping costs rose 3.9% year-over-year in November, according to the Cass Intermodal Price Index, with the measure coming in at 130.6.
This latest reading is down 1.7% from October but November marked the 14th consecutive month of year-over-year increases, and pricing momentum appears to be growing.
The absolute nominal value of the index established its most recent peak in March at 135.4, as diesel flirted with $2.60 a gallon, and then sequentially trended lower since, as diesel fell back toward $2.50 a gallon in July, noted Broughton.
“Longer term, we continue to foresee oil trading in the $45 to $55 [per barrel] range and diesel in the $2.25 to $2.75 [per gallon] range throughout 2018, sans the refining interruption pressure produced by hurricanes or other catastrophic events,” he said.
The Cass Intermodal Price Index measures market fluctuations in per-mile U.S. domestic intermodal costs. It includes all costs associated with the move, such as linehaul, fuel and accessorials.
Data within both measures come from actual freight invoices paid on behalf of clients of freight-payment processor Cass Information Services, which totals nearly $21 billion annually.
In books, conferences, and publications everywhere, delight has historically been pitched as the cure-all tonic for your customer service woes. On top of that, delight is commonly and unfairly bucketed into two categories:
Grand gestures that eclipse a customer’s highest expectations.
Common courtesies such as using your customer’s name, and maybe even being nice to them.
The latter is standard fare in the modern era of customer service, and the former is rarely a cost-effective strategy. In many cases, the best experience a customer can have is not having to contact you at all.
Just like in any real, human relationship you can’t expect to get by on basic good manners or Hail Mary attempts, yet many companies view delight through those exact lenses. We need to rethink our perspective.
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The definition of delight
The cause of the disconnect can be traced back to how customer delight is defined.
Customers get to decide what’s delightful, not companies. And when you look at the available research on what drives delight, you’ll find customers have some of the most reasonable expectations around.
Consultant John Goodman has argued for years that while businesses place inordinate value on exceeding expectations through overblown interactions, customers define and reward delight on a noticeably different scale.
Maybe this has helped create the counter-narrative that delight doesn’t pay. And while only 16% of customers say they’ve been “wowed” while receiving support, perhaps that shouldn’t be the aim if delight can be achieved through other, more practical ways.
Customers get to decide what’s delightful, not companies.
After we break free from the either-or model of Herculean efforts (“Go to the customer’s house and do their laundry”) and common sense (“Don’t tell the customer they smell like a tire fire”), delight can get back to creative, cost-effective gestures that reasonably exceed expectations and provide real value.
In considering this revised definition, we have to challenge two long-held beliefs: that delight is built around singular moments of inspiration, and that delivering delight has to significantly drive up costs.
1. Delight can be repeatable
Just because delightful moments surprise your customers doesn’t mean they have to be serendipitous.
Repeatable delight is useful precisely because it increases your chances at bat. Strategically, it’s better to delight many customers a little than one customer a lot. At a certain volume scalable delighters become measurable, which gives you the chance to objectively report on their impact.
Margot da Cunha, formerly of Wistia’s customers team, tried a form of “one-to-many” delight by using a personal video in her email signature. Through tracking engagement, she found 87% of people she emailed clicked on the video and those who watched often made it all the way to the end.
Fast-forward a year, and now all of Wistia’s customer-facing team members have personalized video signatures. Their in-house video team even developed a new template to make production quick and easy.
Strategically, it’s better to delight many customers a little than one customer a lot.
Katie Morrissey, a sales representative at Wistia, notes that her video signature, which mentions a few of her hobbies and interests, has served as a great conversation starter. “Just the other day, I spoke with someone about how we both played tennis,” she says. “We also happened to have both broken our backs playing tennis. Talk about an instant connection!” 😳
These video signatures are a simple, thoughtful approach that work thanks to principles which broadly apply to delivering delight:
They eschew the norm. Email signatures are fodder for comedy because they’re often .JPG-laden shrines to the ego. A video stands out precisely because expectations for signatures are low.
They create a personal connection. Using video reminds customers there’s a real person behind the email avatar. People are nicer and more supportive of people than they are of “no-reply@yourbiz.”
They’re an effortless interaction. Delight has a higher upside when customer investment is low. With two clicks the video opens, plays, and introduces the customer to someone from your company.
2. Delight can reduce costs
There’s a persistent belief that delight has to be a costly effort driven by values over common sense. But delight can produce measurable returns, and in some cases, can actually reduce costs through upfront investment. One example is spending more time to correctly solve a customer’s needs the first time they contact you.
According to research from Gartner, first published in The Effortless Experience, the vast majority of companies overestimate the number of issues they resolve the first time around. When Gartner polled over 100 businesses on FCR, or their First Contact Resolution rate, they reported that an average of 76% of issues were resolved on first contact. Unfortunately, customers of these same companies reported having their issues solved on first contact only 40% of the time, nearly half as often as companies believed.
Companies vastly overestimate the number of issues they resolve the first time around.
This mismatch carries a high cost in the form of lost time and dissatisfied customers. Perhaps just as important, customers don’t think in terms of touch points or tickets. They just want their sweater, in the right size, and an easy way to return the one that doesn’t fit. Customers think in outcomes.
The fix, then, is to better empathize with customers by viewing their questions as full events. Along the way to their original goal, the customer had to stop and ask for help. If you fix their current issue, where are they off to next? What will they have to do? Could you could identify that step and provide help before they ask?
Above is an email from Warby Parker that delivers on this principle in spades. Multiple options are offered to address the next step of sending the glasses back, including pre-emptive answers to FAQs about the returns process. There’s no need to ask clarifying follow-up questions, because the next steps are already provided.
As you talk to customers, you’ll start to recognize what the most common follow-up questions are for particular problems. And if you make note of a next step that consistently forces customers to ask for help, you can identify the root cause and fix the problem as a whole.
The value of delight
The most common pushback you see around delight is that, on its own, delight rarely creates the lion’s share of the value. Products first need to live up to promises made in the marketing copy, and support should aim to minimize problems and meet expectations before it goes about exceeding them.
But just as charming product design can be used as a competitive advantage, so too does delightful service provide value not entirely evident in analytics and spreadsheets. After all, word of mouth isn’t gained through neutral experiences.
So go ahead and delight your customers, but know its rightful place in your support strategy: not as the meat and potatoes but, as Stan Phelps says, served up as the little unexpected extras.