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    Tech Tales

    Independents are making headway in digital, but still have a way to go.

    By Mark Batenic

    I opened our recent IGA Global Rally with a short video I found on YouTube: A baby is handed an iPad, which she expertly navigates with just a few simple hand swipes. Next, she’s handed a magazine. She tries the same swipes. When that doesn’t work, she jabs the pages, and then crumples them in frustration. She glares at the camera as if to demand, “Why have you given me this inferior and clearly broken version of my beloved iPad?”

    Well, that baby is your future shopper, and she has no idea what a print circular is. There’s a really big lesson to be learned here, folks: Change is coming — rapidly — and two recent important studies support the fact we as independents need to do more, or we’ll be left behind.

    The first of those studies, “Six Degrees of Digital Connections: Growing Grocery Sales in an Ominchannel World,” was presented at our rally by Bill Bishop, an industry technology veteran, and chief architect of Brick Meets Click.

    Bishop explored the ever-important question, “If I invest in digital connections with shoppers, will that have a positive impact on how they shop?” As his study revealed, there’s strong evidence that the answer is yes. Building digital connections can help grow primary shoppers, and increasing digital connections can drive up satisfaction with shopping the store.

    The strong relationship between shopper satisfaction with the in-store experience and the shopper’s number of digital connections was striking:

    • Shoppers with three degrees of connections were almost twice as likely to recommend the store as those with a single connection.
    • Shoppers with six degrees of connections were more than three times as likely to recommend the store, compared with single-connection shoppers.

    So where do independents stand in the technology game? Results from “Technology and the Independent Grocer,” the research study conducted by Progressive Grocer Independent, The Center for Advancing Retail and Technology (CART), and the National Grocers Association (with number crunching by the Retail Feedback Group) tells us that the majority of independent retailers are making some great headway: 91 percent are using their websites for marketing purposes; 82 percent, e-mail; and 77 percent, social media, but we still have a way to go to be where we need to be to match — or more importantly — outpace the competition when it comes to more modern methods of digital communications like mobile (22 percent of independents are using it), in-store digital signage (18 percent), or text messaging (10 percent).

    Here at IGA, we’re continually working to find innovative technological solutions for our retailers. Our first step was the launch of IGALink in the summer of 2011, which gave all of our retailers a no-cost online presence and suite of online shopper marketing tools accessible from individual IGA store websites or from a mobile web app that can be used on any smartphone.

    From there, we moved to IGA Performance Insights, which works with CPG manufacturing partners to secure high-value, IGA-exclusive shopper offers that allow participating IGA retailers to use their combined sales volume to act as a virtual chain. We keep these partners coming back with more and better offers by delivering aggregated sales results derived from a cloud-based database of participating retailers’ transactivation logs.

    Next on the horizon is Performance Insights Version 2, an enhanced program that leverages shopper-identified transaction data and an online e-wallet format to serve up personalized offers directly to shoppers.

    The retailers that are participating and working to get their shoppers on board learn that when we create a culture that allows them to connect with shoppers in meaningful and innovative ways, we see results.

    By Mark Batenic
    • About Mark Batenic Mark Batenic is president and CEO of Chicago-based IGA, the world's largest alliance of independent grocery retailers. For more information about IGA, or to sign up for its daily e-newsletter, The Independent View, visit www.iga.com.

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