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Aisles of Opportunity


Grocery retailers’ confidence in another year of success continues to inch upward from the valleys of the past decade, and their optimism for the retailing climate has reached new heights, exclusive research from Progressive Grocer reveals.

Meanwhile, as the manner in which business is transacted continues to evolve, new issues are keeping grocers up at night.

On a scale of 0 (awful) to 100 (sensational), retailers surveyed by PG just topped 72, up nearly six points from their score for 2014. A year ago, however, retailers’ forecast for the coming year was 71.8, indicating that 2014 didn’t pan out quite as expected.

Still, sentiments are most definitely trending up, and have come a long way from the score of 58.4 reported in 2009.

Overall, grocers are significantly more optimistic about the retail climate compared with a year ago, with nearly half of respondents saying they’re sweet on 2015; that’s up from about 39 percent a year ago. Just more than a fifth express less optimism (versus 28 percent a year ago) and just shy of 30 percent declare they envision no change.

As is typical, chain operators are the most confident, with nearly two-thirds expressing optimism for retailing this year, up from about 52 percent a year ago. About 44 percent of independent operators see a rosy retail climate, up from 30 percent this year.

It’s obvious that current economic conditions are buoying retailers’ spirits. The Kroger Co. recently celebrated its 45th consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth. Describing 2014 as “an outstanding year by all measures,” Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of the Cincinnati-based grocery giant, said at Kroger’s March earnings call that the company “captured more share of the massive food market [and] delivered on our commitments and invested to grow our business. … [O]ur core operating performance without fuel shows that our associates are improving our relationship with customers in ways that grow loyalty and generate strong shareholder returns.”

However, Ken Odeluga, senior market analyst for London-based City Index, warns that future trends in the market may prevent Kroger from delivering the staggering numbers that it did in Q4.

“With the shares having gained more than 64 percent over the last 12 months, and a 52 percent rise in 2013, the bar is getting higher for continued strong sentiment,” Odeluga said in’s report on Kroger’s last earnings call. “The point is, a number of forces are coalescing that are expected to press on Kroger’s ‘batting’ average over the next few quarters, largely from fuel-related to headwinds.”

Kroger is likely “mindful of the impact lower crude oil prices, and consequently cheaper wholesale fuel, will have on customer perception,” Odeluga added. “I think essentially, Kroger is saying it will soon need to reduce prices to closer to the average forecourt rate for its biggest rivals.”

The recent drop in gasoline prices has left more money in consumers’ pockets to spend at retail, including grocery. That being said, consumer optimism about the economy in early March had fallen to its lowest level since August 2014, according to new survey results released by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing. At the time of the report, gas prices had increased 29 cents per gallon versus the previous month as refineries began the transition to producing the more expensive summer-blend fuel required in many U.S. markets.

Meanwhile, leaders of the newly combined Albertsons Safeway have expressed high hopes for an improved and invigorated shopping experience as the merger partners become a single entity in 2015. “We plan to be the favorite local supermarket in every community we serve,” said Robert Edwards, president/CEO of the 2,230-store enterprise. “We will do this by knowing, listening to and delighting our customers; providing the right products at a compelling value; and delivering a superior shopping experience.”

Market optimism also bodes well for the beneficiaries of the 168 stores cast off as a condition of the merger, most significantly Bellingham, Wash.-based Haggen, which, by exponential expansion of its banner throughout several states, has the potential of becoming the next great regional West Coast grocery chain.

Independents, too, have reason to be excited as they vie for the loyalty of consumers looking for new, better and more personalized shopping experiences. Companies like Minneapolis-based wholesale distributor Supervalu Inc. are feeling bullish about the future of the independent grocer. Says Brian Audette, SVP of Supervalu’s corporate independent business, “We’re really focused on keeping our customers relevant.”

Tossing and Turning

There was a notable change in priorities among grocers who responded to our question, “What are the big issues keeping you up at night?”

Topping the list: data protection and security, noted by more than 64 percent of respondents. A year ago, data security ranked fifth. Since then, retailers of all kinds have been rocked by data breaches of varying severity, from the double hit at Supervalu last summer to the lingering effects of the Target breach that resulted in an executive housecleaning.

“In 2014, we saw more attention paid to cyber-risks, namely because of Target’s late-2013 attack,” observes Tracy Kitten, executive editor of the Princeton, N.J.-based Information Security Media Group. “Media attention, coupled with the congressional hearings that occurred throughout the year to review merchant security, undoubtedly are to thank for bumping cybersecurity concerns to the top of the list among grocers. While we actually saw a furry of breaches throughout 2013 targeting merchants across the board, including grocers like Schnucks, none of these breaches got a ton of public attention until Target.”

Kitten asserts that retailers’ cybersecurity is subpar. “I think more attention has been paid to PCI compliance in the last year and a half,” she tells PG, “but we are still a long way out from having EMV [chips] fully implemented at the POS, and most grocers are not particularly innovative, relative to other merchants, when it comes to payments security. I doubt grocers will adopt EMV at a rate that exceeds other retailers.”

Further, most merchants across the board have not historically made big investments in behavioral analytics to monitor transaction activity, Kitten notes.

“Grocers and all retailers have an obligation to protect their customers’ cardholder data and personal information,” Kitten says. “If consumers do not feel that their information is safe, they will stop shopping with that merchant, so data security has a huge and direct impact on customer satisfaction and sales.”

Also higher on the list: price increases, at second place, noted by nearly 60 percent of survey respondents and up from seventh a year ago. Benefits, such as minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act, ranked third this year after leading the list in 2014. Competitive threats, No. 2 last year, plunged to 11th place — an interesting development, especially amid growing challenges from alternative channels like drug, dollar and digital.

Supermarket Sales by Store Format

Total supermarket sales topped $638 billion in 2014, up from $620 billion a year ago. That’s an increase of about 2.9 percent, the same as PG reported last year, indicating a flattening trend that follows the 3.1 percent growth in 2012.

That flatness bears out when looking at store numbers by format. No surprise that conventional supermarkets dominate the marketplace, with 70 percent of all stores (down 1 percentage point from a year ago). Supercenters increased their share by just three-tenths of a percentage point, while natural/gourmet format stores account for more than 8 percent of stores, up about four-tenths of a point, with that growth driven in part by the rapid expansion of up-and-coming chains such as Sprouts and Fresh Thyme.

In share of sales, conventional supermarkets maintain a firm 65 percent hold on total sales, supercenters take a quarter, and natural/gourmet enjoy 6 percent, up almost a full point since last year.

Supermarket Sales by Store Count

Dollar sales growth outpaced unit growth among chains with 11 or more stores, as well as among independents, with percentages holding steady year over year.

Larger chains added just 147 new stores in the past year, an increase of less than 0.5 percent on a total approaching 31,000 units, or 82 percent of all stores. Those stores accounted for nearly $603 billion in sales, or more than 94 percent of all supermarket sales, consistent with their share a year ago.

Independent operators added 110 stores in the past year, an increase of 1.6 percent from a year ago. Indies’ sales contribution rose nearly 2.7 percent since last year, for a total of $35.6 billion, or a 5.6 percent overall share, unchanged from a year ago.

Store Performance Measures

Investments in people, space and service continue to reap positive results. Sales volume is up more than 2 percent and selling area is up slightly over a year ago, as is the number of checkouts. Likewise, dollars per store are up about 2 percent overall in the past year.

Perpetually challenged by a cutthroat competitive climate, notoriously thin profit margins, and demanding — and often dichotomous — patrons, the grocery business can be brutal, which speaks directly to the need for grocers to concentrate heavily on enhancing the in-store experience to stand apart from both traditional and upstart competitors.

To that end, signature products, private label and store-within-a-store specialty departments are deemed the top three most productive tactics to augment the in-store experience among retail executives responding to PGs 2015 Annual Report of the Grocery Industry survey. While signature products and private label are often considered one and the same in the supermarket world, the latter, for purposes of this study, refers to exclusive products housed primarily in the fresh departments, such as gourmet desserts from the in-store bakery, store-made entrées from the fresh meat department, specialty cheese products, bundled meal deals, everyday-value bouquets in floral, and oven-ready regional seafood specialties.

Meanwhile, today’s increasingly sophisticated supermarket private label products are all about differentiation, quality and the overall value proposition, and only partially about price. Retailers have invested countless internal resources and millions of dollars annually into perfecting their vast and diverse private brands across the entire store to provide customers meaningful value while shining a spotlight on items that “can only be had here.” Consequently, private label prominence has forever solidified its place in the hearts of both retailers and consumers alike, and will remain a critical and compelling component of building the in-store experience for years to come.

Conversely, as we glance back 30 years — give or take a few — a retailer’s life was certainly far easier, regardless of the channel. Food stores sold food, drug stores sold medicines and sundries, and fast-feeders sold meals. Beginning in the late 1980s and revving up in earnest by the mid-1990s, however, retailers of all stripes began to realize that they could successfully sell many products beyond the edges of their traditional boundaries. Grocery stores began adding pharmacies with complete HBC sections and morphed quickly into compelling combo food/drug formats. Drug stores followed suit by making significant forays into food, a cause which was vigorously furthered by spunky regional Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which started selling a full line of groceries and high-volume fresh commodities in some stores.

The common denominator for migratory channel-blurring can be explained by a simple answer: store size. Over the period between 1960 and 2000, the square footage of the average store grew relentlessly; the latest year’s prototype floor plan always seemed to be a few thousand feet larger than the prior year, which provided retailers with an incrementally larger platform to test and experiment with new departments housing more products in bigger cases, and with it, bigger ROI needs and expectations.

But much has been learned from yesteryear’s “bigger is best” store configurations, which brings us back to the present day of retailing, when more compact footprints are becoming the preferred choice for many retailers’ new store configurations. Regardless of the size of the box, store-within-a-store departments have been among the most influential tactics for progressive grocers to amp up the in-store experience with full-on specialty departments, be it beauty and wellness, kitchenware, pet food/pet care, or free-from products. To that end, the key to the most successful retailers’ store-within-a-store concepts is to capitalize on categories that drive frequent visits and concurrently surprise and delight their most important shoppers, which in turn enables them to capitalize on those visits with countless other items found throughout the rest of the store.

Other elements cited as being highly influential in enhancing the in-store experience among this year’s retailer panelists include cross-merchandising (57.8 percent), which slid nearly 10 points from last year; prepared foods (57.4 percent), which held steady from the year-ago report; locally sourced products (55.8 percent), which are expected to continue to gain prominence; time-tested BOGOs (34.5 percent); in-store pharmacies (28.8 percent); free WiFi (22.2 percent); and cooking/meal prep stations (22 percent).

In-store Services

In the current food retailing war, supermarkets are clearly in the crosshairs of many formidable contenders. For that reason, grocers are pulling out all the tools in the shed to help them shine in a sea of sameness, with strategies to help impart an experience, rather than just another place to pick up products that can be sold anywhere. To that end, many grocery leaders are accelerating ongoing efforts to enhance relevancy, differentiation and tailor-made community appeal with specialty services and resident expertise that are available for the asking.

In addition to personalized, professional advice and guidance from pharmacists, in-store nutritionists, dietitians, wellness experts and even aestheticians available to consult with shoppers on how to live with a new diagnosis such as diabetes, high blood pressure or celiac disease, many retailers are also seeing success with kids’ cooking and nutrition classes, wellness and nutrition sessions, oral care screenings, and smoking cessation seminars — all of which are usually free or inexpensive.

However, the most critical in-store service cited by this year’s Annual Report of the Grocery Industry panelists is that of on-site butchers or resident meat department experts, viewed by 60 percent as the most rewarding component of an excellent in-store experience.

Pacing butchers in the second seed is having seafood experts, which is also considered to yield a rewarding ROI for building bonds with consumers among 34 percent of respondents, followed next by service-based and informational kiosks.

Other service-based programs scoring points with experiential retailing tactics include children’s/student programs, at 20 percent; wellness experts and registered dietitians, cited by 30 percent of panelists; event planners (12.6 percent); certified chefs (10 percent); and cheesemongers (10 percent).

Benefits of Mobile Devices/Smartphones

Like most other aspects of our lives, technology is playing an ever more important role throughout the store to deliver a more rewarding shopping experience. Innovations in digital, mobile and social technologies have created new contemporary expectations in today’s shopper. Indeed, as consumers increasingly use smartphones and tablets in their everyday lives, mobile-based technology has emerged as the top priority for retailers in 2015. That finding is reaffirmed separately by the 2015 State of Retailing Online survey from Research, in which nearly six in 10 (58 percent) of those polled place mobile at the top of the list.

Moreover, smartphone sales as a percentage of online sales grew from 8 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2014 — an increase of 50 percent — according to the 2015 State of Retailing Online survey, which further found that tablets’ share of online sales grew from 13 percent in 2013 to 16 percent in 2014. Additionally, many of those who list mobile as the top priority say their digital marketing budgets remain modest, knowing consumers are coming to their mobile sites whether they’re ready for them or not.

Of those retailers surveyed, 32 percent report spending less than $100,000 on their smartphone development efforts in 2014, while 68 percent report spending less than $1 million. As for tablets, just 4 percent say they invested between $100,000 and $250,000 last year. However, eight in 10 surveyed plan to increase their mobile budgets by at least 20 percent in 2015.

“Consumers are flocking to retailers’ mobile sites at a faster pace and with more interaction than ever before, so naturally they expect retailers to offer fast, well-designed mobile services that meet their needs,” explains National Retail Federation SVP and Executive Director Vicki Cantrell. “With that in mind and with several years of mobile commerce now under the industry’s belt, retailers feel confident in their mobile investments. For retailers — when it comes to mobile strategies — small but continuous incremental changes really do go a long way to keep their savvy customers happy.”

Omnichannel ranks second on retailers’ priority lists this year, according to the 2015 State of Retailing Online survey, which found nearly half (45 percent) of participants hoping to improve or invest in programs like buy-online, pickup-in-store, ship-from-store and inventory visibility. This is up significantly from the 26 percent of respondents who listed omnichannel efforts as a priority last year. Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) surveyed say their third priority is marketing optimization, including initiatives related to customer retention and acquisition.

Promotions Become Social, Personal

Without question, the smartphone will be the end-all/be-all source of deals, personalized offers and customer engagement going forward. Pushing a grocery cart around with a paper shopping list is becoming a thing of the past. Along their path to purchase, modern aislebrowsers want convenience and value that makes their lives better and easier.

Recognizing that social networks are the ultimate hub for conversations and word-of-mouth discoveries, 48 percent of retail execs responding to this year’s Annual Report of the Grocery Industry survey rank Facebook as the leading outlet to solidify connections with shoppers. According to a recent study by The Hartman Group, 54 percent of online consumers use social media to discover new foods and share food experiences.

For years, grocers have been reducing FSI circulation, and many retailers have done so with a scalpel rather than a hatchet — testing which markets will profitably respond to transitioning some of their print circular distribution to digital. As more grocers further enrich their wealth of customer data — and as consumers make digital an even bigger part of their lives — the race to offer the most relevant promotions for each customer will continue to intensify.

Bearing out that the days of coupon clipping may be numbered, e-coupons (46.6 percent) and digital circulars (45.7 percent) are rated as the second and third top-rated benefits for an increasingly mobile-using base of shoppers.

As grocers look to further increase share of wallet, they’re also investing more heavily in interactive websites (32 percent) and price comparison apps (28 percent), both of which gained double-digit traction from last year, as well as personalized discounts (27.6 percent).

Other growing in-store technologies include indoor positioning systems to push customized offers in real time. A handful of retailers are already piloting beacon technologies that enable them to blast promotions to customers’ smartphones as they stroll through the aisles.

When respondents to PG’s survey were asked which categories generate the most sales, meat once more comes out on top, chosen by 50.9 percent. The second spot belongs jointly to private label, which rocketed up from 12th place last year, and produce, which rose slightly from its third-ranked position in 2014; both were selected by 47.2 percent of respondents. Rounding out the top spots are beer/wine/liquor and frozen food, each with 39.6 percent; general merchandise, at 38.7 percent; and dairy, at 36.8 percent.

Interestingly, center store, No. 2 last year, drops to No. 8 this year; deli/prepared foods, which ranked fifth in 2014, falls to ninth in 2015; and organics have gone from seventh to 11th. Such dramatic downward shifts may indicate that these categories are in need of fresh marketing and merchandising strategies to boost customer purchases, particularly center store, which faces stiffer-than-ever competition from fresh categories, while organic may be affected by the plethora of better-for-you, natural and free-from items on the market, giving health-conscious shoppers more to choose from. On the ascendant, meanwhile, are frozen foods, which last year were in ninth place, and fresh bakery, up six rungs to ninth this year, buoyed perhaps by consumers’ increased interest in the perimeter.

When it comes to driving traffic, meat is again the winner, at 41.7 percent, paced by produce (39.6 percent), deli/prepared foods (38.5 percent), and dairy (37.5 percent), while the next-ranked category, beer/wine/liquor, most likely because they’re not carried by all stores, lags somewhat behind, at 25 percent. Last year’s second-ranked traffic driver, center store, plunges to seventh, while frozen foods, 17th last year, surges to sixth place.

What Shoppers Want

Meat’s supremacy in sales and driving traffic is no doubt due to the industry’s heightened awareness of shoppers’ motivations and desires, as evidenced by the in-depth “Power of Meat” study, published yearly by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and North American Meat Institute (NAMI). At the recent Annual Meat Conference, in Nashville, Tenn., in February, various sessions discussed such timely issues as the implications of the proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines, which don’t recognize consumption of lean meat as part of a healthy lifestyle; food safety; and sustainability through modern factory farming.

This awareness is coupled with an aggressive approach to getting consumers to buy. Sherry Frey, SVP at Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen, noted at the conference that grocers can increase basket rings by delivering solutions through cross-promoting meat across multiple store categories. She added that, to shore up meat against incursions from the prepared foods department, grocers should strategically target two key categories: versatile quick-cuts (premium-priced smaller packs) and planned occasions (larger family packs), and promote meat in circulars as part of multicategory solutions, not as isolated ingredients. Other advice in this vein provided at the conference included the need for retailers to market meals rather than ingredients; promoting premium extensions of conventional brands, clean labels and other trending concepts such as gourmet, artisan and craft; and engaging meat consumers through social media.

What’s more, ample feed stocks and flat ethanol use are expected to help boost herd development and ultimately moderate meat prices, which should encourage more consumer purchases. A good economy and changing preferences have created “a very positive demand situation for meat,” said Steve Meyer, president of Adel, Iowa-based Paragon Economics, at the conference.

Frozen foods’ substantial gains appear to stem from such trends as the introduction of a greater number of natural and organic frozen offerings, which in turn is spurring interest in consumers who are sufficiently attracted by their convenience to opt for them over comparable fresh items. Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts estimates that sales of frozen foods, including dinners/entrées, pizzas, side dishes, and appetizers/snacks, will grow from $22 billion in 2014 to $23 billion in 2019.

As for the deli/prepared foods section, while Chicago-based Technomic finds that sales are up 30 percent since 2008, compared with about 10 percent for the overall foodservice industry during this period, the category’s slipping sales among PG’s survey respondents point to the idea that many grocers haven’t quite figured out how to make the “shift from the historical ingredient/component approach we have seen for many years” to what Mark Hayden, president of Acosta Foodservice for Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta Sales & Marketing, sees as the next logical step for the category, given the explosive growth of the “grocerant,” or grocery store-restaurant hybrid concept featuring a greater number of convenient ready-to-eat meals.

“It’s important to create offerings that are high-quality and executed consistently day to day,” Hayden notes. “This is where bringing foodservice expertise is important to consult on areas such as equipment, packaging, food preparation, menu design and marketing strategies, to create visibility for their programs.”

One major area of opportunity for deli/prepared foods is to court Millennials, who, according to Mary Kay O’Connor, VP education at the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA), represent a crucial demographic for the cheese industry, as they increasingly demand a wider spectrum of flavors and varieties compared with older generations.

“[Millennials are] also more likely to visit the specialty cheese department than Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation,” notes O’Connor, citing findings from the association’s 29th annual “What’s in Store 2015” trends report. “Given the rise in snacking as a prominent eating occasion and the interest in consuming more protein, specialty cheese is well aligned to position itself as a unique snack category that’s both healthy and indulgent.”

Coupon Redemption

In the area of coupon redemption, PG’s survey finds center store unsurprisingly in the lead, as it was last year, with 50.2 percent of respondents selecting it in 2015. Next are frozen food (up from last year’s fifth place) and general merchandise, both with 21.1 percent; health, beauty and wellness, at 17.5 percent; and dairy, at 14 percent.

According to Marx, a solution from Minneapolis-based Kantar Media, retailer participation in free-standing insert (FSI) coupon events and digital coupons distributed on retailer websites benefited from double-digit increases from 2013 to 2014, increasing by 11.8 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively. During this same period, retailer feature ad pages grew 4.2 percent, while overall retailer advertising among CPG retailers declined 2.8 percent.

“These trends indicate retailer and manufacturer marketing dollars are increasingly being directed toward programs that communicate specific and easy-to-understand value to the shopper,” notes Marx Account Solutions VP Dan Kitrell. “Although retailer advertising provides continuity and builds equity with shoppers, retailer FSI coupon events effectively reach shoppers in the home when they are writing shopping lists and planning shopping trips, while digital coupons distributed on a retailer’s website provide relevant incentives to shoppers who are likely planning a trip to that retailer. Finally, retailer feature ads frequently make the value of the combined offers easier for the shopper to understand by ‘showing the math,’ including regular price, feature price, and net price paid after the coupon savings are applied.”

Marx noted considerable shifts in advertising and promotion activity among various retailers. For example, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart maintained the highest level of actual advertising expenditures and the highest level of participation in retailer FSI promotion pages, and also increased its consumer promotion activity, with a 15.7 percent increase in FSI promotion pages and an 18.4 percent rise in digital coupon events on in 2014. Minneapolis-based Target, meanwhile, had the second-highest levels of advertising expenditures and retailer FSI promotion pages after Walmart, but cut back on advertising by6.1 percent, FSI promotion pages by 11.1 percent and digital coupon events on by 36.6 percent in 2014. These advertising and promotion shifts may ultimately lead to shifts in share of shoppers, trips and sales between the two retailers.

Several leading pure-play grocery retailers — Kroger, Albertsons and Supervalu — lowered their advertising expenditures in 2014. FSI coupon pages and digital coupon events rose for most of these retailers, while retailer feature ad page changes were mixed in 2014.

“These retailer trends may reflect several factors, including retailers exiting select markets, the sale of retail banners, or a response to retailer-related news stories,” observed Kitrell, adding that manufacturers should time their programs to the specific periods in which a retailer has higher advertising and promotion activity.

Customer Buzz and More

It may be down in generating sales, but organic tops other categories in customer buzz, at 31.1 percent, rising from No. 7 in 2014 to supplant last year’s deli/prepared foods, which shares second place with ethnic, at 28.8 percent. Other most talked-about categories are gourmet/specialty, at 27.5 percent; meat, at 18.8 percent; and floral and fresh bakery, with 17.5 percent apiece.

In the realm of customer interaction, checklanes and deli/prepared foods have switched places, with checklanes now out in front by a wide margin, 54.4 percent to deli/prepared foods’ 32.4 percent. Floral makes an impressive leap from 12th last year to third this year, at 26.5 percent, pushing meat down one spot, with 19.1 percent, where it ties with pharmacy. Despite the opportunities opened up by its showing on the customer buzz chart, organic comes in ninth, three spots up from last year but still fairly low down on the list.

Given the buzz it engenders, grocers should ensure their associates know the benefits of organic and how products receive organic certification, thereby enabling consumers with questions to understand what they’re purchasing, and increasing customer interaction that will inspire more shoppers to buy organic.

Most influential in driving stores’ overall brand, image or point of differentiation is once more the meat section, with 45.8 percent, while produce, which was No. 2 last year, is a distant second, at 28.1 percent. Center store/grocery is third, with 9.4 percent, followed by fresh bakery and organic (which didn’t even chart last year), at 7.3 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.

Finally, when asked to name the tools they use to engage with consumers, a whopping 73.2 percent of PG’s survey respondents choose social media, up from 69.8 percent last year. Next in popularity are electronic communications/digital surveys, at 36.5 percent, down slightly from last year; customer service hotlines, at 36.3 percent, an increase of nearly eight percentage points; loyalty card data, at 33.3 percent, down from 37.2 percent in 2014; and associate feedback, at 29.2 percent, a small uptick from last year. As grocers continue to embrace digital marketing, we can expect the use of social media and e-communications to keep growing.


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