Executives at this week’s Shoptalk event in Las Vegas have a resounding message for retailers of all stripes: Giving the customer what they want in a seamless, convenient way is table stakes in today’s retail environment. The Kroger Co. SVP and Chief Information Officer Yael Cosset shared his thoughts on how technology can help companies achieve that goal – from using artificial intelligence (AI) to personalize employee training to removing friction across the buying journey.
When it comes to making Kroger the top choice for shoppers, Cosset stressed that loyalty is all about the customer experience. As such, the grocer has spent the past few years pushing the envelope in terms of how it uses its assets to remove friction and emphasize areas that can make customer experience better and more convenient.
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For Cosset, whether it is investing in technology that allows Kroger to deliver groceries to its customers in 30 minutes or simply offering the right product mix, leveraging capabilities to push the boundaries of what the grocer can offer the customer without making compromises is paramount. Innovations around fulfillment and automation both in stores and in delivery facilities, as well as next-level personalization, have helped push this mission forward.
Indeed, Kroger has made major investments in data over the past several decades to personalize every aspect of the customer experience, which has paid huge dividends.
“Five years ago it would have been personalizing how we deliver value – digital offers, promotions,” Cosset explained. “Now it’s every single aspect of the experience. We personalize a substitute if we’re out of a specific item, we personalize some recommendations in the context of your shopping and building your basket, really fitting your budget.”
While e-commerce is still a small piece of the grocery business, Cosset explained that Kroger worked extremely hard to revamp its online business processes and technologies during the height of the pandemic, and now sees understandable fluctuations in usage. Today’s inflation-stricken consumers are engaging differently with Kroger, but the grocer is still seeing impressive digital engagement rates regardless of whether shoppers are looking to transact or simply look for digital offers or recommendations.
“That’s why the personalization and continued use of AI will continue to be a key differentiator for the experience,” Cosset said.
Not only is Kroger using these types of technology for the betterment of the customer experience, but the grocer is also making investments in technology to help empower its associates. This includes everything from leveraging AI to personalize training to simplifying the associate experience through standardizing Kroger’s application framework within its stores.
As for the future of grocery, Cosset believes the industry’s evolution hinges on the increasing appeal of experiential retail. Not only does this have to do with having a great experience while shopping online or in store, but also making investments in the supply chain to optimize the entire flow of goods to make sure customers are getting the freshest, highest quality products.
“The experience expectation will continue to go up,” Cosset said. “The burden is on us to continue to invest in capabilities that enable what is not experiential, the mindless shopping, and make it as seamless to the customer as possible.”
Shoptalk takes place March 26-29 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Serving 11 million customers daily through a digital shopping experience and retail food stores under a variety of banner names, Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 4 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.