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How Schnucks and SpartanNash Succeed With In-Store Technology

Companies shared their “secret sauce” on the GroceryTech stage
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
Representatives from Schnucks and SpartanNash took to the GroceryTech stage in Dallas to discuss the implementation of new tech within their stores.

Bringing new technology to the store level can often be a bit of a balancing act for grocery retailers, from making the initial investment to enabling associates to utilize it efficiently and beyond. Representatives from St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets Inc. and food solutions company SpartanNash took to the GroceryTech stage in Dallas this week to discuss the implementation of new tech within their stores, both from the executive perspective and the store manager’s point of view.

Kim Anderson, VP, store operations support, at Schnucks, told Progressive Grocer Editor-in-Chief Gina Acosta that the grocer was an early adopter of many tech transformation initiatives and has been able to move very quickly in recent years to bring new technology to its locations. The company’s “secret sauce” for doing so, Anderson explained, is helping teams in both technology and operations work together and learn to speak the same language.

Additionally, Anderson shared that choosing what technology to deploy and which partners to work with takes a special kind of understanding among those involved. With vendor partners in particular, Anderson believes they have to be able to see the grocer’s vision or see where the fire is that they’re hoping to put out.

[RELATED: Inventory Robots Viewed as Essential Part of Store Team]

As for technology deployment at the store level, Schnucks Store Manager Adrian Salazar told the audience that setting expectations early on and asking for feedback from associates is a key part of making sure integration is successful. In the case of Schnucks’ deployment of Simbe Robotics’ Tally robot into its stores, the teams knew they were working with something special, but still took time to level set with employees and explain how the technology would make their jobs easier. 

“Coming up with a really good plan is one of the most important pieces,” Salazar shared. “You definitely have to have feedback loops in the beginning, whether it's addressing issues quickly or just listening to the feedback on how this can be improved. I think having those open ears or at least acknowledging the ideas and saying, ‘Hey, we'll put that into consideration’ is really important.”

Tyler King, VP of finance operations at SpartanNash, also joined the conversation to speak about the company’s integration of Tally into its tech stack. For SpartanNash, King explained, Tally represented an opportunity to get more products in its shoppers’ baskets and grow top-line sales.

“With this technology we felt that it was easily integrated and it worked with most of our systems,” he explained. “It was an ability for us to kind of go in and run kind of quickly. And for us, we're seeing that top-line growth. You've got more items on the shelf. So that's kind of how we built it as really a sales lift.” 

SpartanNash was also able to work with Simbe to explain the value proposition to its customers of having Tally in the aisles, as well as the fact that the technology is not taking away from the human aspect of the shopping experience.

“We really did a good job in partnering with Simbe to really explain to the customer that this is going to be a better experience for you,” King said. “And we are taking that labor and shifting it to more value-added tasks in the store. We spend more time now stocking because of the reports that we're getting from Tally several times a day. So that customer is now feeling a better experience.”

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