Podcast: What’s the Future of Grocery?

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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas except for GroceryShop 2021.

Jola Burnett, VP at Behaviorally, joins us to discuss her most significant takeaways from our first in-person conference since February 2020. Listen to this episode to hear about the future of B.O.P.I.S. (Buy Online, Pick up In-Store), the Livestream shopping trends that are about to hit the West, and the grocery tech giving Jola hope.

The Our Best Behavior Podcast is hosted by Matt Salem (Senior Vice President, Client Development).

Matt Salem 

Hi everyone. I’m your host Matt Salem, and you have tuned in to another episode of Our Best Behavior, a podcast brought to you by Behaviorally winner of the 2020 market research podcast award. Behaviorally, formerly PRS, helps brands improve shopper and consumer experiences by defining and diagnosing the behaviors that drive shopper growth.

Each month we produce a podcast to share industry insights on trending topics designed to help you make better shopper marketing decisions. Today we are joined by Jola Burnett, VP Client Development at Behaviorally. My colleague, my friend, I’d like to say, Jola, thank you for joining us.

 

Jola Burnett    

Thank you so much, my friend. As Matt said, I’m Jola Burnett, VP of client development at Behaviorally, an avid trendsetter, always thinking about consumer behavior where we are today, changing consumer lifestyles, and thinking about how technology is transforming the world in front of our very eyes.

 

Matt Salem 

Love that. I love that. And today, we are very fortunate to have you here to talk about a recent in-person conference that you attended. How did it feel to be in person at a conference? Those are fewer and further between these days. We’d love to hear a little bit about it GroceryShop was the conference. Was it fun to be there live with people?

 

Jola Burnett    

It was amazing. I mean, it was an in-person event held in the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. What more can I ask for? It was absolutely, you know, fantastic to get out of the house and see people in person. And about GroceryShop. It is the world’s largest retail and E-Commerce conference. It’s typically attended by retailers, brands, technology companies, and researchers like us. Despite COVID, it was really well attended. And it was again amazing to just, you know, be there in person and talk to people.

 

Matt Salem 

I’m sure it was. I’d love to be in person at a conference. I need to get to one myself. I missed that. I really do.

 

Jola Burnett    

I wish you came

 

Matt Salem 

You know what? Give me a ticket to the next one.

 

Jola Burnett    

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Matt Salem 

So online grocery shopping, clearly a hot topic. How could it not be? How could you ignore it? Online grocery shopping is exploding, pre-COVID, arguably post-COVID. Now accelerating? What was the word on the street, so, to speak, at GroceryShop about online shopping for groceries?

 

Jola Burnett    

Well, as we know, COVID has pushed everybody towards being a lot more open to experimentation and trying new modes in order to meet their demands. And we have seen that you know, this has been a big talk at GroceryShop. Obviously, it was also, you know, in one of the panels that I participated in, and just thinking that even reaching 30% of online grocery store kind of online grocery sales is possible. There are various estimates around that. And we have seen that the pandemic has accelerated these, you know, e-Commerce growth anywhere between four to six years. So, that is happening.

We have also, you know, seen people who typically would have never shopped online, such as some of the elderly, who have been set up with an online account, you know, by their children or friends, and are now shopping online. So, this has been a big transformative event. I think that’s the positive of COVID if there could be any positives. But we have seen that you know, there is a change expectation of always having online delivery available to you.

 

Matt Salem 

Yeah, I’m glad you bought up online delivery because one thing I’m wondering, particularly with the growth of E-Commerce for grocery shopping and thinking about those that are first putting their feet in the water, there is that whole piece of delivery versus B.O.L.P.I.S., right, like buy pickup in-store, right? What did you hear about that dynamic? What’s the delivery dynamic versus that curbside pickup dynamic? I know I have some preferences at my house. But I’m curious to see what you heard at the conference.

 

Jola Burnett    

So there have been some divided opinions around that whether kind of thinking long term which one’s going to prevail more, and I tend to think and just looking at everything that’s happening that I think it’s going to be a bit of a hybrid with a skew towards curbside, and the reason why I’m saying this is because there is a price attached to you know, having it delivered to your home, consumers are thinking about all the packaging, and you know, delivery, but also long term grocery stores just even thinking about how all of this is evolving the role of the store.

The reason why I think that curbside might prevail a little bit more is that you know, stores will become a lot more experiential in nature. So, you might come in and pick up the peaches that you want and the cuts of meat that you like but thinking about even where the technology stands currently that the back of the store might be more of a distribution center. So, on your way back from work, you can just order your groceries, maybe reorder whatever you had set up for the week and pick it up on your way home. So, there was a bit of balance of both. But I think, again, it goes back to the consumer expectations and what’s truly needed. So, I think it’s going to be a bit of a hybrid.

 

Matt Salem 

Yeah, that makes sense to me. I mean, on the one hand, I love delivery, because it just makes life very easy. On the other hand, it’s like you get an avocado that takes two weeks to ripen, or you get steaks that aren’t really meeting the quality that you hoped for, in terms of what it looks like the eye test.

 

Jola Burnett    

right.

 

Matt Salem 

So, the idea of going to the store is nice, because those staples that are cereal or milk, that you’re really just going to take what you got, that can be picked up easily, maybe fulfilled already for you when you get there. And then you could go pick out that me you can go make those decisions in stores. I do appreciate that about going to the store.

 

Jola Burnett    

That’s exactly where my head is that to just thinking about where are we going forward? And of course, we have seen that the role of the store has already been evolving with some of the more experiential ways because right now, I think it’s a little bit more transactional in nature. But one good example, which I actually presented at GroceryShop back in 2019, and used back then, is this example of today at Apple. And even though it’s not related to the grocery store category, there’s a lot of inspiration from other areas that can impact innovation. And just think about the campaign today at Apple where people gathered together, and it was more of a community center.

So, just thinking about how the store can be more experiential, so we can go and pick up the right groceries. And the things that are perhaps a little bit lower involvement. Like, you know, you mentioned, maybe some of the paper products, which had a shortage of, you know, could be put together for you in the mini fulfillment center. So, you go and pick up the necessities that you want to interact within the store and just pick up, you know, the other items that you really don’t care that much about picking or lugging around the store.

 

Matt Salem 

Sure, sure. That makes a lot of sense to me. So, in thinking about the experiential piece, and maybe doubling back a bit to e-Commerce, not necessarily the fulfillment piece. There’s an interesting interaction between social media and E-Commerce. And when I think about making any experience more experiential, this seems to fit right in the intertwining of social media and e-com. And this whole idea of Livestream shopping, I’ve been seeing it a bit on Amazon. Sometimes when I click on their site, there’s literally a live show going on about the product. They’re clearly trying to get me to tune in. I have fallen victim and tuned in a couple of times, wondering what your thoughts are on that if that’s something that came up at the conference at GroceryShop.

 

Jola Burnett    

Well, this was actually a topic on our panel as well. And we are talking about this; we have heard others talk about it as well, just thinking about what is the role of social media and how it’s evolving, right? Like it’s pretty much becoming the new home shopping network or QVC. And like you mentioned, Amazon is playing with that. But there’s been just a recent development with a company and I, just to backtrack for a second, Asia is a really big influence on, you know, on some of these social media trends, specifically, China is the social shopping powerhouse. And these modes of shopping had a blockbuster year in China during COVID. So, social media is becoming a part of everyday life. And no category is off-limits there; we can see that influencers are playing an integral role. And you can buy anything from apartments to food via Livestream. So, you know, WeChat now uses a Livestream feature to facilitate mini-program stores. But in the West, we have seen this company; it’s called OOOOO.

 

Matt Salem 

And it’s more than triple!

 

Jola Burnett    

 it more than tripled. It’s quintuple. So, it’s OOOOO formed a partnership with TikTok, and it is a form of Livestream commerce, which allows creators and influencers to host their own shows. It is essentially, again, kind of this QVC almost shopping app, but it’s a lot more interactive. So, if you think about it, where we’re headed, it is still at a very kind of small percentage here in the West. But it’s a trend to watch. Because it is about keeping your customers engaged, getting them used to the product, make sure it’s a gamified experience, which everybody has been talking about. But it also boosts your loyalty. You get exposed to the brand, you have influencers using it live, you interact with other users, and the more time you spend in this virtual store, we know what happens, right? So, I think that is very important for brands to keep an eye on as part of their omnichannel strategy.

 

Matt Salem 

Sure, sure. You mentioned loyalty, right? How is e-commerce and these new types of tactics influencing brand and retailer loyalty? Among shoppers, I mean, if I think about these Livestreams that I’ve seen, frankly, none of them are for the big named products that are out there from the International CPG companies of the world. It’s kind of these like, hey, get to know me type brands. So, how is that influencing brand and retailer loyalty? When you think about e-Commerce and the role that small brands can play in the environment, I mean, they’re pretty much getting the same type of space, if you will, on the shelf on the digital shelf as some of these major players,

 

Jola Burnett    

absolutely. And that’s truly evolving because loyalty is based on trust. And it powers a lot of relationship-building initiatives, and brand trust itself has also evolved. So, with the rise of online shopping, and Livestream shopping, there is an explosion of direct-to-consumer brands. And at the same time, I think that the traditional big brands are being challenged by some of these smaller brands, which, as you mentioned, are getting a lot more exposure.

So, I think you’re only as good as your last transaction or last product because there are just so many different options available to consumers. And just think about being a little-known brand that pops up on your social media feed, and you use the buy button, you know because you are just it’s, you know, spur of the moment, impulse purchase. And next thing, you know, you really liked the product, and it was delivered on time, or even sooner your experience with it was amazing. And that is a big challenge for a lot of the brands a lot to go up against.

But again, to make sure that brands can keep that trust going is to really think about delivering some of the fundamental elements; what really makes a trusted brand, right. So, just thinking about going back to the basics, such as quality, price, safety, protecting the health of your consumers and workers, but also thinking about understanding the market context and making sure that you understand the changing consumer environment and what your today’s and tomorrow’s consumers’ values are and how they’re evolving and their needs and expectations of brands.

 

Matt Salem 

Well, that’s great. That’s great. And I guess, wrapping up today and thinking back to GroceryShop, what are some of the higher-level takeaways that you took away from the conference? What’s the future of grocery shopping going to look like? What Is everyone seeing?

 

Jola Burnett    

So, I have seen a lot of influences of technology on our shopping experiences, and just even walking the floor, which I love, because then you get a little bit of a prediction or, you know, where some of the innovation is taking place. And that’s already brands that exist that have, you know, the space there. And for example, I walked into this air quotes store. And I was welcomed by this virtual hologram-like greeter. Suddenly. he didn’t know my name yet. But that’s okay.

Then I went shopping with this grocery cart, which is really amazing because it was powered by this company called WalkOut by Shopping With Vision. And it scanned and tracked everything I put in it, you know, it had this little screen that showed you kind of kept a tab on everything that you put in. So, you knew what your bill would end up being, and I could pay with my card and walk out.

Then I walked next to, you know, this couple of young men who were standing by this big pile of apples. And it was really interesting because they talked about this technology called Afresh, and it’s an AI tool that can predict demand based on the local population trends, weather patterns, you know, and more. So, it is great to think about, you know, the supply chain management and minimizing waste, which is great from the sustainability standpoint. And that’s, again, been a big trend talked about at the conference.

And again, I highly recommend to our listeners to tune in to the We Better Behave sustainability event that happened in October because, again, there’s no planet B. And this technology really gives me hope.

 

Matt Salem 

I love that. And we all know the supply chain can use a little help right now. So,

 

Jola Burnett    

yep.

 

Matt Salem 

that sounds like there’s gonna be some traction with this Afresh tool.

 

Jola Burnett    

Absolutely. And there’s more to come on that with the kind of, you know, Blockchain being available and tracking all the deliveries and whatnot to make sure there was no more waste.

 

Matt Salem 

Very cool. Very cool. Well, it sounds like you had a great time in Vegas. I won’t get into any stories about gambling or anything else that may have happened because what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, except for the GroceryShop conference. We were able to bring that to you live today. So, Jola, thanks a lot. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to join us here on Our Best Behavior podcast. Thanks to our audience for tuning in. This is Our Best Behavior brought to you by Behaviorally. Jola, thank you so much, and we’ll catch everyone next time.

 

Jola Burnett    

Thank you so much for having me.

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