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As we continue riding out the pandemic, it’s important for grocery retailers to understand shopping behavior has been altered forever. E-marketer reports that online grocery sales grew 54% in 2020, exceeding initial pre-COVID projections. In 2021, online grocery shopping is projected to push past a record $100 billion in spending.

Now is the time for grocers to let data guide action. In-store shopping strategies coupled with a continuing focus on all things online will result in improved brand loyalty and growing market share if you rely on your data. Grocers must create a holistic view of consumers by orchestrating data-driven insights to feed demand-planning analytics that increase relevant recommendations, promote in-stock merchandise, and improve customer satisfaction. Steps a grocer can take include: 

Leverage All Data to Know Your Shoppers Better

Knowing the consumer is step one if you want to grow your business. While this might seem like a no brainer, most consumers can identify a time when they thought a grocer or retailer “knew” them, but then were offered something completely irrelevant to their shopping and purchasing behavior. Futurum Research says that consumers “prefer technology touch points as drivers of loyalty and repeat business, all geared toward making the discovery and purchase experience a more expeditious one.”

Stand-out grocers will implement strategies for leveraging loyalty data (the holy grail of first-party data) and integrate it with online purchasing behavior and in-store activity data. For marketers, getting data to a ready state requires identifying all potential data sources, then integrating and managing offline and online data.  

[Read more: Unilever and Giant Food Partner on Consumer Behavior With Visual Learning End Caps]

Marketers look to customer data platforms (CDPs) to help unify and unlock the value of consumer information. CDPs are foundational components for integrating the various data sources required to listen to and engage a consumer with your brand. 

Focus on Creating Customer Journey Experiences

When an online shopper puts the basic ingredients for a spaghetti dinner in their cart, that triggers a savvy grocer to automatically push offers for parmesan cheese, garlic bread, and a Caesar salad kit if inventory is available. Analyzing geo-location data and data streaming from your store’s mobile app, helps you upsell before the shopper checks out.  

Online shopping exploded during the pandemic, and grocers quickly pivoted to meet consumers’ needs. But as consumers return to in-store shopping, brands will face these challenges: 

  • Creating a single view of the consumer across all channels and managing that identity for the future.
  • Orchestrating omnichannel customer journeys that are based on all available data and insights. 
  • Identifying and winning the “moments that matter” — meeting the consumer in the right channel, at the right time, and with the right content. 

Align Your Consumer Experience Initiatives With Demand Planning Analytics

The pandemic has heightened consumers’ awareness of supply chains and their impact on the shopping experience. According to a study done by Mercatus, “66% of shoppers say product availability and real-time inventory are very important, both of which can impact brand loyalty.” It’s impossible to create the ultimate consumer experience unless the content and offers you’re pushing — especially to in-store shoppers — consider product availability. It’s also a dynamic that opens the door to proactively promoting premium or in-stock items to shoppers. 

For this reason, many grocers have started to integrate demand-planning efforts with marketing technology to improve the consumer experience. Demand planning is a cross-functional process that helps businesses meet consumer demands while minimizing excess inventory and avoiding supply chain disruptions. 

It’s a valuable tool for increasing revenue and consumer satisfaction. When demand planning insights are used to drive the products offered to shoppers while shopping or at the checkout stand, the sky is the limit. But it’s up to marketers to effectively communicate that information either through out-of-stock alerts or notifications about when an item will be replenished.  

Grocers have come a long way since the pandemic started for pivoting to meet consumers’ evolving shopping behaviors. And grocers who build their consumer engagement strategies based on rich data and insights will continue to drive loyalty and financial success. 

— Kate Parker leads the customer experience transformation team within SAS’ customer intelligence practice.

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