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The art and science of customer data at Kroger

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Restaurant and Foodservice

Thompson addresses the audience at NRF’s BIG Show (Photo: SmartBrief)

As today’s consumers become increasingly digitized and mobile, it’s no secret that food retailers have some ground to make up when it comes to connecting with shoppers on their smartphones, tablets and other devices. However, retailers that deal in the business of something as traditional as groceries face the challenge of finding a balance between reaching out to shoppers who prefer the more traditional forms of communication like paper circulars and those who are looking to get all they can out of retailers’ mobile applications.

At traditional supermarket retailer Kroger, the digital business team has been working to catch up to today’s consumers, while still leaving some of the older forms of communication in place, the retailer’s Vice President of Digital Business Matt Thompson told an audience at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show earlier this week.

“When you start to peel back the layers, customers’ needs are very different,” he said.

For example, Thompson said that surveys found 50% of Kroger shoppers still use paper circulars when planning their trips to the store. Meanwhile, 40% of customers download mobile coupons before shopping at Kroger.

“All these types of content have meaning to customers,” Thompson said, especially when the content is combined with savings.

In an effort to appeal to customers’ varying preferences and increase its ability to have personalized interactions with shoppers, Kroger has created many different spaces in which the retailer can connect with consumers and deliver content, Thompson said. In addition to the traditional paper circular, shoppers can view that same circular on Kroger’s mobile application. Or, they can view offers in list form on the app, which also provides a curated list of promotions based on the items on users’ mobile shopping lists.

Kroger’s online Savings Center is also tailored to individual users, and Thompson said no two Savings Centers are alike, which is the kind of personalization that inspires more spending by customers. Additionally, shoppers can choose how they want to receive the retailer’s MyMagazine, which is available in print form or online, depending on where customers want to receive the content.

But using data effectively and delivering content to shoppers isn’t always easy, Thompson said.

Sometimes retailers and other businesses can get lost in all the data and technology available to them, which is why it is so important to use customer data and personalization to actually deliver a personal experience to customers, according to Yael Cosset, chief information officer of 84.51°, a customer technology firm and subsidiary of Kroger. Kroger answers this challenge with the “personalization trifecta,” a strategy involving Big Data, customer science and technology that allows the retailer to sift through all the information and technology and connect with customers in ways that are meaningful to them, Cosset told the audience.

“It opens up the door to create this one-to-one relationship with the customer,” Thompson said of the trifecta strategy.

For Cosset, the whole idea is to combine today’s technology and unprecedented access to consumer information with the personalized food shopping experience that once came with trips to the local market or the local butcher. He said his company works with Kroger to bring that personalization back to food retail.

“We’re really thinking about how we can put ‘personal’ back in ‘personalization,’” Thompson said.

And with that kind of personalization comes loyalty, Thompson and Cosset said.

The key to driving loyalty through true personalization is going beyond just the transaction to really look at the customer and create a longitudinal view of the people who shop at Kroger’s stores, a group that Cosset said has evolving expectations that are becoming more sophisticated.

The good news is that data and analytics are evolving too, he said. Through evolution, customer science has gone from a way to use information and data to build a profile of customers to really being able to access their shopping DNA. And Kroger and 84.51° are working to take it a step further and get to a place where they can really understand each individual customer, Cosset said.

With this data, retailers like Kroger can innovate around customer science to enhance the customer experience and truly deliver personalization, he said.

“When I look at what Kroger has accomplished, that relentless focus on delivering the value to the customer has allowed them to really innovate in ways that create that special relationship with the customer,” Cosset said.


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