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    Published on: January 19, 2016

    by Michael Sansolo

    The journey toward building a better consumer experience can come in the strangest ways. For instance, try this:

    Imagine you are at home and have to discipline a somewhat messy child. Over and over again you say the same phrase: GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM

    Even if you aren’t a parent, you know that phrase is going to be ignored. For many kids, hearing that line endlessly repeated is reminiscent of the teacher’s voice in the old Charlie Brown cartoons: wah, wah, wah, wah…

    Now take a different approach (and you can do this at your desk if no one is around.) Each time you say the phrase, change the inflection. GO clean your room. Go CLEAN your room. Go clean YOUR room. Go clean your ROOM. Sounds different, doesn’t it?

    We often talk here about storytelling as critical to customer connections, but the reality is that most of us aren’t storytellers. So we need learn ways to do it better and that’s where the “go clean your room example” matters. We need to become engaging with our stories.

    I was reminded of this by two recent incidents. The first was a music presentation I attended this weekend with members of the US Air Force Concert Band. One master sergeant used the “clean your room” example to teach the young musicians the importance of emphasis and creating a difference.

    As he explained, changing emphasis and inflection keeps the audience engaged in the music and breathes life and excitement into the score.

    There was a similar example in Chelsea Ware's "Millennial Mind" column yesterday on MNB, profiling two interesting businesses in Portland, Oregon. As she explained, one company seems to have greater success with repeat business by constantly mixing new flavors into its mix of ice creams. The other constantly draws newcomers with its mix of unusually flavored doughnuts, but doesn’t give those people a reason to come back again and again because the flavors are constant.

    Now think about your business and your consumers. Surely no one is suggesting you wildly smash the routine of the shopping trip. Constantly shifting shelf positions or product assortment will produce chaos for you and lots of grumpy shoppers.

    But that doesn’t mean you should be boring either. You need find ways to constantly spice up the ordinary whether with sampling, recipe programs, exciting displays and more. Grocery shopping may be a weekly chore for many shoppers, so the job of creating variety and innovating is even more critical.

    The last thing you want in your store is: wah, wah, wah…

    The challenge is to find a way to tell your story in a way that’s exciting, interesting and important to your shoppers. It doesn’t necessarily mean offering guacamole-flavored ice cream (as Chelsea described an innovation by Portland's Salt & Straw) or maybe it does. Maybe it involves displaying items shoppers see every week and showing them how to use or serve them in new and different ways.

    That’s the reason my wife and I have been eating roasted vegetables for the past month. It took one sample station and suddenly we are hooked!

    Tell your story and tell it well. Tell it with emphasis and excitement and who know what may come next. Maybe some added sales and repeat customers.

    That's what you'd call a happy ending.


    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    I'm fascinated by a new study entitled "A Roadmap to Digital Value in the Retail Industry," suggesting that close to half of all retailers are at risk for digital disruption of their businesses, and that 85 percent of digital business opportunities are "still untapped by retailers."

    I'm not sure about that 85 percent number ... it seems to me that while the rationale behind it is explained, it probably isn't hard to come with a different set of stats that would undermine it. (I'm no logistician ... so I'm the wrong guy to evaluate this kind of stuff.)

    But the other numbers seem both reasonable and quantifiable. And disturbing ... like a shark slowly advancing, mouth open, on an industry that may not even want to admit that it is in deep water.

    According to the report, "Forty-seven percent of retail leaders believe that digital disruption is a high-risk proposition," and that "four of today’s top 10 retail firms will be displaced over the next five years."

    In part, this may be because "almost half of retail executives surveyed do not acknowledge the risk of digital disruption – or have not addressed it sufficiently. Only 24 percent have a plan and are willing to disrupt themselves in order to compete."

    Ironically, the story also says that "retailers believe that newcomers, or start-ups, will likely be the biggest source of digital disruption. Nearly 38 percent believe these start-ups will come from inside the industry."

    (The study, by the way, is from research from the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center), which is a joint initiative of the Institute for Management Development (IMD) and Cisco.)

    These numbers seem consistent with many of the conversations I've had with retailers over the years - people seem to know that disruption is inevitable, but they seem unwilling or unable to commit themselves to the kinds of fundamental cultural and organizational changes that they need to have in order to create disruption from within.

    They know it, but they're in denial about the inevitable impact it will have on their companies.

    The study was released at the National Retail Federation (NRF) show in New York this week, where I spent some time yesterday at the MyWebGrocer booth meeting with old and new friends, chatting with MNB readers, and signing copies of 'The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies." We ended up talking a lot about movies, as often happens in these cases, and one of the movies that came up was Jaws ... which seems entirely appropriate in the context of this study about denial.

    Because denial, of course, is typical of virtually every character in Jaws. The mayor is in denial about the impact a hungry shark will have on business when the shark starts eating the tourists, Quint thinks he can hunt the shark by himself, Hooper keeps getting into the water with the shark, and Brody doesn't know how to swim, hates the water, and lives on an island. Everybody is in denial ... until that moment when they see the shark and realize that they're going to need a bigger boat.

    Many of the retailers quoted in the study have way too small a boat, and don't seem to be in the market for a bigger one.

    It is the ultimate in denial. And an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    MarketWatch reports Amazon is considering making a bid to acquire Ocado, the UK-based online grocer, which would supplement the online grocery service, Amazon Pantry, that it recently began introducing to the UK.

    Neither company has commented on the report.
    KC's View:
    I have to believe that if and when Amazon starts making these sorts of acquisitions, the companies it buys will have to untethered to the kind of legacy issues that hamper so many companies. I may be wrong about this, but I wonder how many companies like that actually exist.

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    The Los Angeles Times has a story about the current Southern California fast food wars, reporting that they are taking place on two fronts - price and innovation.

    "The swarm of new deals are a symptom of seismic shifts in the fast-food industry," the story says. "Pizza Hut recently introduced a $5 menu that includes chicken wings and pasta, while Burger King started selling a five-item meal for $4. McDonald's launched a 'McPick 2' deal in which diners can pick two items for $2. Last year, Wendy's led the pack with a new four-item combo for $4." What this all means is that fast food chains are looking for any and all price/value advantages in a crowded marketplace.

    At the same time, the chains seems to know that greater innovation will be the best way to ingratiate themselves with consumers, especially young people who are looking for new flavors and trends.

    The story notes that "Burger King has rolled out an extra-long Sriracha cheeseburger and Wendy's has tried ghost pepper fries, both in an attempt to capture adventurous millennial diners. Wendy's opened a research center aimed at testing new technologies, while Dairy Queen has debuted a lab to create higher-quality products."

    But these initiatives can be challenging for companies with legacy systems and "entrenched supply chains," which gives younger companies - the Times cites Chipotle, Panera and Five Guys - an advantage because innovation seems more baked into their DNA. And now, the Times reports, "in burger-studded Los Angeles, the battle is heating up as Shake Shack, an East Coast favorite, opens its first California location in West Hollywood this year."
    KC's View:
    This is emblematic of the broader battle for consumers - there is a price/value that retailers can drive on, and a quality/innovation lane. It is very hard to straddle them, offering both prices and innovation ... though there are consumers out there who want both. Finding the balance is tough, but critical, in creating mass appeal and a sustainable business model.

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    Advertising Age reports on a new Pew Research Center study saying that "less than half of those surveyed said it was acceptable for companies to share their shopping data with third parties. Indeed, while 47% said it is acceptable for a grocery store to track shopping habits and sell that data to third parties in exchange for providing people with discounts, 32% said it was not. Twenty percent said 'it depends'."

    The study suggests that older people and people of greater financial means are less tolerant of the practice than young people and those who have less money, and that "some people just want more information before deciding."
    KC's View:
    To me, this always has been easy. Or should be. Just ask consumers for permission, and be transparent about how information is being shared and what the consumer benefit is. (If you tell me that you are going to share my purchase info in a way that makes sure I never get cat-oriented coupons and only get dog-oriented offers, I'm in.)

    It is when companies are not transparent and don't allow consumers to opt in that they create the potential for trouble ... but they only have themselves to blame.

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    • The International Business Times reports that Walmart-owned Asda Group, facing disappointing end-of-year holiday sales, has decided "to axe hundreds of jobs at its Leeds headquarters. The job cuts are expected to be across several departments and include redundancies of senior staff as well."

    The company is characterizing the job cuts as being part of a "permanent structural change" that is "difficult but necessary."

    The story notes that "Asda's job cuts come 18 months after it made an announcement to reduce its work force by about 1,360 employees, including back office positions. This was so as to focus more on e-commerce and to put more staff on its shop floors."


    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart de Mexico "plans to sell its Suburbia clothing-store chain as it focuses on its core business of big-box stores ... The division accounted for 3.5% of Walmex’s total sales in 2014."
    KC's View:
    "Permanent structural change" seems to be the Walmart order of the day, from Arkansas to Mexico to the UK and beyond. The question, it seems to be, is whether this change is about cutting, or about disruption ... because they are not the same thing.

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    • The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on "an unobtrusive but consequential bill, called the Healthy Small Food Retailer Act, is weaving its way through the New Jersey Legislature" that would "assist small food retailers in low- and moderate-income urban and rural communities by providing them funds to increase the availability and sale of fresh and nutritious foods."

    If the bill becomes law, the story says, "funds would be distributed to a grantee, typically a nonprofit group, which would give the money to small food retailers, such as neighborhood grocers. It also would require the New Jersey Department of Health to develop a 'Healthy Corner Store Program' to increase the availability of fresh produce and healthy food by these same retailers, and hold them accountable."

    The Inquirer notes that "a report by New Jersey Policy Perspective showed that 15.6 percent - nearly one in every six households in the state - didn't have enough money to buy food at some point last year."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    • Publix Super Markets said yesterday that with the retirement of CEO Ed Crenshaw and the promotion of Todd Jones to president/CEO, David Phillips, the company's CFO, will assume additional responsibilities and be promoted to Executive Vice President and CFO. Miami Division Vice President, Kevin Murphy, will be promoted to a newly created position, Senior Vice President of Retail Operations. And Bob Bechtel, Lakeland Division Regional Director, has been named Miami Division Vice President.

    At the same time, Lakeland Division Vice President Tom McLaughlin has decided to retire after 47 years with the company. He will be succeeded by Sam Pero, the company's Jacksonville Division Regional Director.


    • The Wall Street Journal reports that JC Penney has named Joe McFarland, formerly the president of Home Depot's northern and western divisions, to be its new executive vice president of stores. At Penney, McFarland "will oversee the chain’s approximately 1,020 stores and will be tasked with other initiatives, like same-day pickup, in-store jcp.com fulfillment and improving sales productivity."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    • Glen Frey, a founding member of the Eagles who, as a singer/songwriter helped to craft songs and a sound that defined the seventies with hits that included "Hotel California," "Take It Easy," Desperado," "Lyin' Eyes," Tequila Sunrise," “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Witchy Woman,” died yesterday at age 67.

    The band said in a statement that he died from complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia.

    The Eagles won six Grammys and five American Music Awards, and is a 1998 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band's "Greatest Hits" album was certified as Platinum 29 times.

    In a statement, Eagles co-founder Don Henley described Frey as "the spark plug, the man with the plan. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven."
    KC's View:
    People of a certain age grew up on Eagles music. The phrase, "the soundtrack of our lives" will be thrown around a lot over the next few days, but in this case it was absolutely true.

    We all have our Eagles favorites. For me, it always has been "Heartache Tonight," one of my favorite rock songs ever. And I'll tell you a little secret. When I'm in the car with the top down and "Heartache Tonight" comes on, I not only sing along with it, but as soon as it is over, I hit "replay," and do it again ... because once is never enough for "Heartache Tonight."

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 19, 2016

    MyWebGrocer, a leading provider of e-commerce and digital marketing solutions to the grocery and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries, announced its partnership with Sitecore, the global leader in web and digital experience management, to provide fast, efficient and increasingly personalized experiences for grocery brands seeking to deepen their engagement with online grocery shoppers.

    By integrating Sitecore into MyWebGrocer's Digital Experience Platform, MyWebGrocer is able to marry its own best-in-class commerce, order management, data intelligence and personalization solutions with Sitecore, allowing global, multi-lingual and multi-channel content delivery at enterprise scale.

    "Online grocery is undergoing a dramatic transformation, and we've taken the lead in helping grocers evolve their business models to accommodate the changing path to purchase," said Eric Healy, MyWebGrocer President. "Our partnership with Sitecore provides MyWebGrocer customers with an award-winning and user-friendly web content management system capable of delivering truly customized content to grocery shoppers at every touch point."

    MyWebGrocer works with more than 100 grocery chains to attract, engage, transact and retain grocery shoppers. Sitecore's technology will be integrated directly into the MyWebGrocer platform.

    "This partnership will complement our unmatched grocery functionality, universal product library and integrated order management system, allowing for single, multi and wave picking," said Joseph Lee, global SVP of commerce and marketing at MyWebGrocer.

    To learn more about MyWebGrocer and its Digital Experience Platform, click here.
    KC's View: