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The US Chamber of Commerce has an interview with Chris Rupp, Chief Customer and Digital Officer at Albertsons, in which she talks about the company's digital efforts, and how the pandemic "served to expedite our efforts because so many people demanded e-commerce to shop from the safety of their home."

An excerpt:

"When beginning the digital transformation, Rupp and her team thought about all the things they could do for customers and divided them into three different 'buckets.'  The first category was 'minimal lovable product.' That means, Rupp said, the features which 'if you can’t, at a minimum, do these very simple things why would customers ever shop with you?'

"'It’s things like the app has to be up and running 24/7, you can’t have any outages,' she said. 'You have to be shipping on time. You have to offer a meaningful selection. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the full selection in our store, but it has to be a meaningful selection.'

"The second bucket was 'all the things customers have come to expect,' and have seen competitors do well, such as a personalized experience that saves you time, or faster shipping speeds, Rupp said.

''The third bucket we call differentiated experiences,' she said. 'It would be the reason you would come to us instead of anywhere else'."

The story goes on:

"When adding digital capabilities, companies need to decide if it is smarter to build the app or technology themselves, buy it, or form a strategic partnership with another company.

"'There are a lot of cases where buying the technology will make a lot of sense, if it’s not differentiated and just considered to be very basic,' Rupp said. 'When you start thinking about what the heart of your business is and why a customer would pick you over all the other alternatives, then you would think about building your own [tech] or partnering with someone who can help you create that differentiation'."

KC's View:

I think this is exactly the right way to think about a retail value proposition - you have to do all the bare minimum things, then meet consumer expectations, and build on those foundations to create differentiated physical and digital experiences.  And you have to do it all at once, and be vigilant about making sure the delivery of these three priorities is consistent.

It has always been thus, but heightened competition actually has raised the stakes.

I've always been frustrated by retailers who talk about "getting back to fundamentals."  My feeling is that if you're not delivering those already, it may be time to get out of the business.

And I think that one question retailers have to ask themselves is, "What are we doing/delivering that nobody else can or does?"  That's the essence of differentiation.