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Grocery leaders share their picks for the hottest retail tech

Retailers discuss the technologies they're most excited about
grocery execs tech
L-R: Ken Keelor (Calgary Co-op), Rohit Sriram (Loblaw Digital), Rick Furtado (Longo's), Chris Allen (Pattison Food Group) and Marie Yong (Aisle 24).

Ken Keelor, CEO, Calgary Co-op: “The retail space is full of transformation and change. I am most excited about our refreshed membership program and the launch of our app, which allows us to engage directly with our more than 400,000 members. The member-exclusive app features games, personalized offers, Calgary Co-op bonus cash and transparency to patronage earnings, helping members save all year long. With more than 100,000 downloads in the first few months, this technology is putting Calgary Co-op in the palm of our members’ hands, rewarding them every time they shop.”

Rohit Sriram, vice-president, general manager, online grocery, Loblaw Digital: “One of the most interesting retail technologies is the use of AI in customer-facing applications—I find the integration of AI and machine learning to optimize app experiences intriguing. This technology enables personalized recommendations and offers based on individual preferences, ensuring customers see products that align with their needs. Incorporating AI into customer service experiences is equally fascinating as it allows for tailored interactions and faster issue resolution. Through image analysis capabilities, AI can verify product issues when customers provide visual evidence for refunds or exchanges.” 

Rick Furtado, vice-president of supply chain, Longo’s: “At Longo’s, we strive to bring value to our guests every day and a key to this is finding supply chain efficiencies, especially using technology. We brought physical automation to our distribution expansion project, which not only allows us to significantly increase our warehouse capacity, but it also allows us to increase productivity, efficiency and accuracy. Leveraging automation in supply chain functions to enhance material handling capabilities is not only a ‘nice to have,’ but is essential for delivering the highest level of service to our guests.”

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Chris Allen, vice-president of information technology, Pattison Food Group: “Like many in the retail sector, in grocery we see AI as one of the most interesting and potentially transformative emerging technologies. One use case we are exploring is AI-augmented merchandising to inform our decisions on what items to put on promotion together and the right kinds of promotions to run. Additionally, with AI, we can more effectively keep the customer at the centre of our decisions, offering the right assortment of local products in each community we serve alongside the grocery staples we know our customers are looking for, all while balancing the needs of our supply chain.”

Marie Yong, co-founder and chief operating officer, Aisle 24: “The most prominent trend in retail technology is seamlessly integrating the online and in-store customer experiences. For instance, AI platforms that allow virtual hair colour trials at salons mitigate styling risks. Innovations like contactless and low-friction checkout systems mirror e-commerce convenience. Additionally, automated warehouses enhance operational efficiency, optimizing service quality and speed. The technologies that make the most impact are those that go beyond the initial hype and are embraced and actively utilized through customer interactions. A perfect illustration of this is self-checkout systems.”

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s May 2024 issue.

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