Independent grocers told they need to get more social

At the National Grocers Association show, digital technologies and social media solutions had a strong pressence

Go digital and get social. That's the call heard by independent grocery retailers to improve their relationship with shoppers at the National Grocers Association Show in Las Vegas held Feb. 9-12.

With the impending takeover of marketing activities by digital and social media tools, attendees this year saw dozens of vendors selling solutions to get them to the promised land of one-to-one mass marketing.

The annual gathering, which was the largest in NGA history with more than 3,000 retailers, wholesalers and industry partners in attendance, featured more than 40 sessions covering everything from path to purchase analysis and shopper retention programs to local product merchandising and food safety issues.

The key takeaways from the two general sessions was that only by using digital technologies and by deploying social media strategies can independent supermarket retailers expect to differentiate their companies from the competition.

John Phillips, senior vice president, customer supply chain & global go-to-market at PepsiCo, told the audience about a near endless series of technologies available to help the retailer really understand consumers and their path to purchase. He then warned, “Digital technology is really transforming all of our daily lives–there are risks from not acting. Just look at Blockbuster and Kodak, which both had a brand new market to themselves and didn’t act.”

Author Erik Qualman preached about how using social media will provide more insight into shopper intentions than dirty old transaction log data ever could. By using what he called “Socialnomics,” retailers can listen into consumer’s thoughts to understand exactly what products to merchandise and what promotions will be most successful.

On the exhibit floor, dozens of companies were hawking the very latest shopper engagement technology covering everything from loyalty to cause marketing.

One new exhibitor, Engage 3, showed a cool web-based system that builds shopping lists from everyday browsing activities like reading recipes.

Other highlights of the NGA event included Canadian retailer Kudrinko’s Market in Westport, Ont., winning the Progressive Grocer Leading Independents Award, being cited for being the “Greatest in Green.” Kudrinko’s participates in the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers Environmental Sustainability Initiative to monitor its success in reducing the store’s carbon footprint through efforts like installing LED lighting in freezer cases.

Back on the show floor, NGA featured expanded produce, beef and general merchandise pavilions that were sampling their latest product offers to hungry retailers.

Plus, there were no less than five in-store sushi providers, which made walking the show floor much more enjoyable.

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