Interview by Symphony RetailAI’s Paul Hoffman. Evan Anthony presented at Xcelerate Retail Forum 2017.
From your perspective, what has been the biggest change in the Retail and CPG industries over the last 10 years?
In addition to technology and data, talent. But when I say that, I’m coming at it from the perspective of it not just being about having the smartest people (it’s really not about that). I’m talking about having people with a mindset of change, a mindset of risk. Those willing to innovate.
To take this a little further, when I started at Kroger, we had essentially two generations we were dealing with – baby boomers and seniors. Store managers and marketers today must keep up with 5 generations of customers. How do you deal with this? You’ve got to have the talent that knows how to manage the various expectations. Customers’ expectations have changed. There’s the expectation around technology… this whole “We know you” mentality from retailers and brands. The customer is saying “Ok, do it, I’m in.” So, if you can’t deliver, they’re saying “Hey you say you know me, but you can’t deliver.” You must be able to deliver, and your talent is the foundation for all this. Outside of the normal business-market competitive, economic pressures that all retailers face, if you don’t have the right talent thinking the right way, willing to take the chances, it will be very hard for you to succeed. Today, some people just don’t want to take innovative risks, but your company needs that.
Some of this involves what I call the “right to innovate.” Companies say they want to innovate, but they don’t really believe themselves. They say one thing, and then they do something else. They say, for example, that the customer is at the center of what they do, but really, it’s the shareholders. When you see companies that put the customer in the center of the ring, and then move the shareholders to the outer part of the circle, you see success for everyone! Again, you must have the talent that realizes what’s important and will do it – willing to make the changes. Those that don’t keep up, get left out. It doesn’t make a difference how big you think you are.
Where do you think the next significant change or area of focus will come from?
Customers have a choice. Retailers have asked the customer for more and more personal data with a promise of providing stronger personalized value based on knowing them better. At some point, the customer will ask: “Know me, don’t just say you know me. Show me how you know me.” The customer will hold all of us accountable to deliver what we promise! So, you say you want to know me, show me! For example, take Facebook. For the most part, they send me targeted product ads that are meaningful to me. They’ve paid attention to me. They’ve shown me that they are getting to know me.
Question: How many company rewards/loyalty programs have you signed up for but rarely, if at all, get any offers/communications from?
Editor’s note: As his bio indicates, Evan has been long focused on the customer. He was part of the executive team that created Kroger’s “Customer 1st” initiative, which grew household count by over 40% and company total sales by over $49 billion from 2003-2013.
Why did you agree to speak at last year’s Xcelerate Retail Forum?
I’m passionate about what I’ve done and what I do. It’s simple. I love serving customers. You have the opportunity to make somebody’s day better. You know that experience when you have it. You walk into a store and you get that one person and you say to yourself, “Damn, that person is strong.” We’re so used to people just going through the mechanics and, for whatever reason, not truly having passion for the customer. I want to share my views on this with the Xcelerate audience.
Can you give attendees a sneak peek at the main themes of your presentation and what they will learn?
I want to help them to begin to think about how they can accelerate their go-to-market strategy, knowing they don’t have the luxury of deep pockets and waiting for slow growth. You don’t have that time anymore. Businesses need to start off in the black, they don’t get months and years to make it happen. I’d like to convey some of the things I have learned in my career. For example, Kroger gave me the right to innovate!
Secondly, I’ll cover a bit of budget strategy. How do you invest over here and where are you going to get it from? It’s a zero-sum game. You don’t get until you give. You make choices – what’s going to hurt you the least so you can move to invest in what will help you the most. At Kroger, I held the marketing investment flat as the company doubled total sales. It still can be done. I’m passionate about finding ways to spend money differently. For example, moving money out of print to digital. You’ve got to invest where the customer is and where they are going!
Describe yourself in a few words.
Passion for people. Passion for results. I’m “all in” every day!
Learn more about Xcelerate Retail Forum.