I recently had the pleasure of joining Alicia Samuel, Longo’s Sr Director of IT for a webinar in which we discussed how grocery retailers are improving their omni-channel supply chain to meet modern shopper demands and, specifically, how Longo’s has evolved to become Canada’s top online grocery retailer. Longo’s, which operates 33 stores in the greater Toronto, Canada area, was founded on the principals of fresh produce and exceptional service, and they have followed those principals since 1956. In this blog, I’ll distill a few key areas from the webinar as it relates to Longo’s priorities – and grocery retail’s future.
Getting closer to customers and creating experiences
Longo’s mantra is that the highest standards are “family standards,” and it lives this mantra through attention to operational and service excellence and interaction with its customers, or as it calls them, “guests.” Its goal is to create a one-to-one relationship with those guests, building emotional attachment and loyalty, to become the preferred destination to shop. The key to Longo’s success lies in the fact that it understands that its guests have changed the way they shop, which means that Longo’s must change the way it interacts with them. They have less time. They’re looking for convenience in their shopping experience – whether in-store or online – but are not willing to compromise quality expectations in the pursuit of convenience.
The goal in all of Longo’s efforts is unparalleled guest experience. It understands that shoppers may visit up to five other grocers, in-store or online, to meet shopping needs. So, how does it differentiate? It works to excite shoppers, help them be “food explorers.” But to continue to be competitive in this fast-paced industry, it must enable store operations to pivot through different options of fulfilling customer needs. Whether that’s online, in the store, click and collect, Longo’s considers all the different pieces and how they fit into their strategy. This means it must have a foundational platform that is nimble and provide the data analytics required to engage shoppers in the way that they expect to be engaged, which is very difficult.
Fresh to the core
Of course, what you sell is just as important as how you sell. Quality of all items, especially fresh and prepared foods, is a critical part of the customer experience. Do fresh items meet loyal guests’ expectations? Are these items available equally in-store and online and at the same quality level? Can they be delivered to customers quickly with low cost-to-serve? Longo’s has built its business examining these questions and understands that its ability to meet these challenges it one of its key differentiators. Fresh, wholesome food delivered with exceptional service is what they were founded on. You can work to know the customer, make it about the experience, focus on omnichannel, but if the quality isn’t there, everything else will fall apart.
So, of course, when it considers fresh, Longo’s considers its inventory management. Are the apples that it sells coming through the system and landing on shelves as fresh as possible? Is the business able to easily monitor how its holding and managing inventory daily? Are systems equipped to provide executive and managers a “single version of the truth” when it comes to all inventory activity and movement across the entire supply chain? Longo’s puts great effort into ensuring that the answers to all of these questions is “yes.”
Aligning the omni-channel supply chain to the expectations at the shelf
For Longo’s, IT modernization is always on the agenda. It undergoes consistent and regular evaluation of its systems and executes renovations to existing systems and replacement of legacy systems when needed to enable it to achieve its core goals. It ensures that foundational back-end systems are ready and that data analytics strategies are ready and able to support growth and meet the ever-changing demands of the market.
To this end, Longo’s updated its back-end systems to provide an integrative and agile end-to-end system to replace out of date systems and unify its entire omni-channel supply chain. It leveraged Symphony RetailAI to make changes to and modernize supply chain, store ordering, receiving, vendor management and product-mastered demand planning applications. The change was substantial, but key to help them maintain their edge over the competition and continue to drive successful growth.
The end goal is to have one version of the truth for our data to make better decisions and to have predictive capability in our demand forecasting and more accuracy in our inventory. That leads to the right assortment in front of their customers with the right pricing – all the while being able to provide a more personalized experience.
Alicia Samuel, Director IT Business Solutions, Longo’s
From back-end to the shelf, retailers are looking to next generation solutions, including AI
As Longo’s experienced, outdated legacy systems can substantially hamper retailers’ abilities to meet the customer expectations, create experiences, even to deliver on core product availability. This is why many retailers today are exploring next generation solutions, including AI-enabled, in order to create more agile, accurate and insightful operations for every part of their businesses. From descriptive analytics, in the form of easily created reports and dashboards that help with master data and replenishment, to machine learning that drills down and updates forecasting models as you go, to deep learning that enables the machine to be much more predictive and prescriptive, grocers can better plan for the supply chain and provide their guests the best experience possible.