Xcelerate Retail Las Vegas: Key takeaways

Customer-centricity. Fighting back against Amazon. Ever-changing consumer demand. Technology enablers.

From Dr. Pallab Chatterjee’s opening keynote to the closing words at Xcelerate Retail Forum 2017 in Las Vegas, what resonated throughout the two-and-a-half-day conference were the seismic changes in the market impacting retailers and consumer packaged goods firms (CPGs).

Even though I’m an employee and may be a bit biased, I’ve not been to a conference where there was so much consistency in the messaging from the collective group of world-class speakers (except for the Xcelerate Forum in Paris last year!). And it wasn’t just what was coming from the stage; I was involved in conversations where retailers and CPGs were nodding in agreement at each other’s experiences and challenges, and how so much of what was being raised in sessions was directly hitting at the core of what they’re dealing with to adapt and change.

Some key trends that bring us to our current state of preparing and planning for what’s ahead:

  • “Just bring me the food” – Life is busier and more complicated and we have moved from planning ahead to buy our groceries to wanting instant satisfaction with fresh, quality food prepared delivered to our door. This shift is changing the type and volume of trips we make to the store.
  • Lifestyle & experience – Retailers strategize on price wars, but becoming more relevant will create winners. RSR Research gave the following advice based on their studies:
    • Focus less on price, more on customer experience & product availability 
    • Focus less on superior product design, more on differentiated service and deep customer insights
  • Prepared food space and the impact of store change – The future store of 2020 will look much different as a result of the changing consumer. “Center store” will shrink and much of those products will go online. New competitive models – Amazon Whole foods, Aldi and Lidl for example – will fight for consumer dollars. Busier lifestyles will increasingly lead to quick trips to the store where shoppers will look more to prepared foods. And though center store may shrink, the proliferation of Grocerants and increase in prepared foods will have expanding influence and popularity with shoppers, adding to the ever-evolving store of the future.
  • Shifting strategies to reinvent ourselves in the grocery industry – A fire has been lit, forcing us to re-invent ourselves, rethink our strategy and to do it quickly. It’s “do or die” as Amazon has forced us to look in the mirror. We need to think like consumers, understand their ever-evolving demands, which leads to the last point . . .
  • Technology as an enabler – To truly understand our customers and serve them, we must work more efficiently, moving towards predictive approaches with machine learning. We have to show our customers that we know them, that we take their data for a reason – to make their experience better. The market is moving at lightning speed. Amazon has upped the game, the fast will beat the slow.

As fitting to the themes of the conference, Symphony Retail Solutions, the combination of Symphony EYC & Symphony GOLD, announced a new cycle of investment, a platform for winning which will leverage Artificial Intelligence and enable rapid innovation, better tying CPG to retailer together.

Graeme Cooksley talked about how change is constant. With a specific niche in Retail Grocery, it was no surprise he talked about how our retail grocers are achieving record efficiencies and how advancements enable elimination of waste from farm (actual planting time of the seeds) through to execution to the consumer, with more scientific advancement coming to support fresh product management.

As this article by Progressive Grocer aptly points out, there is a need for speed in grocery these days. Those that hesitate may have some hard lessons ahead.

Learn more about Xcelerate Retail Forum.

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