Retail Technology Firm Natural Insight Teams with
Snack Box USA to Debut Groundbreaking Workforce Management Solution
Quick Serve Restaurant with locations in Walmart, deploys system
that leverages Secure iPads, Square and cloud based workforce management
NEW YORK, NY, January 14, 2013 — Natural Insight®, a private retail technology company engaged in workforce management, announced today at the National Retail Federation’s 102nd Annual Convention and Expo that in conjunction with QSR customer Snack Box™, it has introduced a groundbreaking workforce management system for remotely managing staff, in-store procedures and daily activities.
The system is notable in that it leverages and integrates new and low-cost technologies, to include secure in-store iPads®; Square™ for cash management and credit card processing; remote device configuration and control; and staff scheduling, timekeeping and task management. In-store “out-of-the-box” deployment can take less than 30 minutes.
Stefan Midford, CEO of Natural Insight stated that “this was the perfect match of a retail industry segment (QSR) seeking improved methods for deploying new technologies into stores, and our firm, that prides itself in offering customers significantly reduced capital investment and shorter lead times than ever seen before.”
Snack Box has opened the first of many planned locations inside Wal-Mart stores and selected Natural Insight as its preferred workforce management solution. This allows centralized oversight of in-store retail execution activity, improved accuracy, accountability and deeper understanding of real-time activity. The new system provides an easily accessed, touch screen communication link to workers that aids in speeding numerous in-store work processes.
Snack Box CEO David Hoodis, an industry veteran, stated that “our ability to deploy quickly and effectively was enabled by working with a single provider of integrated services. Natural Insight brought us not only meaningful innovation in a compressed timeline, but teamed us with an exceptional and professional staff.”
With planned locations in Walmart stores nationwide, a simple unified platform that allowed a consistent level of high quality service across all restaurants was important. All stores receive identical systems, identical training and identical look and feel ensuring that the experience in each store is the same.
In addition to its fully managed and hosted solution, Natural Insight reduces the burden on IT by providing all staging, configuration, and on-going monitoring of the iPads. Delivering on its promise of out-of-the-box task management, Natural Insight can setup the iPads and ship them to stores fully equipped with secured mounts, instructions, and everything the store manager needs to get up-and-running in minutes.
Natural Insight customers benefit from a centralized database across all stores and an ability to drill down to specific activity status that includes verification of work completed as well as outstanding tasks remaining. In addition, retailers are now equipped to provide guidance and work tasks for the day. With careful attention to the user experience and testing of usability Snack Box is able to quickly grow without the need for extensive training or support.
About Snack Box
Snack Box, with planned locations within many Walmart stores, is a quick service restaurant (QSR) that was built from the ground up with 100% focus on putting the customer first. The company operates with a staff of “snackologists” that put an emphasis on quality, service, efficiency and flexibility. Headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, Snack Box LLC has teamed with some of the best designers in the industry to identify superior and efficient technologies for food preparation and delivery, allowing for freshness all day. Store managers grow to own equity in the company. Visit www.snackboxusa.com.
About Natural Insight
Natural Insight is a private retail technology company with a distinguishing feature – outstanding user loyalty to the product. The company’s innovative, cloud-based platform significantly improves sales, reduces overhead and provides real-time workforce activity feedback that motivates high performance. Through an integrated suite of solutions focused on scheduling, task management, data reporting and timekeeping, large numbers of workers are empowered to complete assignments with significantly less effort. Providing services across a broad cross-section of the retail industry, Natural Insight is used by major retailers and servicing companies to improve execution and manage in-store merchandising, assisted sales, magazine and book distribution, product demos, and store audits. Visit www.naturalinsight.com.
iPad is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc.
Walmart is a registered trademark of Walmart Stores Inc.
Square is a trademark of Square, Inc.
Snack Box is trademark of Snack Box USA.
The latest issue of Competitive Edge by Willard Bishop Consulting examines how retailers and manufacturers are dealing with assortment planning in stores around the country. Some categories need more product variance than others based on geography. Localization of promotions, price and assortment is a way for stores and brands to increase sales and market share in a difficult and competitive environment.
Factors such as the recent Wal-Mart announcement of a $6 billion investment in price matching have raised the importance of a trading partner being able to understand the market on a local level. They will need to know which categories are driven by purchase behaviors that demand the right product at the right price at the right time versus not investing time and money into those that do not.
The report says that true localization is being held up by out-dated tools that rely on POS data and rules-based segmentation. But better use of shopper data is now making it possible to measure active shopper behavior and demand across many retailers and geographies at the same time. The result could be a wide-spread acceptance of localization in assortment planning.
A greater move toward localization will mean greater opportunity for the members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing services community. Matching product assortment with local needs calls for more category resets and new item cut-ins and will require service companies to actively manage that work to provide for the variances. It is a great chance to show how the members of NARMS have invested in people, training and systems to meet and exceed the needs of their manufacturer and retailer partners in both shopper marketing data gathering and retail execution.
To prepare and learn more about localized assortment planning, download the latest issue of Competitive Edge by Willard Bishop Consulting.
The term Shopper Marketing has enjoyed a high profile for the past few years and the basic principles of gaining insight, identifying real shopper needs and executing programs to fulfill those needs has enjoyed success. In a recent blog, Supermarket News Editor-in-Chief David Orgel advises practitioners to strive for Shopper Marketing programs that engage shoppers for long periods of time and avoid the temptation of quick gains by using overly aggressive price promotion.
The main point of the blog is that Shopper Marketing should not be about price promotion or short term sales gain, but should address the needs of the shopping behavior and meet business objectives of the manufacturer and retailer trading partners. Orgel cites a couple of strong examples initiated by Walgreen’s and Wal-Mart/Procter & Gamble that have legs and go far beyond focusing on short term wins.
Whether it has been Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) initiatives, Category Management practices or now Shopper Marketing, the members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing service industry have played a vital role in executing the tactics in-store. Seamless, flawless execution can keep these programs on the straight-and-narrow by allowing plans to work as designed.
The practice of Shopper Marketing does indeed have legs when executed with its founding principles in mind. The last six-feet to the aisle and shelf can be the longest stretch that these programs have to travel. The members of NARMS provide the legs (and arms) to make sure that the promises of Shopper Marketing practices continue on a long term path to purchase.
Supermarket News recently released the latest version of their annual Center Store Outlook survey. In his Viewpoints blog, Editor-in-Chief David Orgel takes a look at some of the changing perceptions that grocery retailers hold toward their most pressing competition. The easy answer is that alternative formats who add food items are the culprit. The survey suggests that grocers are learning to deal with some threats, but others are gaining a foothold.
The first threat that comes to mind is Wal-Mart. But the survey says that the perceived threat is declining and is possibly being replaced by others. The 2009 version of the survey said that 64 percent of participants listed Wal-Mart as the number one threat, 50 percent in 2010 and down to 45 percent in 2011. This year that number fell to 34 percent. Compare that to the 23 percent who listed dollars stores as the number one threat this year. Club stores and limited assortment retailers came in third and fourth respectively.
The competitive pressure felt by grocers is ongoing with other channels seeing the value of carrying food in tough economic times. When asked how they plan to battle the alternative format threat, retailers mostly said with private label and pricing strategies. Some said that do not really know and need help in that area.
Another answer is to fight off the advances of other players by executing everything better in-store, everyday. Why give your customers a reason to shop for food at a non-food retailer?
The at-retail merchandising and marketing services industry is made up of trained and experienced professionals. The members of NARMS have services and reporting technology that can ensure that out-of-stocks are held to a bare minimum. They keep shelves stocked, cut-in new products quickly, build displays, place POP, audit, mystery shop, execute category resets and perform product sampling at a time when store staffs are being cut and in-house resources are hard to find. All of this enhances the customer experience and protects market share.
Two recent news items underline the need for exceptional execution at shelf level and the value of at-retail merchandising and marketing service providers who are on the front lines of retail every day. The industry will be getting together in one short month for The Retail Merchandising & Marketing Conference (RMMC). The event will be held on April 14-17, 2012 at Saddlebrook Resort, north of Tampa.
In mid-February, the chief merchandising officer of Wal-Mart told a group of suppliers that the retail giant could boost U.S. sales by $5 billion per year by keeping store shelves fully stocked. The company later said the amount was a rough estimate designed to motivate employees and suppliers, but the point was delivered loud and clear. Wal-Mart does currently work with a NARMS member to walk the aisles and monitor for out-of-stocks.
Another news item reported on an AisleBuyer study that said 75 percent of consumers would switch brands if offered real-time mobile promotions by a competitive product delivered to their smartphones while shopping in a store aisle. The promotion and the medium are more important to smartphone owners than brand loyalty. With these factors making a major difference, it is not hard to imagine what would happen if the consumer encountered an out-of-stock after getting the promotion. A major opportunity missed.
The issue with out-of-stocks is simple: if it is not on the shelf, it is not for sale. Even the largest retailer and the most savvy brand marketer are a prisoner to that simple truth. Luckily, the members of NARMS are experts at providing merchandising services in-store that can greatly reduce out-of-stocks, boost the bottom line and enhance brand loyalty and market share.
The members of NARMS are getting together at the RMMC to discuss these and many other important topics. A voice from every member of the association is crucial to the future of the association and the industry. If you have not already registered, the only thing missing is you! The agenda and conference registration, as well as sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities for the 2012 RMMC are available now at the Conference Center on www.narms.com. #RMMC561
In a week that saw Wal-Mart move the U.S. marketing team under the direction of their chief merchandising officer, SymphonyIRI Group released the latest edition of Times & Trends which calls merchandising the platform to communicate value to the consumer. For members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing services industry, this is more evidence that the importance of in-store is ever increasing in the minds of brand marketers and retailers.
Wal-Mart says that their move is designed to better coordinate communication between the merchandising and marketing groups. They see the two previously separate functions as transforming due to the Internet, social media and mobile technology. SymphonyIRI defines merchandising as displays, feature ads, feature and display combined and price promotion. Their findings may have something to do with the Wal-Mart move. Here are a few of the positive trends:
-Merchandising support is increasing in 47% of categories across CPG channels. Drug channel merchandising activity is outpacing the grocery channel and the industry.
-CPG marketers are focusing their support toward home-based food rituals.
-Merchandising support of private label remains below that of national brands, but the gap is closing.
- Categories seeing the highest lift across merchandising tactics are well-represented by those that cater to recession-driven behaviors.
Times and Trends goes on to reinforce that shopper marketing, an individual level 360 degree view of the consumer, is the most effective current marketing program. Merchandising tactics that have been around for a long time have found new life as a way to support the shopper marketing approach.
The members of NARMS are well positioned to help retailers and manufacturers fully usher in this new age. Price promotions do not work if consumers do not find the products on-shelf. Displays are not effective in the back room. Feature ads need to be met in the store with an equally well executed and consistent message. Great plans can fall apart in the last three feet. You can download the latest Times & Trends report by SymphonyIRI by clicking here.
On Tuesday in Top Shelf , we called your attention to a series of review/preview articles being featured on www.supermarketnews.com. In one quick and easy read, you can get a nice recap on the year that was 2011 and many of the activities that will continue into 2012. All things considered, it was a remarkable year for food retailing with many top players making bold moves to reestablish themselves in a new retailing reality. Today, we will give you a sneak peak at each article and a link for you to read further.
Leading off the series is a look at the return of food inflation and the effects on the marketplace. Author Jon Springer looks at the initial bump provided by price inflation and the resulting anxiety about continuing to pass these costs to the consumer in a time of heavy price promotion.
In his next piece, Springer takes a look at the A&P bankruptcy and the turnaround effort of investor Ron Burkle and his Yucaipa Cos. The plan is to buy A&P out of bankruptcy by this coming February and operate it as a private company.
In the most extensive part of the series, Mark Hamstra reviews merger and acquisition activity for the year. According to The Food Institute, there was a 27% increase in food industry mergers and acquisitions in the first half of 2011 over the same period in 2010.
Elliot Zwiebach chronicles the ongoing efforts at Supervalu in their two-year battle to turn the company around. The company is now confident it has the tools and processes in place to do the job right. The company acknowledges that execution across the board has been holding it back.
Mobile and checkout technology continue to make news on both the part of the retailer and consumer. Author Michael Gerry tracks the ongoing debate over self-checkout and the increased use of smartphone apps being released by retailers.
Hamstra, in his next piece, discusses the focus of many food retailers to fine-tune and refine their positioning in the marketplace. These attempts are resulting in revamps and refreshes to stores around the country.
And finally, Zwiebach looks at the changing face of Wal-Mart as it gets its sales back in a positive direction. The company says that merchandising assortment and presentation resulted in a loss of store traffic.
The common denominator in these stories is change. The good news is that the ever-evolving food retailing marketplace is full of opportunity for members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing service community. In just about every case, at-retail execution is still a daunting challenge for retailers and manufacturers alike.
As documented by Supermarket News, Kantar Retail has recently released the 15th Annual PowerRanking Report. The report annually lists the best manufacturer and retailers. An important aspect of this report is that these rankings represent how trading partners see each other. In doing so, trends of the most successful brands in retailing are identified. Kantar Retail uses the QR Code as a theme for the report, but quickly points out that Quick Response is more than just a scanned link to more information. It is a metaphorical link to successful alignment and integration between the very best trading partners.
As a clever marketing tie-in, the cover of the PowerRanking Executive Summary features a QR Code that when scanned by a smart phone or mobile device brings you to a narrative welcome video. The report itself is on sale once you arrive, although the Executive Summary is complimentary.
The Supermarket News story does a good job of summarizing and top lining the report for those who want a quick glance at the information. P&G, Kraft, General Mills, PepsiCo and Unilever rank near the top of the list among CPG manufacturers. Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Publix, Wegmens, H-E-B, CVS, Walgreens and Safeway make up the top ten among retailers.
We now see QR Codes all over the retail environment as well as other aspects of our daily living, and are likely to see more in the near future. It is predictable that their use will become a necessity. But the concept of Quick Response is perhaps more important than the technology behind it. It is evident in the Kantar Retail PowerRanking Report that responsiveness and collaboration among trading partners is vital to success at retail and is the common denominator connecting those at the top of the list.
Add one more trading partner to the mix. The members of NARMS are important in delivering on the promise of Quick Response. Professional at-retail merchandising and marketing companies can be the conduit in which responsiveness between retailers and suppliers is delivered.
A main selling proposition used by NARMS members to secure business has come to the forefront in a big way. Amid stiff competition, shrinking margins and shrinking labor budgets, store workers have less time to stock shelves. A vivid example of this was brought to light last week when it was revealed in Bloomberg Businessweek that Wal-Mart has brought in third-party at-retail agencies to help them with a growing out-of-stock problem.
According to the story, the retail giant has hired at-retail merchandising and marketing service firms to visit stores and track out-of-stocks. The main driver for the problem is an attempt to return thousands of items to store shelves that had been removed as a result of a failed sku rationalization attempt. The surge has resulted in crowded storage space and pressure on thin store staffs.
What was once a case study for merchandising and moving products has become a case study for the value of third-party, in-store labor. The now classic Merchandising Gap theory, which has been around over a decade, seems to resonate better now than ever. The theory explains that dwindling at-retail resources combined with increased use of sales building in-store initiatives creates a gap that retailers struggle to fill. In the case of Wal-Mart, the blitz of new products has widened the gap even further.
The good news is that Wal-Mart has realized that the members of NARMS are perfectly suited to fill the Merchandising Gap. These professionals in store-level execution provide trained and experienced retail merchandisers that can be deployed at retail locations across the country. Their services are designed to fit into the go-to-market plans, and budgets, of CPG manufacturers and retailers alike. Many programs result in sales lifts that more than pay for the service, so it is not just a cost of doing business.
Take a few minutes to read the story and then share it with your sales staffs, associates, customers and prospects. It provides a crystal clear example of who NARMS members are and what they do.
Supermarket News recently held their 2011 SN Analysts Roundtable and the takeaways were not encouraging for CPG companies, retailers or consumers. The roundtable is an annual event that has been staged by the trade publication for 16 straight years. The story, by Elliot Zwiebach, includes the full text of the discussions with each panelist. Inflation and a sluggish economy are seen as the culprits for the pessimism.
Some of the analysts believe that we will see food inflation of 5-8% at the end of 2011 leading into a very tough 2012. They believe that rationality has kept things in check so far this year, but may not be enough to sustain the recovery. High rates of unemployment are seen to be getting worse causing more trade down. Enhanced uncertainty could eventually wear down that rational behavior.
Passing along costs to the consumer may not work as a remedy for trading partners. So far, the recovery had seen the middle class purchasing less. That is a new dynamic for our economy and has damaged the retail industry. The use of private label as an incentive to keep prices down has worked to some degree, but some of the analysts see that pace slowing.
It is difficult to predict who might break the mold. The analysts disagree on who is in a better position to come out on top. Some believe that giants like Wal-Mart and Kroger are best suited to withstand industry pressure because they can invest selectively in price.
It is no fun to read bad news about the supermarket industry because that is where many members of NARMS, professional at-retail merchandising and marketing service companies, operate every day. What is encouraging is that manufacturers and retailers are looking for answers. In tough economic times, store staffs shrink even as in-store promotion grows. A third-party provider offers the best solution to execute shelf and aisle level activities that are proven to augment sales and support brand building initiatives. Take a few moments out of your busy day to read and digest what this expert roundtable is telling us about the supermarket industry. You can link to the story by clicking here.