Grocery Roundup: Sam’s Club, Albertsons Automate Inventory Management

What Sam’s Club Learned During Lockdown

As grocers’ labor challenges persist, major brands are looking to automation to complete would-be time-intensive tasks with greater efficiency and ideally greater consistency.

Walmart-owned, membership-based warehouse club chain Sam’s Club announced in a Thursday (Jan. 27) press release that it has begun deploying Inventory Scan robots that gather data on item availability and placement as they scrub aisles.

The machines, created by robotic artificial intelligence (AI) software company Brain Corp., gather information on pricing, stock, planogram compliance and more.

“By adding Inventory Scan to our current fleet of robotic scrubbers, we obtain critical inventory data that previously was time consuming to obtain,” Todd Garner, vice press of In Club Product Management at Sam’s Club, said in the release. “This intelligence allows us to proactively manage our clubs in an efficient manner. Inventory Scan assures items are available and easy to locate in the club, freeing up time for our associates to focus on members and the shopping experience they deserve.”

This investment in inventory management could be key for the warehouse club chain, which relies on its shelf-stocking for customer acquisition and loyalty building.

“In our research, if members say they could find their item easily, their net promoter score goes up,” Tim Simmons, senior vice president and chief product officer at Sam’s Club, told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in a July interview. “If they have a struggle with it, it goes down. So, we have a number of initiatives that we’re looking at for helping members find their items.”

Read more: Sam’s Club Touts 90% Re-Use Rate for Its Touchless Checkout and Delivery Tech

Albertsons Leverages AI to Boost Margins on Produce Sales

Sam’s Club is not the only grocery retailer leveraging AI to bring increased efficiency to its inventory. Also Thursday, major grocer Albertsons Companies, which owns a range of popular grocery brands including its self-titled chains, Safeway, Vons and Jewel-Osco, announced in a press release that it will be implementing new AI-powered solutions to assist in acquiring and selling fresh foods.

The company will implement solutions from tech provider Afresh, using Afresh’s predictive capabilities to be more exact in forecasting demand and purchasing fresher foods. These sorts of solutions can help grocers both reduce the amount of products they will buy and then discard, a sunk cost, as well as help them avoid under-stocking in-demand items, boosting sales.

“We are now able to improve our processes to better manage our fresh product supply and provide our store teams with a tool to better predict demand and monitor inventory,” Susan Morris, executive vice president and chief operations officer of Albertsons Companies, said in the release. “Managing these variables ultimately allows us to offer our customers even higher quality fresh products and further reduce our food waste.”

Giant Eagle Aims to Increase Loyalty Program Personalization

In additional data analytics news Thursday, Giant Eagle, the Pennsylvania-based chain operating 470 stores across five states, announced in a press release the selection of a new technology partner to improve its loyalty program’s personalization. The company is implementing marketing technology company Eagle Eye’s AIR platform meant to boost the effectiveness of digital offers.

“We’re excited to partner with Eagle Eye to advance and accelerate our efforts to bring our customers the most personalized and rewarding loyalty platform in North America,” said Justin Weinstein, vice president of Customer Experience at Giant Eagle, in the release.

Loyalty rewards and offers that are relevant to the individual customer can go a long way toward driving grocery spending, as is revealed by data from PYMNTS’ report “Decoding Customer Affinity: The Customer Loyalty to Merchants Survey 2022,” created in collaboration with Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions. The study, which surveyed a census-balanced panel of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, found that 42% of shoppers said “loyalty programs with rewards I like” would improve their loyalty to their grocer.

Get the report: The Customer Loyalty To Merchants Survey 2022

Additionally, research from PYMNTS’ August study “What Consumers Expect From Their Grocery Shopping Experience,” created in collaboration with ACI Worldwide, found that 61% of grocery loyalty program members reported that they spend more at grocery stores that have loyalty programs, and 63% said loyalty programs impact their decisions about which grocery stores to use.

Read more: Digital Features Can Help Grocers Win Over 43% of Shoppers

Instacart Steps up Ad Offering for Brands

As grocers are stepping up their digital marketing capabilities, so too are the aggregators with which they both collaborate and compete. Instacart announced in a Wednesday (Jan. 26) press release a suite of new marketing products for brands, including branded pages and new display ads.

Products such as these allow the aggregator, which peddles in the notoriously thin-margined delivery space for the similarly thin-margined grocery industry, to bring in an additional revenue stream, monetizing the eyes on its platform for brands’ benefit.

“We know the way consumers shop on Instacart varies. Some people head straight for a specific aisle to browse, and some start with the ‘Buy It Again’ carousel … while others have a list of items already in mind or might use the search function to find inspiration,” Ryan Mayward, vice president of Ad Sales at Instacart, said in the release. “As more people turn to Instacart … we’re focused on creating unique ways to help brands engage consumers throughout their online shopping journey.”