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It’s no secret that today’s consumer is tech-obsessed. Smartphones have slashed the average attention span, online shopping is on the rise, and hundreds of mobile apps aimed at making life easier launch every day. Some of us are so attached to our devices that we’re even sleeping with them.

So why – in the age of same-day delivery, personalized e-coupons, and one-click shopping – are so many food retailers actively choosing to ignore digital and, as a result, the demands of their customers? And how can grocers who want to get ahead use digital and e-commerce to not only deliver an exceptional customer experience but drive profits?

The answer to the first question might lie in anxiety around the complicated logistics of delivering fresh, quality goods to customers, or fears that already razor-thin profit margins will shrink even further if the venture is unsuccessful.

Or maybe it’s based in worry over the perceived time and financial commitment implementing new technology requires. But the reality is that fear and anxiety are no longer valid excuses for lagging behind, and depending on technology alone isn’t the solution, either.

While digital transformation and e-commerce offerings are now necessary to remain competitive in food retail, grocers can only succeed at this by bridging the data gap with comprehensive scalable software solutions.

Grocery’s current data disconnect

In the old world of grocery, the category manager was king, overseeing all aspects of merchandising, from supply chain and vendor relationships to pricing and promotions. Then came the dawn of the digital age, and with it, a new player in the quest for power: e-commerce.

But even today, with the digital age well underway, many grocers still view e-commerce as an outside threat to business rather than as an ally that can be shaped to drive it. And among grocers that have tried to embrace digital and venture into e-commerce, there is frequently a data disconnect between their category manager (merchandising) and e-commerce (marketing), creating new problems rather than solving existing ones.

Tales of dueling online and print promos that essentially enabled savvy customers to get products for free aren’t mere folklore – they’re real, and they’re just one example of what can happen to grocers that don’t have access to real-time, scalable data across the enterprise that can be used to approach customers from a unified front. 

Of course, the disconnect isn’t just between marketing and merchandising; it extends far deeper than that to the supply chain, financials, vendor relationships, and across the enterprise. For many traditional grocers without an integrated software infrastructure, entering into e-commerce will always be a “let’s try this and see what happens” experiment rather than a well-thought out strategy based on data analysis and predictive analytics.

It isn’t enough to simply throw technology at the problem – such a reactionary, myopic take on digital transformation just isn’t viable in the long-term. To be successful, your approach must be calculated, holistic, and based on data analysis.

A unified, data-driven future

Despite the current data disconnect, there are some traditional grocers that are ahead of the digital curve:

  • Loblaw: In Canada, Loblaw has used data-based testing to make “click and collect” e-commerce not just successful but profitable.
  • Brookshire Grocery: In the southern region of the U.S., there’s Brookshire’s, which, although still in the early stages of digital transformation, is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition because of new enterprise resource planning technology that’s optimizing its supply chain and enabling an enhanced omnichannel customer experience.
  • Kroger: Finally, there’s Kroger, the grocery giant that snagged exclusive rights to Tesco’s e-commerce marketing solutions more than 10 years ago, and has been collecting and using customer data to its advantage ever since.

These grocers aren’t relying on technology alone to break into e-commerce. They’ve figured out how to bridge the data disconnect by using leading-edge, integrated software solutions to capture huge swaths of customer data, and then translate that data into actionable insights that deliver on customer expectations and drive profits.

To learn more about how you can get on their level and turn your data into insight, visit SAP at booth #2035 at this year’s FMI Connect event in Chicago, Illinois, from June 20 through June 23.

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