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GroceryShop 2019 concluded last week after four content-packed days at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The event was notable for the topics it chose to spotlight and the purpose behind its various sessions. Here’s a brief synopsis of what stood out.

The following is a shorter, free blog version of Kantar’s perspective on GroceryShop. For the complete version of this article with more thoughts, details, and implications, please see this link.

Over 3,000 attendees representing a host of brands, retailers, startups, marketing agencies, investment companies, and consulting firms assembled to hear and share perspectives on the challenging market facing CPG today. While the event had a large cohort of well-known industry companies, the startup sessions stood out for their diversity in technology and innovative solutions which they brought to the table. Many of these smaller companies are still finding their feet, but have big hopes of finding additional brand, retail, or investment partners to take their business to the next level. At GroceryShop, the opportunity to meet and converse with a potential business partner was just as, if not more, important than what the conference sessions alone could teach attendees.

If there was a central truth that permeated the conversation at GroceryShop, it was that shoppers, rather than brands and retailers, are in the driver’s seat of the retail marketplace. With more options and choices, shoppers have become more demanding and more fragmented. Having the right data to reach your customers is more important than ever before, yet there is rarely one path to reaching one’s customers. GroceryShop refused to provide solutions in the abstract, and instead relied on the firsthand solutions and strategies employed by dozens of its presenters. Regardless of the strategy chosen, shoppers want to know that the brands and retailers in their lives care about what’s important to them.

Many of the organizations at GroceryShop reflected the sentiment that corporations are not only beholden to create shareholder value, but are also responsible for broader civic, environmental, employee, and shopper welfare. Shoppers appreciate and reward brands that show a commitment to the common good so long as it’s compatible with that company’s products and area expertise. Boxed CEO Chieh Huang shared his own experiences of growing up in a working class family, and how that inspires him to provide more benefits (such as free college tuition) to his own workers. And in today’s tight labor market, even larger organizations are feeling the pinch to offer more to their employees to keep them satisfied.

The majority of talks given by external presenters incorporated some aspect of technological innovation such as automation, big data utilization, systems integration, sensors and tracking, or other digital solutions. These advances will require significant changes from retailers and brands. In the past 50 years, companies have exceled at optimizing their businesses, driving out ever smaller inefficiencies to streamline their operations and supply chain. Yet these new startups and technologies presented at GroceryShop will require players to take new and unexplored approaches. At one presentation, Dave Marcotte, Kantar’s own SVP of Cross-Industry & Technology, stated, “I don’t pay much attention to driverless cars. But driverless trucking is important. We have a shortage of 75,000 drivers in this country.” The most efficient company today may find its honed processes provides no competitive edge over new players who are leapfrogging their advantage with digitally enabled solutions. While the challenges that grocery and CPG faces today are daunting, there are more options than ever before to achieve success.

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