The Greta Effect: How Retailers Can Use Technology For Change

If you had access to the Internet the last week or so, you probably heard about Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN. In case you didn’t, she made an emotional appeal to world leaders on behalf of Gen-Z (born after 1996) to start acting on the quickly deteriorating health of our planet, so that future generations can enjoy a healthy planet as well. Global heating is here and Greta’s generation (Gen-Z) is demanding change, urging companies to put our planet before profit.

Grocery & convenience retail have historically been polluting industries. The main issues the sector struggles with are

1) Plastic pollution (More information: The GuardianHuffPostNational Geographic)
2) Food waste (More information: WWFCNBC).

So, what can retailers do? There are many options to consider. For example SuperValu, an Irish grocery retailer, decided to ditch plastic bags in favour of compostable bags, Walmart announced a dozen or so eco-friendly initiatives and companies like Package Free raised fresh funding to tackle the issue from the supply side.

Although these initiatives are very welcome (and we at Intouch.com support them very much) it is unfortunately not enough. Gen-Z will expect more ambitious action from retailers (and in our opinion rightfully so), to act here, now and deliver immediate tangible, scalable results.

There are multiple ways to take action. Without doubt your organisation is probably already acting on a few of them. To spark inspiration for action, here is our take on how we at Intouch.com see how technology and data can drive a more sustainable retail sector:

1) Digitise Your Stores

The key to implementing successful eco-friendly initiatives (i.e. that will be noticed by shoppers) comes down to two things: the speed of change and the scale at which that happens. Digital stores are much better positioned to do exactly that. When I say digital stores, I am not necessarily talking about the Amazon Go type of stores that require significant hardware and software investments. You can start today, without IT integration.

Digitally connected stores will not only capture more data, but more importantly connect digital touch points in-store. When I say digital touch points, I am referring to all digital channels inside the store like handheld scanners, digital signage, ESL’s, digital weighing scales, kiosks, etc. Connecting all digital channels will allow for a centralised, powerful platform to influence behavioural change for shoppers. Here are three ways how we see a connected store influence behaviour:

Eco-friendly, Personalised Promotions

Use digital channels to personalise shopping journeys and prioritise the promotion of eco-friendly products. Forward thinking retailers will go beyond that and implement strategies that push plastic-heavy products down the rank. But there is more that you as a grocery and convenience retailer can do. We know for example that changing our diet can drastically curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Digital connected stores will be the platform to drive this change.

Example of what a promotion could look like, targeting shoppers that regularly buy red wine, but normally buy carbon-heavy beef steak.

Automatically Promoted Perishables

Technology is able to drive cars autonomously; it sure is able to automatically track and promote items in-store that are about to go off. Simple apps, without IT integration, can be used to generate promotions for items that are about to go off. Automated promotions can help retailers solve a multi-billion dollar challenge while helping the environment too.

A mock-up of what an Intouch.com automated promotion of perishable goods could look like.

2) Harness More Data

Data in this day and age is more powerful than oil. There is an abundance of store-level data available that could be used for better decision making at store level. Think current weather info, weather forecasting data, traffic data, social data, open data, demographic information (e.g. age and gender), etc. More data –> more insights –> better forecasting. Extracting insights out of raw data and applying these learnings in a fast, scalable way is the ultimate goal.

Even Better Stock Forecasting

A changing store environment results in a changing buying behaviour for customers. Changing environments around stores (e.g. weather & demographics) can be tracked relatively easy to investigate their impact on sales and to allow for even more effective predictive modelling in the future about what to stock. Intouch.com has developed a unique product indexing approach (Avocado) that gives insight in when to promote what product, unlocking forecasting insights in the future as well.

Optimise Store Layout

The same data used for stock forecasting can also be used to optimise store layouts. It goes without saying that store design has a big impact in how consumer behaviour and therefore what they buy. Data can be used to design stores in an automated way that is optimised to reduce waste, drive profit and lower the carbon carbon footprint of shoppers. Smart, data-driven placement of digital interaction points is one example of how scalable technology (like digital signage) can be introduced in-store to drive significant change.

3) Use Loyalty Data

Most retailers have tremendous insights on what consumers are purchasing through loyalty cards. This data can be used to segment consumers into groups to identify their ecological impact. For example it could encourage shoppers to keep buying products with a lower carbon footprint, if they already do so. The other way around it can also be used to identify the most polluting customers, the ones with the heaviest carbon footprints, and approach them to change behaviour. Retailers that will use data to unlock insights to shoppers will build relationships that go far beyond simple transactional relationships. It is a win-win situation as more data will drive even more insights and profit.

A mock-up of how loyalty card data can be used to guide consumers on their environmental impact.

But also retailers that don’t collect historical purchases through a loyalty scheme can influence anonymous buying behaviour. Data can be taken from receipts and aim to change behaviour through that way. Evocco.com – a Dublin based company – provides exactly that.

4) Comment, Share and Like

When you read this post, you are already using one of the most powerful pieces of technology in this day and age. Let’s use this to our advantage. There are without doubt more creative ideas out there. Let me know what your thoughts are on a sustainable grocery & convenience sector in the comment section below and help us make this an interactive exercise. If you like what you read you can help spread the word by liking and sharing this post. We all have a commitment to future generations, so let’s not wait until it’s too late but drive action right now.

About Intouch.com:

Intouch.com is a technology company helping retailers to implement state-of-the-art technologies in a profitable way, to serve shoppers and our planet better. We have built an AI-platform to help retailers promote the right product, at the right time time, to the right customer without IT integration and in a fully automated way.