Ashley Nickle is The Packer's retail editor and editor of Produce Retailer magazine. ( The Packer staff )

LAS VEGAS — Retailers and consumer packaged goods companies have been making major investments to be relevant in the increasingly important online space, and new event Groceryshop showed how they are doing it.

I found the conference to be an informative and well-rounded look at how the grocery industry is evolving. In my view, it was a great resource on what is coming next, allowing companies to prepare accordingly.

As I listened to dozens of presenters over the span of a few days, I thought about how Produce Marketing Association leaders are always encouraging industry members to look beyond the produce world for different perspectives on changing consumer behaviors and expectations. 

For me, Groceryshop was a great opportunity to do exactly that.

Attendees got to hear executives from major retailers discuss their plans related to online grocery, which is projected to grow significantly in the coming years. 

Kroger and Albertsons talked about their plans for automated fulfillment centers, and Schnucks announced it will be adding shelf-monitoring robots to more of its stores.

E-commerce solutions company Chicory discussed how it partnered with Avocados From Mexico to make all the recipes on its site “shoppable,” creating a smoother path from inspiration to purchase.

Wakefern spoke about how its brands have built an omnichannel presence and the positive response it has seen from shoppers.

Other speakers included leaders from some of the companies bringing new elements to the industry, including Instacart, Plated and Ocado Solutions.

Market researchers, professors, consulting firms and others also contributed perspective, as did major CPG companies like Kraft Heinz, Campbell’s and Coca-Cola.

Groceryshop featured a wide range of topics, from creating impulse sales online to collecting new kinds of data. 

One presenter mentioned having consumers use virtual reality headsets during market research to track eye movement, allowing for a better understanding of the effectiveness of a new display or layout. 

Data collection will likely be something that gets more and more sophisticated, especially as technologies like voice-enabled shopping gain ground, and those will inform strategies both in-store and online.

Speaking of in-store, several retailers at Groceryshop emphasized that the consumer experience in brick-and-mortar is still paramount. Even so, a strong digital presence is vital because more shoppers are getting inspiration from online platforms — and thus being influenced by what they see (or don’t see) there — even if they still spend most of their grocery dollars at a physical location.

As the industry transforms, it only makes sense to try to understand as best as possible where it is all headed. Companies can then get a feel for where they fit and add value in the next generation of retail.

Ashley Nickle is editor of Produce Retailer magazine. E-mail her at [email protected].

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