Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

FMI 2016 Midwinter Executive Conference: Focus on Retail Leadership

By / February 2016

Events, Insights

Each January, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) hosts its much-anticipated Midwinter Executive Conference. The invitation-only event brings together leaders from across the food industry ecosystem – including retailers, wholesalers, independent operators, suppliers and manufacturers.

This year’s event was one of the most well-attended in years with a full slate of business sessions and energizing networking that sparked dynamic discussions around retail industry challenges and opportunities. Here’s an overview of sessions that stood out:

Hospitality and Customer Experience
The Future of Food session featuring Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, was of particular interest to me because of his emphasis on the entrepreneurial mindset. Meyer said grocers need to focus on hospitality and customer experience because that’s a point of differentiation. He confessed that some of his restaurants didn’t have the best scores for food, but they were still highly rated because of the way they made their customers feel while dining at the restaurants. Meyer pointed out that customers want to be heard.

Supermarket News reported on Meyer’s affinity with supermarkets, pointing to the prepared foods trend in retail, saying, “Increasingly, your stores will need eat-in as well as takeout opportunities. At Shake Shack, about 25-30% of food is not eaten there.”

Meyer advised food retailers to put employees first in priority, then they will take care of customers, and in turn, the organization will take care of the community.

A surfing analogy served as a platform for Meyer to spotlight the entrepreneurial spirit that’s a core value at Union Square Hospitality Group. He said surfers know there will always be another wave. After a misstep, it’s important to get back on the surf board to move forward and achieve success.

Choice and Shifting Consumer Values
In the Future of Shopping session, Tom Phillips, director at Deloitte Consulting, presented findings from new Deloitte research. He said about half of today’s shoppers make purchase decisions based on health, wellness, safety, social impact, experience and transparency.

This is a change in conventional purchase drivers, such as taste, price and convenience. It’s important for food retailers to offer choice because Phillips stated that this shift in consumer values transcends region, age and income group.

Local and Mobile
In the Future of Marketplace session, the panel of retail industry experts agreed that consumers are returning to local stores because it’s fun to shop again. However, they’re looking for an enhanced customer experience, including an omnichannel strategy that integrates with mobile devices.

A Supermarket News article about the FMI conference featured several quotes from Thom Blischock, chief retail strategist at PwC, with advice for food retailers, including:

“You need to make omnichannel feel local to the consumer, and you need to make it part of the experience of what you’re doing in the stores,” said Blischok. “You have to make the smartphone integrate with what’s in-store and online.”

“If there’s one trip that’s going to shift this year at retail, it will be the restaurant trip,” he said. “This afternoon at 4 p.m., 70% of America doesn’t know what it’s having for dinner. Retailers need to create the experience of restaurant-quality food, and offer the ability to order it online, and pick it up in the store.”

Focus on Retail Leadership
For Aptaris, the annual event reinforces our commitment to raising the bar on the enterprise marketing and promotions process for retailers. Our recently announced strategic alliance with dunnhumby, the world’s leading customer science company, is an example of the ways we’re continuously evolving to give our clients a competitive advantage.

Watch my interview with Joan Driggs, editorial director of Retail Leader and Progressive Grocer, as I describe our new combined solution with dunnhumby’s data-driven customer intelligence. See video #4 to hear how the Aptaris software integrated with dunnhumby’s science helps retailers enrich the customer experience, optimize promotional offers and strengthen category management.

I appreciate all of the exceptional leaders I met at the Midwinter Conference. Thanks for sharing your perspectives and meaningful stories with me. I’m certain next year will present even more opportunities to connect and collaborate.

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