Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

FMI 2017 Midwinter Executive Conference: The Future of Food Retailing

By / February 2017

Insights, News

I was honored to once again attend the annual event hosted by the Food Marketing Institute, the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference. Each January, the invitation-only gathering brings together the food retail industry’s leading stores, wholesalers, independent operators, suppliers and manufacturers.  This premier event includes an up-to-the-minute education program for industry leaders to thrive in a rapidly evolving food retail environment.

FMI says we’ve witnessed more changes in the food retail industry in the past five years than over the previous 50 — and the pace of change will continue accelerating. To help retail leaders tackle challenges and make sense of the trends, FMI is collaborating with Nielsen on a multi-year initiative to look into the behaviors, motivations and expectations of the “Digitally Engaged Food Shopper.”

Nielsen and FMI presented a preview of their initial analysis during the conference. The reality is that shoppers are already highly engaged with food online. However, retailers and CPG manufacturers are challenged with finding a sustainably profitable operating model or strategy for engaging these consumers.

The report says the grocery industry is at the tipping point of great change and here are some highlights:

  1. Multi-channel shopping: Nearly a quarter of American households – that’s 23% – are buying food online today. Plus, more shoppers are getting more of their groceries across channels. Of those that will buy online, 60% expect to spend over a quarter of their food dollars online in ten years.
  2. Digital Experimentation: Grocery retailers and manufacturers are testing business models and online technologies in meaningful ways. But the experimentation needs to continue for long-term success.
  3. Grocery Saturation: Grocery shopping will reach digital maturity and saturation faster than other industries before, including the publishing and banking industries.
  4. Center Store Migration: Consumers are already shopping online for center store category products and that trend is expected to continue.
  5. Young & Digital: Younger, newer and more engaged digital shoppers adopt grocery related digital technologies more quickly and will quicken the expansion of digital grocery shopping further.

When you consider the current advancements of driverless vehicles, delivery drones, adoption of self-checkouts and mobile payment, food retailers must support their team members in learning new skills. Food retail formats also must be restructured to optimize the customer experience for digitally engaged food shoppers, including seamless collaboration between retailers and manufacturers.

Chris Morley, president of U.S. Buy at Nielsen, said, “The need for retailers and manufacturers to know the differences around how consumers shop online versus in-store is greater than ever before.

Analytics will be key for retailers and manufacturers to understand the digitally engaged food shopper on a deeper level.  Beyond unified insights that connect the dots across consumer interaction and platforms, the winning strategy will turn metrics into action steps towards effective digital engagement.”

The report categorized growth challenges into three lenses through which retailers will have to view their integrated channel strategy:

  • Consumer: Develop an understanding of the diverse needs of the rapidly evolving consumer
  • Company: Build business and fulfillment models that deliver sustainable profitability
  • Collaboration: Establish collaborations that integrate first- and third-party data

Collaboration & Big Data

Retailers’ challenges with collaboration are at the heart of the Aptaris enterprise marketing and promotions software. In combination with dunnhumby, the world’s leading customer science company, we support retailers in unlocking the power of big data.

The recent enhancements strengthening dunnhumby forecasting and promotion analytics within the Aptaris software platform allows retailers to make sound decisions for highly personalized messages in customers’ preferred communications vehicles.

Our solution streamlines collaborations with retailers’ suppliers, their marketing department, creative teams and finance groups. The result is retailers armed with data to make quick decisions, send additional communications to respond to competitive threats, and take advantage of marketing opportunities.

Retailers benefit when customer science combines with optimized promotions processes. By gaining visibility to the most current and accurate data, departmental silos will be demolished. Being able to review historical data and forecasting in just a few keystrokes, as well as the ability to conduct “what if” scenarios and modeling allows faster, more reliable strategic planning.

The Digitally Engaged Food Shopper report says more than $525 billion will be spent on food by 2025. Food retailers need to be preparing their strategies and managing the organizational changes necessary to engage those shoppers. Fortunately, there are resources for retailers, including FMI, Nielsen and Aptaris, to support them on the journey.

The FMI Midwinter Conference allowed opportunities for catching up with familiar friends and meeting new colleagues. The conversations around the future for food retail were enlightening and I invite you to reach out to learn more!


Tom O’Reilly – President and CEO, Aptaris Tom has a deep understanding of the retail business from both the store and vendor perspectives. He brings decades of hands-on experience in advertising and promotions including new media innovations. As an entrepreneur, he has transformed each organization he has worked with. Tom is a forward-thinking leader with a history of driving innovation, growth and profitability. As an avid reader, Tom is always enthusiastically sharing cutting-edge ideas with clients and colleagues.

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