LAS VEGAS — Albertsons’ new weekly budget helper online tool for customers is one of many digital innovations the grocery company is embracing to help connect online and offline shopping, Jennifer Saenz, the supermarket company’s chief merchandising officer, said during a Monday session at Groceryshop.
A video that preceded her presentation showed more than half of a dozen ways Albertsons is leveraging technology to further its omnichannel ambitions. Those digital features include a “recipe discussion” in-app tool, a curated grocery list feature that factors in a customer’s dietary needs, recipe and pairing recommendations when customers scan a product, and an in-app tool that turns a shopping list into a guided store map to determine the fastest route to grab ingredients.
Albertsons, which runs more than 2,200 stores across banners including Safeway, Tom Thumb, Albertsons and Jewel-Osco, also has a scan-and-pay mobile tool, online meal planning, one-hour delivery capability, the ability for customers to schedule ready-made meal deliveries, and its telehealth services.
Saenz said that most of those tech innovations are either “in pilot or scale” currently. “Ava,” Albertsons’ version of Alexa, the Amazon voice assistant, was shown in the video answering customers’ queries out loud. Saenz, however, noted that Ava isn’t yet available.
Albertsons’ bevy of technologies aimed at omnichannel shopping ties to the top two customer motivations — inspiration and ease — that the grocer is focused on, Saenz said, who joined Albertsons in June 2021 and brought more than 15 years of marketing experience at PepsiCo.
“Our shoppers are incredibly frequent through our doors: two-and-a-half, three, four or five times a week they are coming to see us. If you’re going to be that frequent with somebody, you kind of want to feel that the relationship matters,” Saenz said.
Albertsons is leveraging customer data, Saenz noted, to personalize the shopper journey as it aims to create a seamless connection between offline and online shopping. The supermarket chain has focused in recent years on adding new “skill sets and perspective” internally as it builds out its digital team, Saenz said.
Last fall, Albertsons executives said the supermarket chain would boost its technology investments across its operations in an effort to achieve more efficiency and help its financial results. President and chief financial officer Sharon McCollam told investors last fall that Albertsons has extensive work to do away with using outdated technology and more heavily use modern, cloud-based information technology systems.
Over the past year or so, the company has rolled out numerous technological improvements to its shopping experience, including online consumer reviews and ratings, a live streaming content partnership and an online auto-replenishment tool. Earlier this year, Albertsons expanded its smart cart pilot with Veeve.
Albertsons’ efforts at marrying technology with shopping come at a time when the grocery company has said it’s considering changes that could include selling part or all of its business and has worked to increase its presence as an omnichannel food retailer.
Looking to the future, shoppable and social commerce are both areas that Albertsons has its “eyes on,” Saenz said.