- The Save Mart Companies has signed a deal to use artificial intelligence technology from SymphonyAI to deepen its understanding of shopper behavior, the California-based grocery chain announced Thursday.
- Save Mart plans to tap data it generates with the tech to guide decisions about store organization and promotions as well as to provide stronger insights to CPG companies.
- The collaboration with SymphonyAI builds on a range of initiatives Save Mart has launched to stand out from competitors since its purchase last year by private equity firm Kingswood Capital Management.
Save Mart’s decision to deploy SymphonyAI’s suite of AI-based tools reflects an effort by the grocer to better leverage its position as a regional grocer, said Mark Van Buskirk, the grocer’s senior vice president of merchandising and marketing.
The company runs stores in markets that are very different from each other, including the San Francisco region and California’s Central Valley, and executives wanted to better understand sales patterns and customer behavior across the areas it serves, Van Buskirk said in an interview
“We’ve got a fairly diverse portfolio of stores, and to have the insight within those individual clusters will help us tremendously, and it'll make us stronger for sure,” said Van Buskirk, adding that he was familiar with SymphonyAI from his time working at Albertsons.
Van Buskirk, who also has experience as a Kroger executive, joined Save Mart earlier this year as part of the executive team that Executive Chairman Shane Sampson has built since his arrival early in 2022 following the company’s acquisition.
Since Shane, a former Albertsons executive, took over, Save Mart has also launched a retail media network, opened its first small-format location, kicked off a Monopoly-themed promotion, and added Amazon as a delivery provider.
Save Mart intends to roll out the AI technology to all of its stores by the end of 2023, Van Buskirk said. Based in Modesto, California, Save Mart operates around 200 supermarkets in California and Northern Nevada under banners such as Save Mart, Lucky and FoodMaxx.
The grocer expects to use the insights it gleans from the technology to help with tasks such as determining where to place items in stores, allocating shelf space and identifying underperforming items, Van Buskirk said. Save Mart also plans to tap data it gathers to better target promotions and build its e-commerce capabilities, he said.
Van Buskirk added that he expects the data Save Mart is able to collect and manage with the SymphonyAI technology to sharply boost its ability to work with CPGs to boost sales.
“Historically, the food industry has been in a very tactical relationship with CPGs, where you’re negotiating ads, you’re negotiating deals. And when you move into an environment that SymphonyAI provides for us, it allows you to think differently from a strategic standpoint,” he said, adding that access to data can “fundamentally change the relationship with suppliers” for grocers.
“You become very collaborative. And you think about joint business planning very differently. You think about category action plans very differently” Van Buskirk said. “You identify those opportunities together when you’re looking at the data. The way I think about it is there’s really one source of the truth from a consumer perspective when we’re all using the same data, the same information, and it allows us to work together on how we grow.”