Gallery: Scenes from 2014 NGA Show

The time for digital is now, independents were told repeatedly during the National Grocers Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas earlier this month.

The gauntlet was thrown down at the opening session by Joe Sheridan, president and COO of Wakefern Food Corp., Keasbey, N.J., who was the presiding chairman of the convention. “Brick-and-mortar stores will still be relevant, and ecommerce will be a disruption. But because the independent owner is so close to his business, he can move faster to find a way to overcome that disruption.”

Peter Larkin, president and CEO of NGA, echoed his remarks, saying, “Independents are entrepreneurs, and this is an opportunity for the independents to lead.”

Comments from NGA speakers included:

• Eric Anderson, co-president and CMO for Fresh Encounters, Wooster, Ohio, suggested independents tie promotional offers to digital applications to get themselves used to digital. “Digital is easy and effective, and it’s still just grocery.”

• Independents need to become proactive on digital merchandising, Kristie Maurer, store director for Fresh Madison Market, a store located on the University of Wisconsin campus, said. “Don’t be scared of it. You’re still in the business of selling — you’re just doing it through digital media.”

• For Erik Qualman, author of “Socialnomics,” mobile and social media are merging technologies that need to be part of an overall strategy, not a separate course of action. It’s not a choice anymore whether or not to get involved with digital media, he said. “The only choice is how well you do it.”

• John Dee, president of PlaceWise Media, advised retailers to use digital “to promote your business as you always have. AmazonFresh does not have a leg up on you because people have still got to go to the store for bananas and oranges, so use the tools you have to make them continue coming to you.”

• John Phillips, SVP customer supply chain and global go-to-market, for PepsiCo, said, “Think how different the consumer experience will be if you take personalization to another level. That’s where independents can make a difference because you know more about your customers than the chains.”

• Paul Reppenhaggen, SVP and general manager of marketing and corporate strategy for MOM Brands, Minneapolis, said retailers must keep up with social media. “But just as doing business is changing rapidly, social media will change rapidly, and it’s critical to respond quickly while realizing that what we do today will have to change tomorrow.”

Text and captions by Elliot Zwiebach

Photos courtesy of NGA

Click here for more SN coverage of The NGA Show 2014

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