RETAILERS COULD MAKE BETTER USE OF DATA

LAS VEGAS - Retailers are not using the data from frequent shoppers cards as much as they should to get closer to customers, two executives told a workshop audience here at the National Grocers Association convention."The technology certainly exists that enables retailers to get closer, but I don't see that kind of utilization taking place, and I'm not sure why that is because the data provides a

LAS VEGAS - Retailers are not using the data from frequent shoppers cards as much as they should to get closer to customers, two executives told a workshop audience here at the National Grocers Association convention.

"The technology certainly exists that enables retailers to get closer, but I don't see that kind of utilization taking place, and I'm not sure why that is because the data provides a great opportunity for retailers," said Mark Griffin, executive vice president of Affiliated Foods, Amarillo, Texas.

Nicholas D'Agostino 3rd, president and chief operating officer of D'Agostino Supermarkets, Larchmont, N.Y., agreed. "The big challenge for us is making it clear to consumers what we want to use the information for. When we are able to talk to them, they say they like the idea of getting better deals than other customers."

Griffin said he respects the public's concerns for privacy, "but there could be benefits from using the data that fall within the boundaries of privacy. For example, the data could be utilized to improve out-of-stocks and do a better job communicating information with consumers."

"We should use all the data that's available," D'Agostino said. "If we can identify our top shoppers, we need to know what those customers are buying to be sure we keep those items in stock. With so many stockkeeping units available, retailers can be very responsive, but concerns with privacy make us wonder how responsive we should be."

Griffin said he's not sure retailers need to carry as many stockkeeping units as some may think. "As a wholesaler, we don't want to let any of our customers down, but there are limits. A number of retailers have done a good job limiting the number of items they carry while still presenting an excellent customer-service image.

"For example, in our market Albertsons tries to carry everything, while [H.E. Butt Grocery] has 25% to 30% fewer SKUs, yet H-E-B is perceived to deliver superior service."

Asked whether self-checkouts detract from customer service, Griffin replied, "My inclination is that self-checkouts are not a good customer service, but we've found there's a segment of the public that appreciates it."