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Weis Markets engages more closely with customers

AI-based platform to help regional grocer personalize marketing across channels

Weis Markets aims to get closer to its shoppers with the adoption of an artificial intelligence (AI)-based customer engagement system.

The Sunbury, Pa.-based grocer is readying to go live with the Birdzi real-time digital ecosystem, designed with regional food retailers in mind. The platform’s AI relationship engine uses several hundred attributes for each shopper — updated with each purchase — to give grocery retailers a higher degree of relevancy in tailoring customer marketing and meeting shoppers’ individual needs.

“It’s an AI platform that will give true one-to-one marketing for all customers, analyzing every consumer’s basket and then taking that data and surfacing to the top the offers and rewards that are most relevant,” Ron Bonacci, vice president of advertising and marketing at Weis Markets, told SN in an interview.

Instead of relying only on historical purchase data, Birdzi’s cloud-based platform integrates with its white-label mobile and web apps to create a real-time view of shopper intent, the Iselin, N.J.-based company said. That allows retailers like Weis to make “up-to-the-second” recommendations and offers based on a customer’s behavior and location. 

“Evaluating everything that’s going on out in the technology space, we really had to make sure we met tomorrow’s needs today and make sure we’re as relevant as any grocery chain in America,” Bonacci said, noting that Birdzi will help Weis build and reinforce customer relationships.

“The opportunity is what they call ‘lifetime valuable customers,’ to keep them engaged long-term and, hopefully, they will continue to grow sales,” he explained. “We want to keep those customers within our four walls, tell them about the new and exciting products coming on market, and talk to them about their health and wellness initiatives, kids, pets and those kinds of things that are most relevant to their basket.”

Through Birdzi, Weis can engage with customers via mobile, web, email and text channels and interact with them throughout their shopping journey. As a result, the supermarket chain can evaluate shoppers’ needs whether they’re at home, on the go or in-store and deliver personalized offers and information.

“It will be up to the consumer to choose which channel they want us to use. In some cases, it may be text or mostly emails, and in other cases it might be just available to them on the website when they go on,” Bonacci said. “But the mobile app, in most cases, will be the most prevalent application.”

Birdzi’s solution, too, also gleans insights from the grocer’s Weis Rewards program. “It takes all of the attributes out of the loyalty program, adds those data points to their cloud, does all of the massaging, and then gives us back relevant insights to the customer and a predictive model,” he said.

He noted that Weis also will be able to develop a more personalized wellness offering for customers. On its website, Birdzi said its system uses product attribution data and evaluates an item based on a shopper’s health conditions and dietary preferences, allowing customers to create a “store within a store” based on their individual profile. In turn, the platform helps retailers assess their assortments based on shopper needs and provides them with analytics for actionable insights.

“It allows consumers to self-identify their profile,” Bonacci said. “So if they have disease states like diabetes or special needs — peanut butter or shellfish allergies and those kinds of things — it allows us to make sure we give them what they need.”

Weis piloted the Birdzi technology for about six weeks and soon plans to implement it chainwide, according to Bonacci.

“We have another technology, NCR’s AMS platform, to roll out in August, so this [Birdzi] is going to be running behind the scenes and doing certain things as it relates to customers’ direct mail, email, text messaging and so forth,” he said. “And then it will be fully integrated when the new AMS platform is rolled out.”

Overall, Weis operates 200 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia and Virginia.

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