In driving its “lead with fresh, accelerate with digital” strategy, The Kroger Co. — the Supermarket News 2022 Retailer of the Year — aims to build a seamless ecosystem in which customers can move easily between channels and get the same high-quality experience. That includes shifting between brick-and-mortar stores and digital, and among in-store shopping, pickup and delivery.
“Our aspiration is to be the destination for our customers for their food needs,” Yael Cosset, senior vice president and chief information officer at Cincinnati-based Kroger, told SN in a podcast discussion. “At the heart of our vision for a seamless ecosystem is the precise understanding of our customers.”
Unsurprisingly, technology is playing a central role. On the e-commerce side, Kroger has opened six customer fulfillment centers (CFCs) and nine supporting “spoke” facilities under its more than four-year-old partnership with Ocado Group. These high-tech facilities use Ocado’s automation and artificial intelligence technology to fill online grocery delivery orders, including in markets where Kroger doesn’t have physical stores.
But that’s not all. Kroger, which serves more than 60 million households annually, is leveraging the vast stores of data from across its physical and virtual properties and brands to create more personalized experiences and value for customers. The company also is using tech-based solutions and its data and analytics capabilities, for example, to hone its supply chain to improve product freshness, expedite pickup and delivery service, and introduce new, on-trend items in its Our Brands portfolio.
According to Cosset, Kroger is seizing “the opportunity to leverage data to really understand what matters to every single customer — what they want, from the freshest product for a simple meal they cook at home to a quality fresh meal solution when they’re on the go; when they want it, whether they’re doing their weekly shop or looking for an immediate solution delivered to them in 30 minutes; and also how they want it. Do they want to go to the store, pick it up or get it delivered to their home? All of this without having to compromise on the freshness, quality or value they get from Kroger.”
Overall, The Kroger Co. operates 2,723 supermarkets and multi-department stores under more than 20 banners. More than 2,250 stores have pharmacies, and over 1,600 have fuel centers. Eighty-two percent of Kroger’s customers within five miles of one of its stores, with most living within two miles.
On the digital side, as of the fiscal 2021 year-end, 2,257 stores provided online grocery pickup, and over 2,500 stores offered delivery. Including click-and-collect and delivery via Kroger Delivery, third-party partners such as Instacart and Kroger’s Ship direct-to-home service, the company covered 98% of households in its trade area with e-commerce services. Digital represents a more than $10 billion annual business for Kroger. About 18.5 million households engaged online with the retailer in 2021.
“Our seamless ecosystem is about bringing all of our assets together — our stores, our dedicated facilities, leveraging technology, our partners, petabytes of data about customer preferences — ultimately to bring that seamless experience to life to fit the context of your day, your need,” Cosset said. “So data and technology is present across the entire ecosystem.”