TECHNOLOGY

Aldi expands delivery service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A German discount grocer is bringing its home delivery service into the Midwest.

Aldi is expanding its partnership with the on-demand grocery delivery service Instacart, and extending it online grocery ordering and home delivery service to residents across Chicago’s metropolitan area, Northwest Indiana, and as far west as Rockford, Illinois. The service promises to deliver grocery orders in as little as an hour.

The German discount grocer began piloting the service in Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles in August.

Shoppers in eligible markets can participate by visiting Instacart.com or downloading the Instacart app. At checkout, they can choose a delivery window that works best with their schedule, anywhere from an hour or up to a week later.

“The response to our Instacart pilot in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles was overwhelmingly positive, and with nearly 200 Chicago-area stores, it only makes sense to bring online delivery to this major market,” said Jason Hart, CEO, Aldi U.S.

New Instacart customers across the new delivery areas will receive $20 off, and free delivery of their first order of $35 or more, through May 31.

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Study: Loyalty members still value fuel savings over cash-back rewards

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

When it comes to loyalty rewards, customers want their programs to deliver savings at the gas pump.

For the third year in a row, loyalty consumers in the United States ranked fuel savings as their preferred loyalty currency (39%) over cash-back rewards (35%), according to “The Road to Rewards 2017,” a study from loyalty marketing and technology firm Excentus Corp. and Ipsos.

The ability for loyalty programs to influence customer behavior is on the rise, with 36% of consumers — compared to 26% in 2016 — shopping more frequently at stores where they can earn fuel savings. And fuel savings currency is steadily increasing.

Memberships in fuel loyalty programs have risen 10% in the past two years, with 64% of Americans participating in a program that helps them save on the cost of gas. Up from 54% in 2015 and 59% in 2016, no other specialty loyalty program or reward type in the U.S. has enjoyed comparable growth in this time span, the study revealed.

This also offers opportunities to retailers, as 20% of consumers reported shopping specifically at stores where they can earn rewards that help them save on the cost of fuel, and 22% will shop exclusively at a convenience store where they are a loyalty program member.

Fuel savings also drive higher consumer engagement, as shoppers that earn and redeem fuel savings (30%) visit every few weeks or monthly versus those who prefer cash-back (29%).

Consumers want to save on fuel regardless of gas prices: 73% stated it is important to earn rewards that save on fuel when the price of gas rises, and 58% echoed the identical sentiment when the price of gas falls. This demonstrates that gas prices remain top-of-mind, even in a stable economy, and consumers look to their loyalty programs to save money and add value to their everyday transactions.

Meanwhile, 31% of consumers (up 20% from last year) use their loyalty program’s mobile app to manage their rewards, including redemption — by far the largest jump of any channel, the study said.

“Cents-per-gallon fuel savings are the currency most likely to increase frequency, customer interactions and new revenue opportunities,” said Brandon Logsdon, CEO, Excentus.

“Fuel is a predictable, consistent and repeated expense, and discounts at the pump have a direct impact on consumers’ wallets,” added Logsdon. “The unique relationship consumers have with this commodity makes fuel savings a near universal and highly relevant reward currency.”

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Report: Technology lets customers vet Amazon sellers pre-purchase

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Customers have a new way to validate Amazon seller ratings before they even spend a dollar.

A new technology solution is giving shoppers an accurate and complete picture of Amazon sellers. The solution brings relevant reviews to the surface that may otherwise be buried, directing shoppers to the most trustworthy sellers, according to CNBC.

The technology, called ReconBob, from 3PM Solutions, debunks any inaccuracies in Amazon seller ratings. While Amazon’s site may display high seller ratings, low-rated reviews may be buried, and out of sight of prospective buyers. By downloading ReconBob, customers have armor against a poor customer experience.

Here’s how it works: Customers download ReconBob, a plug-in for Google’s Chrome browser.  As customers search for merchandise on Amazon, ReconBob approval ratings are displayed in the results. Shoppers can also open a specific product page, and click on the ReconBob icon for further details, including why it is approved or reviews from unhappy customers regarding product quality or customer service.

The technology also reveals relevant reviews, including if merchants are selling expired goods, featuring used products as new items, offering knockoffs, or if items come with broken seals, according to the report.

The tool could come in handy to ensure the safety of consumables and other consumer packaged goods sold by third parties. Over half the items sold on Amazon, including sensitive items like food and skincare products, come from third-party sellers.

Rob Dunkel, founder of 3PM Solutions, told CNBC, “It helps them understand who they’re buying from on Amazon and creates transparency. We want consumers to look and learn a little more about who the seller is.”

ReconBob could also help in the fight against counterfeit merchandise. Amazon competitor eBay is already taking a stand against counterfeiters hiding behind its online marketplace. For example, eBay recently launched eBay Authenticate, a program that uses third-party industry experts to authenticate luxury handbags and exploit any counterfeit merchandise. The marketplace plans to expand the program to other categories this year.

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