TECHNOLOGY

Kroger expands program to eliminate checkout lanes

BY Marianne Wilson

The nation’s largest supermarket operator is taking the lead over rivals in the effort to provide shoppers with a checkout-free shopping experience.

Kroger will expand its Scan, Bag, Go technology to 400 stores in the New Year. The expansion comes after a 20-store test.

The offering allows customers to scan bar-codes on products they wish to buy using a handheld scanner provided by the grocer or via the retailer’s “Scan, Bag, Go” app on their smartphone. When they are finished shopping, customers pay for their order at a self-checkout register. Business Insider reported that customers will soon be able to skip the last step and pay through an app instead.

Kroger’s move comes as Walmart is testing checkout-free technology in a handful of stores across the country. Amazon has incorporated cashier-less technology into its Amazon Go store format, which is still being fine-tuned.

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TECHNOLOGY

Amazon’s house brands already pulled in almost $450 million in sales this year

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Private label has become big business for Amazon in 2017 — and momentum continues to grow.

The online giant used 2017 to refine its private-label strategy — a move that helped the company launch over 30 new brand names across highly competitive categories. As a whole, these private-label brands generated roughly $450 million in sales in this year, according to “Amazon Private Brands: Year-End Review,” a study from One Click Retail.

Momentum is being driven by the company’s AmazonBasics brand, a line primarily known for affordable home tech accessories, including computer cables, batteries and home office supplies. However, this line has expanded to include an assortment of products from linens and luggage to pet supplies and water filters. Overall, AmazonBasics makes up about 85% of Amazon’s total private-label sales, and accounts for over $400 million in sales.

The online giant’s fastest-growing private-label line is the Amazon Elements brand, which primarily sells baby wipes. The wipes are so successful that sales nearly doubled 2016 estimated sales, with a growth of 94% year-over-year (YoY). The estimated $15 million sold in 2017 across baby wipes alone makes up the vast majority of the Amazon Elements products, supplemented by just over $1 million in estimated sales of Vitamins and Supplements.

A great deal of private brand growth can be traced back to Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. In late August, Amazon’s release of Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value brand on the platform has had a major impact. It has consistently sold as the No. 2 private brand – behind only AmazonBasics – and currently ranks as the fourth top-selling private brand year-to-date (YTD), despite being available for just over three months. The line has an estimated $10 million in sales since its launch and an average weekly growth of 9%, according to One Click.

“2017 was Amazon’s most successful year yet, both as a platform and as a manufacturer, this should be an eye-opener for competitors,” Spencer Millerberg, One Click CEO, said in the report. “The basics are key, such as keeping Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs), a 10-character alphanumeric product identifier assigned by Amazon, on site longer is critical. For example, the top-selling printer is now three years old.”

And at a time when over 50% of product-related searches begin on Amazon, search promotion is no longer optional. “Over 90% of purchases begin with search, so optimizing your pages for organic search (eComm SEO) is critical,” he said. “Amazon is an amazing platform – and more than ever we must think of Amazon as both a partner and a competitor.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Department store retailer expands holiday assortment with e-gift cards

BY 1

Expanding its personalization strategy, Belk is launching a digital gifting program.

In partnership with CashStar, the department store retailer now offers a personalized gift card e-commerce option. In addition, Belk shoppers can digitally send “physical gifts” directly from the e-commerce site through the CashStar Product eGifting platform. Armed with the technology, Belk’s customers can tailor their gift by choosing from a variety of designs, and add a personalized message when sending e-gift cards.

Here’s how it works: While shopping on Belk’s e-commerce site, gift givers choose an e-gift card. The gift is digitally sent to the recipient, along with a personal message that is sent via email. Once recipients open the email, they are then presented with options to tailor the gift to their personal style and taste, or select a different product altogether before it is shipped. They can also opt to receive an e-gift card for the gift’s value.

The e-gifting program will also reduce holiday merchandise returns — an issue that ate into about 15% of holiday sales — approximately $90 billion of gifts — in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), according to CashStar.

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