Albertsons
TECHNOLOGY

Supermarket giant makes digital experiences more secure

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Albertsons Cos.’ new identity platform is securing online customer data, a move that will enhance the grocer’s digital experience, and drive loyalty.

To ensure it could protect the digital information among the more than 30 million customers it serves each week, the supermarket giant implemented the Identity Cloud platform from identity software provider Okta. Serving as the first step of online interaction between Albertsons and its customers, the platform will power user registration and authentication for Albertsons’ website and mobile app.

Further, the scalable software’s single sign-on, universal directory and API access management will provide one central identity platform for all digital experiences. Overall, the company expects the platform to support a more secure customer experience.

“As one of the U.S.’s largest grocery retailers, we needed a solution that could scale with us,” said Ramiya Iyer, general VP of IT, digital and marketing, Albertsons. “We’re confident that we found that in the Okta Identity Cloud, which now serves as an important part of our customers’ digital experience with Albertsons.”

Albertsons continues to step up efforts related to its online experience. In October, the company announced a partnership with Takeoff Technologies to test an artificial intelligence-based “micro-fulfillment center” concept supported by Albertsons’ existing supply chain and store footprint. AI-enabled robots and a system of totes and conveyors will collect items for online grocery orders within minutes, and deliver items delivered to an Albertsons employee, who prepares the order for the customer.

The “hyper-local” automated center will be piloted in an existing store early in 2019.

To further bolster its e-commerce offering, earlier this year, the supermarket giant launched Albertsons Performance Media, a digital media capability designed to improve the digital advertising performance of its CPG brand partners.

In addition, the company opened its digital marketplace — a service that enables customers to purchase items online directly from manufacturers — to outside vendors. Albertsons also recently joined forces with driver service Instacart, a move to offer same-day delivery of online orders to customers in as little as an hour. The grocer planned to make the service available in more than 1,800 of Albertsons’ banners across the country by mid-2018.

The company was also the first national grocery retailer to acquire a prepared-meals company. The supermarket chain acquired online meal company Plated last fall.

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TECHNOLOGY

Online apparel returns set to rise this holiday season

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The holiday season’s online sales may be off to a strong start, however consumers may not be keeping all of the clothes they purchased — not by a long-shot.

This was according to data from BodyBlock AI which revealed that half (50%) of Americans are expecting to return clothes ordered online due to poor fit. This could equate to $1.39 billion.

Having the wrong fit has significant consequences for online apparel brands, as nearly three-quarters (72%) of surveyed customers have returned items ordered online that didn’t fit. Among first-time customers, nearly half of shoppers (45%) won’t return to a new brand if the clothing they ordered didn’t fit, or if they received the wrong size.

One of the issues plaguing retailers is a lack of consumer confidence. For example, a whopping 84% of women felt that sizing was random or arbitrary depending on the brand, according to the data.

“Brands have been playing a costly guessing game when addressing the sizing and fit of their customers for decades,” said Greg Moore, CEO of BodyBlock AI. “If apparel companies don’t rethink their strategy, they will continue to hemorrhage billions of dollars every year in returns and dissatisfied customers.”

Retailers that get sizing right will reap the benefits. For example, 61% of customers were very likely to order more clothes from a brand if the first item they ordered fit them well. Meanwhile, 28% were likely to order more clothes from a brand if the first item they ordered fit well.

While consumers enjoy the theoretical ease of buying clothes online, the fear and hassle of getting clothes that don’t fit deters new shoppers, hurts conversion rates and dramatically reduces the retailer’s revenue as a result of high return rates. In order to meet their customers’ needs and deliver quality experiences that keep customers coming back, apparel brands would be wise to take a data-driven approach to apparel design.

“It’s time the apparel industry caught up to the 21st century both in terms of technological innovation and the diversity of human bodies,” the study revealed.

“By taking a data-driven approach to apparel fit, brands can begin matching the bodies of their customers to the clothes they make, rather than models and patterns,” the study added. “To do so would improve online conversions, reduce returns, secure more returning customers and create a more sustainable strategy for the modern era.”

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Fast-casual giant makes strong online move

BY Marianne Wilson

Pizza Hut has made one of its biggest acquisitions to date.

In a move that will allow it to increase its online ordering capabilities, Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, said that its U.S. business will acquire QuikOrder, an online ordering software and service provider for the restaurant industry. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the pizza company called it one of its biggest acquisitions to date.

The deal will enable Pizza Hut U.S. to improve its ability to deliver an easy and personalized online ordering experience and accelerate digital innovation across its base of more than 6,000 restaurants in the U.S., the company said. In 2018, approximately half of Pizza Hut U.S. sales were processed through QuikOrder’s platform. The acquisition will include: Pizza Hut’s current digital ordering platforms, systems and services and QuikOrder’s in-restaurant technology and ancillary services, as well as its future generation products and programming.

“We’re doubling down on our commitment to digital and this deal positions Pizza Hut perfectly for the future,” said Artie Starrs, president of Pizza Hut U.S. “We’re also gaining access to an immensely talented group of developers and digital innovators. Together we can more quickly provide breakthrough products and convenient services to our customers that will allow for better franchise economics over the long term.”

David Gibbs, CEO of Yum! Brands, said that the acquisition gives Yum the future potential to scale QuikOrder’s technology across all its brands.

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