John Hennessy

Retail and Brand Technology Tailor

John has been helping retailers and brands see the business value of adopting innovative technologies for over 25 years.  John’s work evangelizing a better future through technology began with big data, business intelligence software and analytics at IRI.  Then several startups and a few global firms: personalized offers from loyalty card data using AI at Concept Shopping; Internet of Things (IoT) wireless perishable shipment monitoring systems at Locus Traxx; mobile loyalty, payment and offers at Silicon Valley based Mobeam; retail Virtual Reality and VR shopper research at Kantar Consulting; and using robotics to automate ecommerce order picking, storage and dispensing at Alert Innovation.

  • Posted on: 10/04/2022

    Are younger generations less creeped out by online personalization?

    This research is echoed by a recently released (Sept. 26) Deloitte research report, "Fresh food as medicine for the heartburn of high prices." Millennials were more willing to share their health and medical data to get food recommendations than older boomers. The critical element for marketers is to provide messaging value in exchange for permission. Messaging needs to be relevant and be about that shopper. When messages are relevant, the information is helpful. When done less well, it's creepy and intrusive. Even boomers have trusted sources whose messages they don't consider intrusive. Delivering relevant messages is hard work.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2022

    Will more Americans make e-grocery delivery a weekly habit?

    Customers seldom move away from convenience. Think about the last time you walked into a bank. You don't have to. You don't. Grocery delivery is bound to follow a similar pattern. Maybe not for every item and category, but definitely to remove the time and tedium of replenishing packaged goods. Add retailer membership programs to the mix and you are sure to increase home delivery. Prime has trained shoppers to click and get. The challenge is being the grocer who does it best. A 90% fulfillment rate and substitutions against a backdrop of near perfect ecommerce order execution in non-grocery channels will not be an acceptable service level. If done right, you can cut store visits and time in-store in half or more and sell more to the new, bifurcated shopper.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2022

    Will customer reviews boost online sales for Albertsons, Safeway and Vons?

    As noted repeatedly and seen in research, shoppers trust reviews. What is more interesting is brands' and retailers' use of reviews. Brands can incorporate a retail customer's reviews into their pitches to expand approved items. Retailers can use reviews in combination with pricing and out-of-stock data to see if highly rated products are being properly stocked and priced. If shoppers give high ratings for a product but a retailer doesn't have it or the price is too high, then that positive review could be helping a competitor sell more.
  • Posted on: 03/24/2022

    Giant Food cuts delivery and pickup fees as online biz soars

    Many pros and cons here as noted in the discussion. Sales volume can help delivery costs but also further clog aisles with associates picking orders. Capturing more online sales may generate more store trips and greater share of wallet. Spending is often widely distributed by even "Top" shoppers. Some shoppers still want to personally pick out certain items on their own. Could be an overall share gain through capturing more online business that results in more customers visiting the store. The comment that stands out for me is, "What could be more convenient than letting our trained associates do the shopping for you?" It's not just about convenience. There's another level of value here. Some shoppers want a trained person to select their produce. Typically younger shoppers. A great target for a supermarket. Suggesting added value through the use of "trained" and then diminishing that value through no fees for this extra level of service is inconsistent. If you invested in associate training and have associates who can pick fresh items better than customers can, that service should have value. For many, selecting fresh produce or selecting among produce options is as vexing a task as picking a decent wine. Produce sommelier has a nice ring. Some potential upside. Some pain to get there. Credit to Giant Food for competing with gusto.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2022

    Has a new, hybrid shopper emerged out of the pandemic?

    For grocery shopping, shoppers are leading and retailers are playing catch up. Once you teach shoppers they don't have to stand in line for their stock up order, they won't. I compare it to visiting a bank. You don't do it unless you absolutely have to. In the case of supermarkets, the store visits of hybrid shoppers are often for fresh and other self-selected items. The heavy lifting (sometimes literally) is done online. Online baskets are larger. But don't get too excited. That higher spending is often more multiples, more larger sizes, sometimes a higher percentage of premium items and less frequent purchasing. So it's a convenient stock up task, not a shopping trip. Supermarket retailers are playing catch up on getting basic ecommerce right. Something that we take for granted in ecommerce -- order 27 grocery items and get the 27 items you ordered delivered -- is still a dream for supermarkets to execute. The inability to fulfill orders is created by fulfilling orders from the ever changing store floor. You just don't know what will be there when those pickers hit the store. A closed automated fulfillment system solves the known available inventory issue but some grocer's online ordering apps don't have a place for inventory available. That's a problem. The, "only 2 left order now" message isn't possible. Neither is removing known out of stock items to prevent disappointment. Consider the upside if every only supermarket order was completely fulfilled as ordered. 10 - 20% more sales in just getting that right. And then there's online promo. If the hybrid shopper profile is re-order online, promo items will be a pleasant surprise not a purchase influencer. In store still offers more and more impactful ways to make an impression. Much to do in e-grocery. Shoppers are providing the clues.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    What tech must restaurants put on their menu of services?

    QR code menus are generally a mess. Sometimes they open a web page. Sometimes download a PDF that you might have to find on your device. Often a challenge to read. But Toast app! Game changer. Terrific interface (admittedly based on a limited menu restaurant). Select items and quantities, order in app, pay in app. QR code unique to table so food and beverage finds you. Table of 12 friends. At least eight separate tickets each managed by an individual or couple. Fair distribution of bill as each owns own order and payment. A few runners needed to bring food and beverage to table. No hard to find waiters and waitresses. Fast service as your order goes directly to kitchen. I am a huge fan of the integration of personalized order control and in app payment that the Toast app delivers. I would choose a restaurant for a large group based on it offering Toast.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    NRF 2022: Albertsons’ CEO sees frequency driving grocery loyalty

    Frequency and nature of purchases makes supermarkets natural for fostering loyalty, however how you define and measure loyalty is critical. For example, most retailers would consider shoppers in the top 10 percent of spending highly loyal. While only 10 percent of shopper count, their spending would represent multiple times their count in percent of sales. Supermarkets would assume this high spending level translates to high loyalty. If you compare top shoppers across several supermarket chains, the overlap of top shoppers is astonishing. In the mid-90 percent. Simply put, nine of 10 of one supermarket chain's top shoppers can be the other chain's top shoppers and visa versa. Each chain would claim these top shoppers as loyal shoppers because their spending levels and visits are among the highest. But the the spending levels and visits of nine of 10 of these shoppers could be similarly high for their competitors. Big families with big lists that spend big wherever they shop. Instead of focusing on increasing sales among these top shoppers, the assumption is that the supermarket has full share of wallet of these top shoppers. The focus is on increasing sales among lower tier spenders assuming that's where the spending gaps are that can be closed. The error in this thinking is that a high percentage of spending by top shoppers is spent at competitors. Any of retailer who serves these top shoppers know the most about them of any of their shoppers thanks to their high spending levels and visit frequency. Yet these top shoppers are largely ignored as sources of potential for spending growth. Are these top shoppers loyal shoppers? Maybe. Maybe not. A closed view of spending level against other shoppers at a chain says yes. A broader view of share of wallet says no. Are these top shoppers valuable shoppers whose loyalty should be cultivated? Absolutely. The challenge is to identify them, take actions to serve more of their requirements, build true loyalty, and capture more spending. Don't assume loyalty is given based on simple metrics. Verify loyalty and work to earn greater loyalty.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2022

    Reality hits omnichannel retail with a hard truth

    As suggested in other answers, the real question is what's important to the business. If returns are considered a necessity that can be handled conveniently through multiple third-party locations, using a third party makes sense. If e-commerce is a small portion of your business and gets minimal focus and investment, you won't be able to hire the top tier talent to execute e-commerce versus a pure play e-commerce provider who wakes up every day focused on improving their e-commerce performance. A standalone business that lives or dies on how well it competes could make more sense. If your customer service philosophy is to do just enough, you won't attract and build a world class team to support your returns, questions and customer satisfaction follow up. Maybe a third party focused and expert in servicing should be considered. Smart and skilled employees choose to work where their skills and experience will make them a contributing member of a team that furthers the objectives of the company. Add in that they are looking for some challenge to grow and improve. People needing a job where there's an opening and are willing to be trained to check off as done whatever you want to check off as done. Retailers who pride themselves on world class service are more rigorous about hiring, training, motivating and measuring customer success. It should not be surprising that this focus on service creates a magnet for the people who can help them continue to realize their vision of world class service. Start cost cutting and reducing the importance of this group and you'll see how quickly this world class level fades.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2021

    Meijer offers teachers supply discounts beyond back-to-school

    This is brilliant, kind and thoughtful on several levels. First, it acknowledges that teachers spent a lot of out-of-pocket money on supplies. Well done. And it's not without benefit to Meijer. Their best customers are families. Families have children. Children spend a lot of time with teachers.Teachers will be talking favorably about Meijer. This is a thoughtful gesture with a potential reward to Meijer for the consideration. That might not have been part of the strategy, but there is nothing wrong with benefiting from thoughtfulness.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2021

    Should Macy’s de-omnify?

    On it's surface it appears to be a terrible idea for shoppers. So without analysis I agree with the majority opinion. However, things may not be as they seem. Two items merit thoughtful consideration. 1.) The online and offline buyer profiles and 2.) the performance of online and in-store entities. If buyers are buying different items online than in-store (and most do both), perhaps a focus on e-commerce expands the items offered in a different way than an assortment that uses e-commerce to supports in-store shopping. That doesn't mean separation is the answer, but it would create the opportunity for more freedom within the e-commerce group to stretch its assortment wings and create an offering that appeals to the buying habits of online buyers. On performance indicators, as Macy's is primarily a brick-and-mortar retailer, it may treat it's online unit as second class. The results is lower quality talent and a lack of investment in new technology. If that's the case, a standalone e-commerce group where the team is motivated to improve the entirety of the e-commerce experience to generate more online sales might make sense. If you're a talented employee who is skilled in e-commerce execution, you want to work where you're a profit driver, not a cost driver. The rewards are better when you're the one bringing in the sales. A dedicated e-commerce group would offer that to talented employees. On the surface this appears like pure greed. However it is worth a thoughtful look beneath the surface to see if there might be some advantages. While still keeping the whole thing stitched together for shoppers.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2021

    Can loyalty programs ease supply chain blues this holiday season?

    I have too often found loyalty programs to be about customer loyalty to the store. The loyalty from store to retailer is often the missing link. Many of these suggestion offer ways the retailer can demonstrate it's loyalty to shoppers. It's not about points and general rewards, it's about filling out Christmas lists. That's pretty powerful. Just don't make any promises you can't keep. You don't want to say something is available and then not have it be there when the shopper comes up. A sure way to go from nice to naughty.
  • Posted on: 10/22/2021

    Is the privacy paradox being resolved?

    It comes down to value. Sites, retailers or other partners who use data to make relevant offers or share relevant information will be trusted partners. They will provide information that helps the shopper. That experience will work for both trusted partners and shopper. But those who blast endless offers based on the last search which was a one-off or gift item with no relevance to the shopper will be blocked. It's about an exchange of value. If no value is being delivered - or worse, the shopper is being annoyed - data will and should be blocked. Privacy? For some. For many others it's more an evaluation of "What's in it for me?" Exchange of personal data for value can work and does work but it takes work, not more triggered popups and email blasts.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2021

    Will retailers win now and lose later with long-term shipping contracts?

    This is a great opportunity for local hard goods manufacturers and suppliers to take a page out of the farm to table playbook. Promote their locally sourced, locally manufactured products with timely delivery. This could be the most locally sourced holiday shopping season ever. Shop local. It might be a shopper's best option, not just a marketing slogan.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2021

    Amazon asks, why wait for Black Friday when you can get Christmas deals today?

    With competitors gaining during the traditional holiday selling season, a great response is to change the rule of the game by expanding the season. As mentioned elsewhere, pantry load to take back share and play up the scarcity inevitable due to supply chain issues to create shopper urgency. Smart move. This earlier buying season may also generate incremental sales. A few shoppers on the fence for this and that may buy now then buy self gifts again later when the holidays approach and the novelty has worn off from their October "holiday" purchases. Operationally, this could smooth out demand and improve shopper perception of Amazon service levels.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2021

    Best Buy builds a virtual store to assist customers remotely

    Absolutely a win. First, reduces fear, uncertainty and doubt among users for technology products that a lot of potential buyers fear. Improves the eventual ownership experience through personal guidance. Opens potential to upsell as part of that better ownership experience to make sure everything needed -- the right cables, connectors, batteries, accessories, etc -- are included in the order for immediate enjoyment. Finally, can leverage store locations for rapid delivery or customer pickup. Could reduce Best Buy store footprints over time. I've noted less and less inventory on shelf in Best Buy stores and more stored exclusively for pickup. Looks out of stock in store, but open the app and it's ready for pickup in minutes.

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