Paul Scorza – Retail Business Services
We’ve all been there, at the back of a grocery store checkout train, texting loved ones not to file a missing person report; or doubling back through the aisles in search of an overlooked item.
According to Paul Scorza, those hassles will soon be in the past, thanks to innovative technologies designed to make the grocery shopping experience easier and more personal than ever before.
“We’re focused on leveraging data to create a better, more personal shopping experience,” says Scorza, executive vice president and chief information officer for Retail Business Services. “We want it to be that easy, wherever, whenever you want to shop, whether that’s in a retail store or online.”
A model for the future
Launched in early 2017, Retail Business Services is the support-services company of Ahold Delhaize USA, itself the parent company of six well-known U.S. brands that include Food Lion, Giant Food, GIANT/MARTIN’S, Stop & Shop and Peapod, the country’s largest online grocery retailer.
For these brands, Retail Business Services provides IT solutions, supply chain management, people systems, commercial services and more, enabling the local brands to select the tools that fit their business models and customer demographics.
Mobile app-enhanced checkout is just the start. Created in the company’s innovation lab (more on that in a bit), the app lets customers scan their groceries while they’re shopping. When they approach checkout, shoppers are automatically directed to a lane that verifies their online payment.
“People who don’t have the app will see people flying through the lines, especially during holidays,” Scorza says.
Some lucky shoppers might not peruse the aisles at all. To date, RBS has enabled hundreds of local brand stores to integrate “click and collect” (think groceries “to go”), letting customers order groceries online and pick them up at the store, bagged and ready to go.
Using data aggregation, Retail Business Services is also developing the ability to give consumers targeted discounts. For instance, customers who routinely purchase diapers might be given diaper discounts. And, later this year, Scorza expects to offer label-scanning technology, which would allow shoppers to learn more about a product’s ingredients.
Yet another app enables shoppers to order Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas prime ribs ahead of time, giving meat department employees the ability to plan ahead and offering faster service to those picking up the goods.
In some local brand stores, “camera-lytics” compares the number of available items with what’s specified by the store’s planogram, or the visual representation of products on the shelves. If the product is low, a message is sent to the store manager, who can then delegate the restocking.
After installing the cameras in its beverage aisle, one pilot store saw an 8 percent spike in sales of bottled water.
Inside the lab
He likens it to something you’d find at a Silicon Valley startup: An airy, abuzz office space with open seating, gentle lighting and a ping pong table (of course). Once a month, employees are invited to participate in a lunch-time open mic.
On the seventh floor of the company’s Quincy, Massachusetts, office, just outside of Boston, Retail Business Services wears its startup spirit on its sleeve. Here, a team of 30 is busy creating grocery shopping’s future.
The innovation lab is just one of many features of the fast-growing company, which already employs more than 3,000—an amalgam of deep retail experience and subject matter expertise—across six primary office locations, from Massachusetts to Illinois to the Carolinas.
“We’ve been very aggressive in hiring computer science talent in an effort to really drive innovation,” Scorza says. “It’s unlike any venture I’ve ever been a part of.”
For someone who spent 32 years at IBM, that’s saying something.
One of Retail Business Services’ strategies involves hiring college seniors for six-month internships in the innovation lab. In that time, students are encouraged to develop new and innovative technologies for testing at select local brand store locations, with some apps created in a matter of weeks.
The goal, Scorza says, is to create solutions for individual brands—such as when one local brand requested an app which gives aisle locations for specific products—that can be customized for other local brands.
“Not long ago, I had a hard time finding brands willing to try some of these things,” Scorza recalls. “Now, there is widespread acknowledgement that technology innovation is at the core of the next generation of grocery retail. Everyone wants in on this, and, at Retail Business Services, we’re well prepared to help make that happen.”
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