Mike Eardley, president and CEO of the IDDBA, stressed taking care of customers on their terms 

Keynote speakers at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s Dairy-Deli-Bake Seminar & Expo covered a wide range of weighty topics, from corporate responsibility to the ongoing digital revolution and its looming effect on business strategy and growth.

Mike Eardley, president and CEO of the IDDBA, spoke about the age of the “omnichannel” and the importance of taking care of customers on their terms.

“The move to omnichannel requires retailers to shift their focus from products — features, price, and inventory — to the outcome of the shopper’s experience that results from buying or using the product,” he explains.

Digital merchandising is one prime example.

Merchandising is the art of promoting the sale of products by the way they’re presented. Instore merchandising mainly involves visual displays along with variations in selection, packaging, pricing and timing, all intended to encourage shoppers to buy more.

Digital merchandising has the same goals as traditional merchandising but several characteristics set it apart and, in some cases, make it even more effective:

  • It’s more flexible. It’s easy to change digital pictures and other content without using additional store labor.
  • It’s more accessible. It’s available to shoppers all the time and wherever they are —at home, at work or on the go (this includes inside the store).
  • It doesn’t have the shrink that comes along with merchandising perishable products because the physical products are replaced with digital images.
  • It provides data on shopper behavior that contains insights into how shoppers are shopping and what they’re looking for.

“The omnichannel is our future,” Eardley says.

Corporate Responsibility

IDDBA speaker Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, discussed the arrival of “Big Food” in the media spotlight and how companies across the nation are scrambling to take steps to achieve “conscious capitalism,” or turning a profit while making a difference. This can mean everything from embracing sustainability to corporate responsibility.

“Every company is taking a step forward,” Robb says. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my 30-plus years in this business. There is a tremendous shift in how people are thinking about food, and the quality of food. Food safety. Climate change. I know it keeps me up at night because we sell a lot of food.”

It’s been 35 years since Whole Foods Market opened its first supermarket in Austin, Texas (the company opened its first service deli case in 1988), and now Whole Foods has grown to 421 stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

Robb points out 90 million consumers in the US are reaching their peak earning over the next 20 years, a fact that is fueling tremendous capital investment in food. Being a solid corporate citizen is good business, especially to younger consumers. “The goal is to have your customers talking to your customers,” he says, “because they like what you stand for.”