This time, let’s break the ‘what happens in Vegas’ rule…
The 2023 National Grocers Association Show is officially in the books. Nearly 3,300 industry professionals descended on Las Vegas for a weekend of networking, learning, and exploring a sold-out expo hall with more than 300 exhibitors. The three-day event boasted the largest attendance since 2017 and was obviously well attended by independent retailers, wholesalers, CPG manufacturers, and service providers.
With so much packed into the three days, Webstop made a concerted effort to recap as much as we could. Beginning with the first part of an interview our CEO Shawn Tuckett did with MorningNewsBeat’s Kevin Coupe, and continuing on with some of the central highlights from the NGA Show.
#1 The Fusion of Food and Tech
Retailers have continuously allocated resources in an effort to bolster their online presence, and reports suggest that grocery eCommerce could be a $234 billion market in the U.S. by 2025; that, along with retail media spending being estimated at over $50 billion for 2023 shows how much digital has become central to grocery’s future. The focus on digital transformation was evident at this year’s NGA Show, with a heavy presence of digital vendors everywhere you looked and an all-new MorningNewsBeat organized Technology Summit to lead off the show.
#2 Age of Innovation? No… Age of Integration!
In the past, the NGA Show has typically showcased all of the newest technologies and emphasized the benefits of staying ahead of the curve with all the latest features. But by now, the majority of independents have a strong grasp on baseline digital features like eCommerce, digital circulars, digital coupons, loyalty programs, and digital advertising. This is especially true for regional chains with multiple locations.
But there’s a difference between acquisition and implementation. Despite having access, almost all of these retailers know that these features aren’t reaching their full potential–and it’s because they lack alignment and organization to work with each other. Retailers are now starting the process of trying to increase engagement, and the answer to that is integration. Various panels and speakers highlighted this as they shared how collaboration has become paramount and how many are working more than ever with other technology providers focused on the space.
#3 Retail Media Goes Indie
In 2023, everyone and their mother is offering a retail media network, and digital retail media advertising spending is estimated to reach $143 billion worldwide by 2024. Every retail media network (RMNs) is different, and some of their promises can range from unrealistic to grandiose. With CPG brand dollars at stake, the latest round of tech providers, flush with investor funding, is knocking at the door, offering “free” platforms that the CPGs will fund. You can almost think of these platforms as old-school print magazine subscriptions, offering a simple vehicle to host ads.
The concern is that despite the big promises of funding everything with money left over, plenty of these companies end up going under because the cheapened retailer platforms couldn’t gain traction since they were giving everything away for free. This is not to say that there isn’t a retail media opportunity for independents, but it needs to be set up in a way that makes retailers a viable partner in the eyes of CPGs. And independents also have to keep in mind that CPGs spend the majority of their time focused on major chains, so getting their attention might require joining forces with other independents. Speaking of which…might we suggest you check out Adsta? The first-ever retail media network built for independents is currently serving over 4,000 stores.
#4 Instacart Loves The Independents
As Instacart has continued to transform its identity as an organization, it’s become clear they are shifting at least some of their focus to independents. Beginning with their acquisition of Rosie and further witnessed in their pervasive presence at NGA, it’s clear that they see an opportunity to expand into a new sector.
Why wouldn’t they? As more and more grocers move their eCommerce and fulfillment in-house, Instacart is forced to find new growth opportunities. And for independents, who can be strapped for time and stretched on budget, it makes sense too. There were even rumblings around NGA that Instacart might begin sharing sales data with retailers. We aren’t holding our breath, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for Instacart to continue to solidify itself in the independent space.
#5 Davids vs. Goliaths
While it’s true that the Amazons, Krogers, and Walmarts aren’t getting any smaller, there was an exciting energy at this year’s NGA Show. Despite the power imbalance, it genuinely felt that independent retailers are ready for the challenge and won’t give up without a fight. Of course, there will always be independents that are on their way to the exit, but this year NGA was filled with a compelling competitive spirit, and there were plenty of local grocers who are ready and willing to take on the new era of grocery.
If NGA showed us anything, it’s that these independent grocers recognize the challenge ahead of them and aren’t backing down. And it’s up to digital providers and wholesalers, to name a few, to do everything we can to equip them to win.
One Last Important Note….
You might remember that after our last trip to Las Vegas, we wrote about our meal at Momofuku. After making a return trip, we have to give a shout-out to the tableside duck. But there is also a new contender just a few blocks down the strip at the Wynn. Reserve your table early because you do not want to miss Wing Lei, the only Michelin-star Chinese restaurant in the U.S. All we’re going to say is that the crispy wagyu beef rolls are worth the trip to Vegas.
Feel Like You Missed Out…
Wish you had been there to experience all this too? We wish you could download the Wing Lei beef rolls but since you can’t, we have consolation. Provide your email below if you’d like to receive a copy of Webstop’s Digital Transformation presentation from NGA immediately for download.