by Dave Hanson

Hot off the heels of the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s 2019 Big Show, it seems “omnipresent” is the new omnichannel strategy. More than ever before, retailers are trying to meet shoppers wherever they are — whether that’s with delivery, pick-up, in their stores, in somebody else’s stores, in a store where you don’t have to interact with anybody, and even in your own cupboard via automated commerce in the coming years.

Leading retailers like Kroger, Walmart, Amazon and Target are evolving their strategy from alignment and optimization across channels to one of aggressive channel creation and proliferation to the point of being completely ubiquitous. What would once seem a frivolous, and perhaps foolhardy quest has become a high-stakes game of data-driven moneyball.

With the Category Management and Shopper Insights Management Associations’ joint Annual Conference (CMA/SIMA) right around the corner (February 25-27 in Las Vegas, NV), it’s a good time to start thinking about what your data can do for you in terms of setting a strategic direction. What are the numbers telling you about your customers, and how will you need to innovate to protect your market share in the coming years?

Kroger, for example, has just unveiled plans to offer products in Walgreens, in cashierless stores and even on Ali Baba — some off-the-beaten-path ideas to go along with several big moves they are making in the online pickup and delivery ordering space.

The company recently invested a 5% stake in British online grocer Ocado, and at this year’s NRF Conference, Kroger’s CEO outlined plans to license Ocado’s technology to US grocers, allowing them to run automated warehouses to deliver food to their customers. Having seen a colossal 60% spike in online sales from Q3 2017 to Q3 2018, Kroger is going all-in on good authority.

While online grocery sales might seem to be the most obvious channel, more than half of US grocers (58%) still aren’t there. Even the most conservative projections are charting massive growth in the online grocery sector. In 2018, online grocery sales drew about $17.5 billion in revenue and projections say they may reach $100 billion by 2025.

If that seems lofty, here’s a little look inside the numbers: according to a 2017 CNBC article, the most optimistic scenarios project a stunning 20% compound annual growth rate for online grocery sales. More conservative estimates still predicted a hearty 9%. Either way you slice it, that’s going to be one big piece of the pie. If it’s a base you don’t have covered yet, that’s a nut you might want to think about cracking.

With these massive companies expanding their reach across so many channels, smaller companies will need to rely on cleverness, agility and extracting the most from their own data-driven insights to survive and thrive.

The 2019 Category Management and Shopper Insights Management Associations’ joint Annual Conference is going to be loaded with training, breakout sessions, solution providers and demos offering different ways to slice your data and extract insights. You’ll be able to hear real-world examples from industry peers who have faced similar challenges and use their experiences to come up with ways to move the needle.

It’s a great opportunity to make new connections with potential data insights partners and pick the brains of other industry experts so you can be armed for the future with your own data-driven channel-conquering strategy.