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Southeastern Grocers CMO discusses the company’s new digital journey

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Sharry Cramond, Southeastern Grocers CMO, featured on Hot Topics' top 100 retail marketers globally, and discusses her brand's next digital and mobile steps.

As the conversation surrounding digital marketing methods evolves, so too should brands’ marketing strategies.

Over five years have elapsed since this trend really gained traction in the minds of consumers and industry insiders alike, and yet for many companies, fully digital activities are still a long way off.

The differences between adaptive businesses and those content to remain as analogue as possible is clear: consumers are migrating from physical outlets to online content, and competitive prices will mean the latter stores fall behind.

For the retail industry therefore, this topic is a key parameter for their futures as the digital consumer migration increases pace.

Sharry Cramond, CMO of Southeastern Grocers, has recognized the need for a digital outlook and operations, and discusses how one the largest private companies in the US is thinking about its future offering.


Hot Topics: As a brand how are you reacting and adapting your marketing strategies to be able to interact with a digitally mature consumer demographic?

Sharry Cramond: “Southeastern Grocers is in an early stage of our digital journey, but we are constantly evolving with our customers and understand that they are moving toward digital lifestyles.

“Our customers’ shopping habits vary, so our goal is to offer them a shopping experience and communications that are highly personal.

“To do this effectively we need to understand the shopping habits of each individual customer we serve.

“We are learning a lot from loyalty rewards cards used inside our stores, and as we begin to better understand these habits we can send relevant digital communications and personalized coupon offerings that match their preferences.”

The digital consumer migration has also spawned other retail trends that Cramond mentions, and other marketers are jumping upon: personalization.

The experiences a consumer can have when browsing and shopping online can be much more immersive and leisurely, whilst the proliferation of data being used by businesses facilitates a much better understanding of what a consumer wants.

It’s also interesting that Cramond touches upon the use of coupons.

Today’s shoppers are increasingly savvy, and the internet makes price comparisons extremely easy, forcing retailers to carefully consider their products and services.

This hunger for deals, particularly via mobile channels, is immense.

A report on mobile coupon uptakes from One-Click Savings revealed that 96% of US mobile users searched for coupons in 2015 to seek out the best deals when shopping online.


HT: What particular channels are your consumers most engaged on and how are you improving their experience and journey with you?

SC: “We have found that our customers use a combination of channels when it comes to preparing for their weekly grocery shopping. We have what we call push and pull channels for communicating.

“Our push channels include email marketing where we can proactively send our customers personalized coupons, weekly specials and specialized offerings each week. Our pull channels include our website and social media channels where our customers are coming to engage with our brand and review the digital circular and offerings.

“We also provide an app that helps remind them about offerings available while they shop in store.

“To provide our customers with a shopping experience that is convenient, easy and secure, we also implemented ApplePay across our entire southeastern footprint for a faster checkout process.”

Within the digital paradigm, the main driver of the digital consumer migration has been the smart phone.

Not only are consumers spending more time on mobile devices, but 10% of internet users in North America access the web only from their smartphone.

Similarly, in the UK, the Interactive Media in Retail Group reported mobile traffic to UK retailers surpassed 50% for the time in 2014.

Apps, like the one Cramond has initiated, provides a platform for this growing market segment that is an increasingly important part of a campaign creation process.


HT: Looking forward, how are you being proactive so that you, your team and your brand stay on top of the digital revolution and its legacy, whilst avoiding any challenges?

SC: “Challenges that we face as a grocery retailer are choosing the best digital strategy to complement an ideal marketing mix and measuring the effect of our digital campaigns.

“Our priority is to ensure that our digital strategy is integrated seamlessly with what we do as a company, and not treated as its own entity.

“From a retailer’s perspective, everything we do digitally needs to support and drive traffic to our stores.

“We are constantly looking into digital trends and view these capabilities as an amplifier for everything we do, but prioritize those that we know will improve the shopping experience for our customers.”

Overall, a retail brand needs to update, and continue to update, its digital and mobile presence to make sure the consumer shopping experience is as high as possible, as Cramond discusses.

As the digital consumer migration continues, the next steps for retailers beginning their digital journey will be discovering which strategies are most appropriate for their customers and themselves.

Only then will brands like SEG be able to leverage their current consumer relationships, and transition those onto a digital and mobile forum in the future.