2019 may well be considered a marquee year when business historians look back on the evolution of retail.
As you’ll see, it was a year of raising stakes, when retailers doubled down on their investments in delivery, pickup, and all things digital—ratcheting up the already tense competition between rival retailers for the future of the industry.
And Endcaps & Insights, an online publication powered by the Field Agent data-collection platform, was there every step of the way.
Our mission at E&I is to bring business headlines to life through photos, videos, and shopper insights. Not only to report what’s happening in retail, but to show you from the shopper’s unique point-of-view.
So with the clock ticking down to the final hours of 2019 and the end of another decade, we at E&I wanted to take a moment to revisit some of our favorite articles from the previous year.
To our loyal readers: Thank you, thank you for a wonderful 2019. Enjoy this look back. It’s dedicated to you.
And if you’re new to E&I, we hope you’ll take a moment to subscribe. 2020 is sure to be an unforgettable year.
Our 10 Favorite Articles from 2019
10. Kroger Rush Delivery
Retail giants are jockeying for position in the grocery-delivery race. From self-driving vehicles to straight-to-the-refrigerator services, retailers in 2019 looked for any way to get an upper-hand.
Over the summer, Kroger fired a shot across the bow of the competition by unveiling a new 30-minute delivery service, Kroger Rush.
We asked six shoppers in Kentucky and Ohio to show us the Kroger Rush shopping-and-delivery process, which you can see in the video below.
9. Walmart Alcohol-Pickup
With each passing day, shoppers become more comfortable with grocery pickup. Many traditional grocery staples—bread, milk, and even produce—are now being purchased online with regularity.
Alcohol, however, has been slow to make the transition to pickup. As suggested in Alcoholic Beverages in the Omnichannel Age, a report by Field Agent, “The regulated nature of alcohol, and the accompanying uncertainty, has made many shoppers apprehensive about purchasing alcohol online for pickup.”
But in November, retail (and pickup) juggernaut Walmart announced that its alcohol pickup service had expanded to 29 states and 2,000 locations, which could help shoppers become more comfortable buying alcohol online.
To get a shopper-level view of the service, we asked 17 agents to purchase alcohol online/in-app through Walmart, pick up the beverages from their local store, and then tell us their thoughts about the process.
8. Walgreens' Digital Coolers
This one was fun.
Early in 2019, Walgreen’s unveiled sleek, savvy, internet-enabled coolers and freezers at a handful of stores. Reports suggest the coolers are equipped with cameras and sensors able to determine information about shoppers and even weather conditions.
The result? A digital cooler that can recommend/advertise products to specific shoppers at specific times.
As the video below suggests, we enlisted 21 shoppers in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco to try the coolers for themselves.
7. Target’s Disney Stores
Multiple Target stores got a little dose of magic in 2019.
The retailer opened Disney “shop-in-shops” inside 25 Target stores scattered across the country. These mini-stores feature whimsical entertainment centers, interactive mirrors, and all kinds of popular Disney merchandise.
We sent agents to 11 Disney-in-Target stores where they took pictures and shared their thoughts about the development.
6. Beyond Burger
Beyond a doubt, the biggest development at Field Agent this year was the addition of our new Digital Demo service, which drives product sales by mobilizing real shoppers to purchase, try, write about, and even share about products.
That got us at E&I thinking about new products that we could have agents purchase, try, and review. And there, staring us right in the face, was the Beyond Burger—one of the most talked-about products of 2019.
In August, we asked 50 meat-eaters to try the meatless burger patty for themselves. The video below shows their initial reactions.
5. Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab
Walmart stirred the retail waters in April by opening the doors to a new “Intelligent Retail Lab” on New York’s Long Island. As we said in our article at the time, “Think Walmart Neighborhood Market + cutting-edge AI capabilities.”
The IRL features all sorts of bells-and-whistles, including cameras to detect low-stock SKUs and interactive displays to educate shoppers.
In early May, we dispatched eight shoppers to the IRL to capture photos and video. As one shopper said, “Using the interactive touchscreen technology made me excited to shop!”
Walmart also opened an enhanced supercenter earlier this year, complete with a health center. See those photos here.
4. Kroger’s Digital Shelves
2019 was the year Kroger began swapping shelves for Windows.
No, not really, but it was the year Kroger teamed up with the maker of Windows to outfit two of its stores with Microsoft-powered shelves. As you can see in the video below, EDGE shelf, or enhanced display for grocery environment, offers a sophisticated alternative to the paper tags that have long lined store shelves.
For its part, Walmart, too, tested a couple of digital shelf labels in 2019, which E&I also covered.
3. Top CPG Brands Inside Purses
The Field Agent data-collection platform has long been used by brands to go where no platform has gone before.
To demonstrate this capability, E&I asked 1,000 women in June to inventory the contents of their handbags and help us understand which CPG brands are most commonly found in purses. We did the same with baby bags in 2019.
The top brands found in women’s purses included Bath & Body Works, Wrigley gums, Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, and Kleenex, yet many other brands made the list as well.
2. Walmart Voice Order
Walmart Voice Order made the news on two distinct occasions this year. Described in one E&I article as “a convenient, hands-free way for [shoppers] to add groceries to their Walmart grocery-pickup and delivery orders,” WVO was first made available to Google Assistant users and then, more recently, to Apple Siri users.
As you can see in the video below, WVO allows Walmart shoppers to add groceries and household consumables to their digital shopping carts with nothing more than their voice.
1. The Interactive, Seasonal Display Gallery
We love products displays at E&I. And this year, we took our affinity to a whole ‘nother level.
This was the year we unveiled our interactive, seasonal display gallery.
It works like this: For 10 popular shopping seasons throughout the year, Field Agent is auditing 200 stores across nearly 50 grocery chains to capture photos of seasonal, grocery displays and to understand questions about display activity. We're then uploading the photos and data to the gallery, where retail professionals can keep an eye on seasonal display activity in stores everywhere.
Currently the gallery hosts hundreds of photos from five 2019 seasons: back to school, football kickoff, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
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