Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran may be a relative newbie to retail, but he gets the immense value the grocery chain has for customers.
In a conversation with CNBC "Closing Bell" co-anchor Sara Eisen at the National Retail Federation (NRF) 2022 Big Show in New York on Monday, Sankaran said he's exploring the notion of keeping customers shopping at Albertsons for many years.
"When I reflect on when we're at our best as a company, I find that the best things about us are the customers that have been with us forever," Sankaran said. "In my opinion, that’s the true measure of our value: our ability to keep customers for many, many years."
Here are a few ways Sankaran said Albertsons is working to retain and improve the grocer's customer loyalty:
1. Investing in technology
The grocery chain launched a partnership with Fetch Rewards in 2021, giving shoppers access to exclusive deals and promotions. It also launched a delivery service and app. Sankaran said in the next few years, Albertsons will focus on automation, personalization and increasing productivity.
He's also focused on making things easier for customers who tend to purchase the same groceries every week.
"When you [grocery] shop, there’s a lot of things you buy every time; we should make that easier for you," he said.
2. Prioritizing speed
Sankaran said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Albertsons accelerated its digital presence by about five years in the span of just one year.
"There was just a need for it, an absolute need," Sankaran noted. "Many customers didn't want to come into the store; they wanted it delivered or they wanted to pick it up in the parking lot."
Therefore, Albertson's reworked many of its algorithms to accommodate this shift in consumer behavior, including scheduling its workforce, printing e-commerce orders, delivery capabilities, and more. Albertsons now has a two-hour delivery window, and it's working to make it even faster.
"We took an approach that there are some fundamentals we wanted to get right," said Sankaran. "But I believe firmly in the notion of riding the bike, then you can turn. So we started implementing things and then correcting them as we went forward and got better at it."
3. Listening to the customer
"Because [the pandemic] is so unpredictable, one of the things we had to lean on is where the customer is going," Sankaran said. "Understanding where they're going, what they're looking for from a safety standpoint, from a product standpoint."
Sankaran said he believes the trend of eating more at home will continue, especially as work from home becomes more permanent. To that end, Albertsons is focused on freshness and health.
"The best customers are the ones shopping in-store and using the digital options," Sankaran noted. "They spend more with us and they spend with us much longer."
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