Tag Archives: safeway

Mobile payments leader must provide value to consumers and banks

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 8.23.55 PMI remember being swept up in the early Foursquare craze. I raced around my little town checking in at my local Starbucks and favorite lunch spots to become The Mayor. I worked hard to keep it by doing drive by check ins as I was stuck at traffic lights. I know, I’m hyper competitive on certain things. Friends and I would compete on who could win the most badges too! I quickly earned the “jet setter” badge with frequent flights from SJC to SNA. Other friends won the “crunked” badge with late night shenanigans. Ahh to be a DINK again. All for what? For pure competition and Facebook feed bragging rights!

At a deeper level, I hoped that eventually I’d receive relevant geographically based alerts and rewards on my phone as I walked by a restaurant or store. Unfortunately, many of these rewards required an AMEX card subscription (creating a HUGE hurdle) or were nothing more than a free drink at check in. Big whoop. Sigh…it was very clear that geo based local marketing had not made the jump from great concepts to effective execution. However, this is all changing quickly with the launch of mobile payment solutions like Apple Pay and well designed retail loyalty mobile apps. Real customer value can be delivered at the right time. Banks can also make HUGE strides in building more meaningful customer relationships beyond checking accounts. FINALLY!!!!!

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My family and I are loyal Safeway customers for the majority of our food. The loyalty was solidified by Safeway launching a program that contained several weekly coupons and special offers based on shopping activity. A key component of the loyalty program is the Safeway mobile app which serves as the main touch point for how offers are communicated to consumers. Just recently, Safeway has pushed daily offers that appear on the front scream of my mobile device. Last week I made a special trip into Safeway’s deli to take advantage of a sandwich offer that was delivered to my phone that morning. Cool. There are several other retail apps, Starbucks for example, that deliver this customer value in a similar way. All of these apps have a way to go on using geo fencing technology to send me offers as I’m nearby or actually in store. Clearly this will be coming!

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently completed my first Apple Pay transaction at Sports Authority. It took me 6 months to actually do this after I loaded all of my cards. Honestly, I forgot to use Apple Pay and struggled with finding locations that use it. I opine in my last post that Apple Pay must do a lot more to remind users that “Apple Pay is Accepted Here” to drive adoption. Steps are being taken to do so for I saw an Apple Pay logo appear on a Walmart payment terminal as I purchased Easter cards.

So where do banks fit in creating greater customer value? Apple Pay requires that customers enter in debit cards and credit cards to make payment. Banks provide these cards. Banks frequently offer rewards programs and provide an incentive to shop a designated retail location. By not actively engaging in this payments ecosystem, banks are LOSING OUT BIG TIME on engaging with customers in a meaningful way with relevant, geo targeted offers.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 3.15.25 PMFor example, let’s say a consumer is using a Wells Fargo bank card for Apple Pay. The consumer pays for items at Walmart that is a member of Well’s Earn More Mall program. The consumer is then informed that they receive double points and are reminded of other Earn More Mall retailers that may be geographically close by. How powerful is that for Wells to influence consumer purchase decision and drive usage of its cards?!

Unfortunately, this type of consumer influence will not be available to banks through Apple Pay. Apple has decided to not share consumer purchase data with card providers/banks. Clearly Apple is looking to own the consumer relationship AND control the valuable behavioral data. However, given the amount of marketing activity driven by banks, especially Wells Fargo, this seems a little one-sided of Apple…giving room for a competitive payment platform that helps consumers AND banks. Banks need to use their power to guide the creation of a payments ecosystem that builds deeper customer relationships.

As we all know, Android OS based Samsung announced the acquisition of LoopPay as their digital payments platform and competitive solution. It would not be surprising if the Android OS based Samsung phones enable banks to access purchasing data to banks and provide the channel to communicate special offers. For a fee, of course. Apple and Samsung need to be reminded of the power banks have in the transaction process. Banks provide the cards! Strangely, BANKS need to be reminded of the power THEY have in influencing the payment ecosystem. The larger banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, have enormous power. At the current moment, banks are willing to draft on the success of Apple Pay.  Wells Fargo even promotes their Apple Pay features in TV commercials.  Cleary banks see value in positioning themselves as “cutting edge.”  However, this affiliation is purely brand driven and not consumer value drive.   If a bank can be promised greater access to consumer data AND direct access to consumers through the device, banks will drive great consumer value while promoting new technology.  Because of the consumer value focus, banks will promote one payments solution over another…and mean it.

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Grokker content could be key driver of Blue Apron subscriber growth

Like many of us, my wife and I struggle in keeping a good work/family life balance. We are parents of two young boys and our goal is to provide them with the best opportunities to grow and develop physically, intellectually and spiritually. We’ve learned that parenting is a lot of fun, a more than full time job AND is very rewarding. One of our biggest struggles is getting healthy, flavorful and “kid friendly” food on the table. We make frequent runs to Safeway, Trader Joe’s and to Whole Foods to buy as much fresh food as possible…and end up buying a lot of pre-made food too. Let’s face it, after a LONG day at work, it’s a lot easier to throw in the microwave a Trade Joe’s meat loaf than to whip one up from scratch.

The inspiration to prepare a complete meal does find us a few times a week, however. So we are not a complete “ready made meal” family…at least we’ve got that going for us.  We’ve found that the big challenges in home cooking are…

1. Finding inspiration for great meals

2. Finding recipes that are easy and quick to prepare

3. Shopping for the ingredients

4. Taking the time to prepare the meal (the fun part)

5. Cleaning up (the not fun part)

UGH….any of these challenges is enough to push a family to do ready made food or to buy take-out.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 11.54.28 AMWe have been finding home cooked meal inspiration from a great site called Grokker. Signing up for Grokker is free and they do a great job in how their content is organized. The site provides how-to videos on preparing some great meals taught by professional chefs. When I say “professional” I mean chefs from the higher end restaurants or expert food bloggers…so they know a trick or two. One of our favorites is Whitney Bond who just KILLS it on creative ways to prepare the standard meals. My wife LOVED her sweet potato skin recipe. Or Doc Ward’s smoked ribs are AMAZING.

Grokker clearly addresses the challenges of finding inspiration and finding recipes that are easy to prepare. They also provide the recipe in text form that can be emailed or printed out to then find its way on a shopping list. It would be GREAT if Grokker could make it easy for me to export the list of ingredients into a shopping list on my iPhone. Hint, hint.

Grokker, however, does not help consumers take the pain out of 3 of the biggest challenges of home cooking; shopping, preparation time and clean up. I think if Grokker helped consumers do the shopping they will address A HUGE pain point and the site will attract more consumers eager to be inspired and enabled to cook great food. Hmmm…but how is this done? Grocery delivery is a tough business. Remember WebVan?

Grokker may address the shopping challenge by establishing a strategic partnership with Blue Apron. The combined assets will deliver a powerful consumer experience for both companies and their consumer base. Blue Apron just announced a $50M C-round of funding and is boasting the delivery of 500K meals a month. Wow. Blue Apron positions itself as a better way to cook with fresh ingredients, great recipes delivered to the consumer’s home. For a monthly fee starting at $9.95, Blue Apron provides recipes, ingredients and a home delivery service. The consumers can do the fun part, taking the time to prepare the meal.Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.02.55 PM

I think Blue Apron is missing a key element…the inspiration around food and the community engagement with other foodies.   By partnering with Grokker, Blue Apron receives well-produced content that may help it differentiate itself from competitors such as Plated or PeachDish. Given Blue Apron’s momentum, we all know competitors will be HOT on their apron strings. Amazon is working out the kinks of Amazon Fresh and as we know, they are good at getting e-commerce right.

Clearly, Grokker will gain a great deal from a Blue Apron strategic partnership. They will benefit through the monetization of its well produced cooking content through licensing agreements. Grokker could provide a VALUABLE service to Blue Apron that will generate a handsome revenue stream to fuel expert content development across more categories. Grokker will also provide a key service to their consumer audience – shopping and delivery of recipe ingredients. As a Grokker user, I see this as a great service!

Some may ask why Blue Apron would not just create the content themselves given their large capitalization. Clearly they have the money.   Aah…creating the right, well-produced content is easier said than done, young Jedi. This is Grokker’s core competency. Another obvious question is why Blue Apron does not just buy Grokker…after all Grokker’s valuation at the moment is far less than Blue Apron’s at $500M. From what I can see the Grokker team is focused on building an expert video network including content beyond food, including yoga and health/fitness. In short, Grokker may not be open to Blue Apron’s marriage proposal…which is smart. Grokker will become a real hot number and potential suitors will be coming out of the woodwork.

The big key in making a Blue Apron/Grokker partnership work is ease of integration. The Blue Apron leadership team is under A LOT of pressure to grow subscribers and revenue. Grokker content can help grow subscribers by providing a lot of great content, recipes and chef personalities. If this content can be easily integrated on Blue Apron with minimal front-end engineering support, it’s not a stretch to envision this partnership.

I’m hungry.


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