Between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, “data” has almost become a different kind of four letter word. But acting out of fear can make it easy to forget that data can be really useful for companies and consumers alike. In fact, data is a big reason why grocery company Albertsons is launching a digital marketplace this summer.
Late last month Albertsons, whose banner brands include Safeway and Vons, announced registration was open for vendors to apply to sell their food and wellness goods through a new digital marketplace. The still-unnamed marketplace will allow both smaller food startups and larger CPG brands who want to experiment with new products to sell those wares on a national platform, without taking up real estate.
“The number of innovative products that are coming out is truly amazing,” said Narayan Iyengar, SVP of Digital Marketing and e-commerce, Albertsons Companies. “We would like to stock all of them in the store, but shelf space is limited.”
While the move does expand Albertsons’ catalog without expanding any square footage, it’s also a data play for the grocer. Iyengar said that their new marketplace will provide interesting data about food trends, so the grocery company can capitalize on those trends more quickly. For example, if a boutique hot sauce becomes a huge hit in Los Angeles, the physical Albertsons stores in that area will be able to move fast and make room for the hot sauce on their shelves. This data will also provide insight for the participating vendors, indicating where they should build out distribution.
For Alberstons, stocking shelves to keep up with trends isn’t just geared towards the customers that come into their physical store. By the middle of this year, Instacart will be providing same day delivery for 1,800 Albertsons locations. Having a broad range of products available to impatient consumers will be critical as Albertsons looks to fend off huge competitors like Walmart and Amazon/Whole Foods.
Albertsons’ digital marketplace is supposed to launch early this summer, and according to Iyengar, “several” vendors have signed up already. Albertsons doesn’t list any prerequisites on its signup page, but vendors will need to be able to ship directly to customers and will be responsible for customer service. The digital marketplace itself is currently going through the final stages of testing, and will most likely be tightly integrated with the stores’ existing brands, as opposed to marketing itself as a completely separate entity.
Will this digital marketplace be a hit with consumers? We’ll have to look at the data to see.