NEW YORK — Food Lion has launched “My Food Lion,” an initiative that includes an area on its website where customers can sign up for personalized coupons, manage their MVP card accounts, and perform other shopping-related functions, the president of the chain said at the National Retail Federation's 100th Annual Conference & Expo here this month.
“It is really about listening to the customer and what they want, so we are embarking on My Food Lion, inspired by Macy's and others,” said Cathy Green Burns, speaking on a panel at the conference along with executives from Tesco, Macy's and the consulting firm Deloitte. “Customers are saying, ‘Give me a personalized shopping list; give me the opportunity when I go to the grocery store to know exactly what I want and what aisle it is in.’”
Food Lion, she said, is seeking to help shoppers simplify their shopping experience by leveraging such tools. The site is located at foodlion.com/myfoodlion.
Food Lion also has introduced “coupon resource centers” at its stores, where customers can scan their MVP loyalty cards and obtain coupons that the chain deems relevant to them that they can use that day.
The company could not be reached for further information on the initiatives.
In other remarks on the panel, Green said the company was also working on improving product traceability in its private-label offering, so that customers will have the ability to more easily determine the place of origin of the ingredients in the products.
Customers “are going to want to know where it was made, how it was made, and who made it, and that's something we are going to be able to do with our private-label products,” she said.
Private label represents “an opportunity to build trust and to build loyalty, and ultimately to build advocacy for your brands over time,” Green Burns explained, adding that such items have benefited from the economic downturn.
She also pointed out that undertaking corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives has migrated from something that is “nice to do” to being a core aspect of the business. “We're looking for opportunities to do that everywhere.
“At the end of the day, it's a critical imperative for us, and one that will continue to grow and develop over time,” she said.
She noted that when she was a child she was concerned about litter and pollution — and she remains concerned — but today children are looking at the environment and corporate responsibility more broadly.
“That next generation of the Millennials and even lower is going to care a lot, and they are going to judge us based on how responsible we are as a corporate partner.”
Andrew Higginson, chief executive of retailing services and group strategy director, Tesco, agreed that sustainability has become a crucial element of that company's business strategy, or “corporate steering wheel,” as he described it.
“One of the things we are working very hard on is the measurement,” he said, noting that, counter-intuitively, it might actually be better for the environment overall for the retailer to fly flowers in from Kenya, where they are grown outdoors, than to bring them in from nearby Holland, where they are grown in a hothouse.
“Then, the challenge is finding a way to represent that on the packages so that consumers can make their own choices, rather than dictating to the customers,” he said.
In response to another question, Higginson noted that Tesco is still trying to understand the value of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, after a report that Macy's was very enthusiastic about such platforms.
“I am a bit less messianic about this,” Higginson said. “We have not put a lot of money on it, but we are trying to understand it. It is a fine line to walk, as to whether or not you are intruding into people's communication between their friends.”
Green Burns of Food Lion agreed that retailers still have a lot of learning to do when it comes to social media, but said she was confident such sites would be an important part of Food Lion's multi-platform communication efforts going forward.
“One of our largest expenses from a marketing perspective is our flier,” she said. “We are very paper-based, still, so there may be opportunity to gain some efficiencies leveraging the Web and things like Facebook and Twitter.”