The evolution of the grocery industry is ever in motion. Between changing consumer habits, food channel trends, and a multitude of other factors, the buy-side is working to meet shopper demands. One prominent retailer in this space is Ahold Delhaize USA. I recently spoke with Rom Kosla, Executive Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer for Retail Business Services (RBS), to gain his perspective.
One of his first predictions for 2023 is the increased implementation of technology. This includes a spike in cloud bursting, which is a configuration method that uses cloud resources when a company’s infrastructure reaches its capacity. With the unprecedented amount of data Ahold processed in 2022, the retailer is committed to hybrid cloud.
“We have a multi-tenant environment of servers that enables us to expand in situational circumstances. Because we have a proprietary e-commerce solution, we are probably only one of a few companies where we own our own e-commerce and consumer data,” Rom explains. “Having this bandwidth in technology allows us to handle scale by either going up or down with our data. As companies are required to process more information than ever, having the ability to scale through cloud bursting offers tremendous value, and we’ll see more of an emphasis in cloud bursting in the year ahead.”
Of course, one cannot bring up technology in the grocery space without bringing e-commerce operations into the conversation. Rom tells me the team is working to create a truly omnichannel experience that is as convergent and seamless as possible and will ultimately drive increased market share.
“Given that store infrastructure and technology requires significant investment, retailers need to have a certain level of sophistication with their platforms,” he says. “We are implementing a cloud-based common point of sales solution with a modern set of sales capabilities to enable us to link our solutions together with our e-commerce solutions. If consumers have the bandwidth to shop at our stores, we want to engage them in the most meaningful way, which is where we are focusing our investment.”
I also ask Rom how Ahold leverages different data points to support its perishable departments. He relays that one of the most important aspects is to look at how your technology supports freshness and having products remain in stock.
“When a retailer has integrated technology, they can plan effectively and have a better sense of how to order ahead of time, which enables them to get maximum value for their perishable products. Ahold has implemented an AI-enable forecasting and replenishment technology that helps us anticipate demand and be ready for unpredictable events, such as weather. The brands we support also engage a significant network of local suppliers and farmers to offer a unique selection of products, which is both a value proposition and a key differentiator from other retailers.”
While technological advancement is certainly an increasingly important development in the grocery sector, Rom emphasizes that the employees on grocery store floors are what make all the difference.
“People will always be the true heartbeat of retail. Smart retailers will continue to focus on their workforce while also evolving to user-center models where work is released in short, agile iterations. Gone are the days of costly multi-year solutions. We’re transforming our organization to this model,” Rom tells me. “Along with this transformation, we’ll deploy training and development to help teams succeed in the new model, as well as continue to attract new talent to help us broaden capabilities.”
On a final note, Rom touches on how RBS is actively planning for future investments in its ESG strategy.
“Everything we are doing has to tie back to how we are being sustainable. We cannot just do things because we want growth, we want growth in the right way,” he shares. “We want to be sustainable at both a profit level and environmental level. We are making sure to be intentional that everything we support is working toward our ultimate goal of doing business sustainably.”
We at Deli Market News hear from Ahold often, so you can expect to get more from us very soon.