TOPLINE TOPICS

H-E-B was rated the top U.S. grocery retailer by dunnhumby’s third annual Retailer Preference Index (RPI), replacing Trader Joe’s after its two-year reign in the top spot. The regional, Texas-based retailer also beat out Amazon (rated third), Costco (sixth), Aldi (seventh), Sam’s Club (eighth), Walmart (ninth) and Publix (10th). The RPI study partially credits H-E-B's rise to the top to its "sustained focus and excellence on assortment relevance and private brand," making it a real contender against leading traditional retailers. Dunnhumby surveyed 7,000 U.S. households to rate the 60 largest grocery retailers based on both financial performance and consumer emotional sentiment for this survey. (View full study here.)

MASS

Walmart Media Group is stepping up its omnichannel ad targeting and measurement capabilities with the launch of the Walmart Advertising Partners program. The program establishes a new ecosystem designed to bolster advertisers’ ability to deliver targeted, sponsored advertising to Walmart shoppers via partnerships with digital ad platforms Flywheel Digital, Kenshoo, Pacvue, and Teikametrics.

Through a new integration leveraging proprietary image capture technology from Snap36, Salsify now supports direct 360-degree image integration to walmart.com. "Shoppers, particularly on digital channels, want as much information as possible before making a purchasing decision. Walmart's emphasis on 360-degree imagery has given every brand manufacturer a unique opportunity to better inform shoppers on walmart.com," said Salsify co-founder and CMO Rob Gonzalez.

Walmart may have found a solution to the clunky process of grocery pickers cluttering the store sales floor as they walk around to find the items needed to fulfill online grocery orders with the custom Alphabot system it is trialing in Salem, NH. The mass merchant next fiscal year is planning to open two additional Alphabot facilities at stores in Mustang, OK, and Burbank, CA. The technology cuts the time it takes to pick and pack an online grocery order and has the ability to collect and share shopper data as well as use it to anticipate what a customer might want as a replacement if what they order is out of stock.

After doubling up on a successful pilot with CVS Pharmacy, SmileDirectClub is further expanding into retail with a new oral-care line sold exclusively through Walmart. According to reports, Walmart is displaying the products — including an electric toothbrush (priced at about $25), a whitening kit with LED lighting, toothpaste, a water flosser and an ultrasonic UV cleaner that sanitizes aligners and retainers — on endcaps and by grouping them in a single shelving area.

AMAZON

Later this year, consumers with Amazon Alexa-enabled vehicles, Echo Auto, and other Alexa-enabled mobility devices will be able to say, “Alexa, pay for gas” when they pull up to get fuel from gas pumps at some 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations. Alexa confirms the station location and the pump number. Digital commerce technology from Fiserv will activate the pump and facilitate token generation to help ensure a secure payment experience. Payments will be processed through Amazon Pay; no additional sign-up or separate account is required. (See video below.)

Amazon has formed a new partnership with one of India's largest brick-and-mortar retailers, Future Retail, that will allow customers to order products from the company through Amazon India. 

DRUG

Through January, CVS Pharmacy is offering eligible patients nationwide free one- to two-day prescription delivery, which normally costs $4.99, to enable people to try out the service. Select nonprescription items such as OTC remedies, vitamins and baby care are also eligible. 

Walgreens has named Kevin Ban its new Chief Medical Officer. In that role, Ban assumes leadership of the Walgreens clinical office, overseeing the development of enterprise clinical programs and clinical analytics and directing provision of care, clinical outcomes, patient safety and healthcare information systems and programs across pharmacy and operations.

SUPERMARKET

Kroger is rolling out a private label line of plant-based burger patties and grinds. An extension of the grocer's natural and organic store brand Simple Truth, Simple Truth Emerge SKUs are free of GMOs, dairy, gluten and soy, and boast 20 grams of pea-based protein per serving.

"Kroger is driving the growth of the plant-based category through our Simple Truth brand, valued supplier partnerships and industry-leading fresh merchandising strategies," said Joe Grieshaber, Kroger's senior vice president of merchandising, in a media release. "Kroger anticipates interest in plant-based products to continue to grow in 2020, with the category being one of the key drivers of our natural and organic sales."