Grocery giant Albertsons Companies, which owns Safeway and Jewel-Osco, is steadily adding to its digital transformation, this time with shoppable, livestream video experiences developed by Redwood City-based Firework.
Firework noted that Albertsons is the first U.S. grocer to utilize its platform to create, host and curate their own short-form and livestream video for the Albertsons brands websites and app to improve customer engagement, Usman Humayun, vice president of digital marketing at Albertsons told TechCrunch.
This is the latest in a pipeline of digital advances Albertsons is making; for example, it is currently piloting remote-controlled delivery robots developed by Tortoise.
As part of its digital transformation, Albertsons is shifting to be mobile-first as it focuses on customer engagement and retention. Humayun explained that e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores were believed to be two things a few years ago, but when the global pandemic hit, those lines blurred.
“Now customers are starting in one place and ending in another place,” he added. “There is also an increased value of having a good digital experience that closely mirrors what people experience in the store, where there is selection, fulfillment — you can buy it right then — and you can ask an associate for advice.”
Customers going to an Albertsons site or using its app are there to research, get tips and advice and read reviews, something Humayun said if a retailer doesn’t have that, people will go elsewhere. The more people come to shop and engage with the content, it also provides the company with data and insights for building more content, what he called “the flywheel effect.”
Firework, a short-form video platform, launched in 2017 by co-founders Vincent Yang and Jerry Luk and is now led by Jeff Lucas, former global head of ad sales for Verizon Media. The company works with more than 600 direct-to-consumer brands, retailers and media publishers and has raised over $100 million to date from backers including IDG Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and GSR Ventures.
Working with Firework provides Albertsons the ability to create and present content faster, in a lighter-touch manner, and move toward being not just about product and recipes but becoming “the single source for food-related content” as well as health through its pharmacy, Humayun said.
The grocer intends to begin by rolling out video content, like fruits and vegetables that are in season or how to pick the best fruit, and then follow that up with recipes and meal prep videos using those foods. It also wants to go inside areas like the deli to show a video of how popular foods are prepared and the best methods for grocery storage, similar to what customers are already consuming on Instagram and TikTok, he added. The partnership will come out with expanded offerings and experiences in 2022 that will include customer personalization and leveraging local experience.
“This is transformational for us and moves us upwards from the static images and text to a new way of engaging with customers,” Humayun added. “Short-form video is the right format for us because our customers have so much content to consume, and it challenges us to make a high impact in a shorter time frame.”