By Kevin Peesker, President, Microsoft Canada
Just two months before the pandemic disrupted virtually every industry on the planet, Shelley Bransten, CVP of Global Retail & Consumer Goods Industries for Microsoft, said, “big innovations don’t just come from technology companies, but rather are driven by retailers as they work to find new paths to revenue, keep up with customer demands and ultimately reimagine their businesses.”
The onset of COVID-19 has created immeasurable challenges for the retail industry, however it also fueled incredible innovation and demonstrated the resiliency of the grocery sector. Many grocery retailers have had to undergo accelerated digital transformations powered by cloud technology to maintain business continuity, keep employees safe and adapt to growing demand for online shopping as the pandemic progressed.
Longo’s, a family-operated Canadian grocer that started in 1956 by three brothers, has grown to operate 36 stores in communities across Toronto and the GTA, as well as Grocery Gateway, a leader in online sales of home-delivered groceries. The company is in its second year of a five-year strategy to evolve its operations, with digital transformation as one of its key pillars.
Although the company’s digital transformation was already well underway, Alicia Samuel, Vice President of Information Technology for Longo’s, says the pandemic forced them to accelerate their cloud journey by leveraging tools like Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 to become more agile in responding to the rapidly changing needs of their team members and valued guests. With the pandemic creating the need for safe, reliable grocery delivery at home, Longo’s witnessed a surge in the frequency and demographic of guests using the Grocery Gateway platform. This meant it was critical for them to maintain a stable website and inventory on par with their in-store offerings and of course, the delivery of goods to guests in a timely manner. As a veteran in the online grocery delivery space having offered the service since 2004, this shift in consumer behaviour has encouraged Longo’s to create a more unified online experience providing guests with personalized promotions and levels of service they have come to expect from the brand’s brick and mortar locations.
In addition to responding to the changing needs of guests, a top priority for the company was ensuring their more than 6,000 team members including in-store, distribution centre and corporate workers were able to do their jobs in safe, reliable and connected environments. For in-store and distribution centre team members, this meant upholding the highest health and safety standards across each of the company’s physical locations. For corporate employees, Microsoft 365, including Microsoft Teams were key to collaboration with team members, allowing them to not miss a beat by providing access to the same tools they use in the office.
In reflecting on the company’s success in overcoming the various challenges of the past year, Longo’s leadership team attributes this to the solid technological infrastructure they had in place prior to the pandemic. “Microsoft’s cloud solutions have played a critical role in fueling our digital transformation, enabling us to meet the evolving needs of our guests and team members throughout the pandemic,” says Anthony Longo, President and CEO of Longo’s. “By choosing Microsoft as our preferred cloud vendor and investing in the right technology for our organization, we’re confident in our ability to facilitate innovation and future industry disruption.”
According to PwC Canada’s 2020 Consumer Insights Survey, “the pace of change will only pick up, requiring retailers to transform the customer journey and re-examine the role of a brick-and-mortar presence.” By leveraging Microsoft Azure, retailers can provide more personalized customers experiences, optimize in-store operations and gain better visibility across supply chains – all through cloud technology built on secure, scalable infrastructure. For organizations like Longo’s, they are already ahead of the curve embracing solutions that transform the customer and employee experience, ultimately setting the standard for the industry’s new normal.