How to Make the Internet Work for Supermarkets

October 10, 2000
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SAN DIEGO, CA — William Shatner may ceaselessly promote use of the Internet for wheeling and dealing on prices, but consumer-to-business is only a small part of Internet commerce.

Business-to-business (B2B) is where the action is, and those in the supermarket sector need to be a part of it.

That was the message from Tom Murphy of Peak Tech Cons-ulting, Colorado Springs, CO at the 21st-annual Food Marketing Institute Energy & Technical Services Conference.

“The Internet is the newest disruptive technology,” he said. “There is no hiding from it.”

For supermarkets, B2B “is not about selling groceries on the Internet.” He said there are sites to “help you manage everything you want in your store — refrigeration, the deli, lighting, new equipment, spare parts.”

In that sector are:

  • Catalogs with a “seller’s list of [equipment], prices, specifications, delivery terms”;
  • Auctions in which a seller “can unload excess inventories and surplus goods”; and
  • Reverse auctions, in which “Buyers determine products or services required and sets acceptable prices.”
  • It is possible, he said, to trade energy online, buy natural gas, get electricity, and figure out state and federal regulations.

    “Try a marketplace and go into sites and see what your options are. Go into e-business with an open mind. Assume that what you are currently doing is obsolete and can be done faster and cheaper using the Internet.”

    Stephen Jones, vice president, Primavera Systems, Bala Cynwyd, PA, talked about the concept of “industry standard” software for project management and control. An outside Application Service Provider (ASP) maintains information, he said, in such a way that “When you log on, it will seem that it was designed for you.”

    The target for such a concept is planning, design, and construction work, which is ongoing for supermarket chains. Jones said the approach “reduces project delivery time, and reduces overhead and project costs.”

    Everything is linked together through the Internet. Financing alternatives, a database of project costs, economic incentives, and real estate matters are all channeled to an outside party (Primavera’s PrimeContract arm would be an example). The chain owners and decision-makers can review all aspects through the web.

    Paperwork is reduced, as is the need for faxing or shipping blueprints and plans from place to place. “Federal Express gets $500 million a year shipping drawings,” noted Jones. “With the Internet, you can go online to view plans and download them if you want.”

    Another key, he said, is the fact that any updates of an aspect of a project can be reviewed online, thus keeping out-of-date documents out of the loop.

    Stephen Gottfried, president, Service Channel, New York, NY, took a similar approach in helping store owners deal with independent contractors who do maintenance work in supermarkets. His company allows store owners to receive information supplied by contractors on work completed.

    Contractors fax workorders to the third party, which Gottfried claimed is able to decode a contractor’s writing and then store the information in a way that makes sense to the store manager.

    He did state, however, that “We never change the business practices of the contractor — because you can’t change them.”

    Publication date: 10/16/2000

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