Scaling With Personalization: Kroger’s Jody Kalmbach Keynotes GroceryTech

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
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Jody Kalmbach, Kroger’s group vice president, product experience, had the honor of opening up day two of the first ever GroceryTech event, and diving into the event's theme: Scaling With Personalization. GroceryTech was presented by RIS and Progressive Grocer in Cincinnati, in July. 

Kalmbach kicked off her keynote session noting that she started her career in marketing, but when she joined Amazon it was a “pivotal point” for her where she moved from marketing roles to product.

“So I made this pivot, and as soon as I got caught on what is product, what does it mean?, and started this cycle of building experiences, building capabilities that were really making a difference… that was it for me.”

In a fireside chat with Progressive Grocer editor-in-chief Gina Acosta, Kalmbach went on to reveal her core principles of product include shifting from being output driven to being outcome driven; using data to understand the impact of what you’re doing; and reusability — removing redundancy in the tech you’re building.

And, and maybe that's not the perfect word for it (reusability), but I would think many you in this room can understand a situation where you have disparate technology teams building solutions that are all kind of doing the same thing, right? So then you end up with all this redundancy.”

She noted this is a non-starter and not a path to success. “Build it once and have it have benefits across many, many business problems.”

Kalmbach went on to explain that Kroger started building out an organization where product managers, product designers, engineers, and data folks all work in a collaborative way across all business units.

“And we really have now kind of a one-to-one matchup between the business and technology in terms of that that type of work structure. Now, I will say it is a journey. There is a spectrum of maturity probably around where we are in that journey based on e-commerce maybe being the furthest along, but then we're making progress in all of those other areas.”

She noted that the degree to which Kroger leadership is embracing this idea has been fantastic. She also noted it’s worth calling out that Kroger has been an early adopter of focusing on data.

“Many years ago, we launched our loyalty program. We are at a point where if you look at all of our transactions across the enterprise, about 96% of them are captured within that loyalty program. So the data, the data asset is incredible, right? Right. Embracing that early on was such an important part of the process.

“Then if you start thinking about, so we have the data and now how do we want to use that data to actually serve our customers most effectively? We talk a lot about how quickly the market's moving. The expectation from a customer point of view has accelerated so much in the past couple of years where change used to happen maybe on a decade cadence, it's now every couple of years.”



Customers have so much going on in their lives, she noted, whatever you’re going to serve up to them has to be relevant.

“So based on that data set asset that we have, and in this spirit of that sort of product-centric approach, we are working to have every touch point, every connect with customers  whether it's coming from the marketing point of view, all the way through all the experiences that we're bringing to life online and in store  as personal as possible, leveraging that data asset. And, and it really goes down to when you think about our seamless strategy.”

Kroger is working to bring those personalized experiences to life at every relevant touch point for customers, she explained.


“There's a lot of complexity that goes into that which is personalized. It's helping that customer build that basket based on what we already know about them. The personalization is not just about feeding back what you told us as a consumer. It's about us being able to predict what we think you're going to need, right? And that can be around the frequency that you might need a product. It can be around new items that are coming to market.”

When it comes to scaling personalization, Kroger is working on not only telling the customer what they told Kroger, but also to “really help solve problems and serve up what we think you will need or what you might enjoy in that moment in time.”

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