- What and Why
- Who's It For?
Aproove commissioned Team6ix, an Independent Consultancy specializing in Marketing Technology Strategy and Transformation, to carry out an independent and impartial review of the program, exploring the end-to-end transformation journey, the value it is delivering for Kroger and future vision for it the transformation journey.
The scope encompasses all aspects of a marketing content operations and work management transformation program led by the Promotional Execution Strategy Team within Kroger USA with their strategic partners, PureRED and Aproove.
PureRED has been around for 55 years, creating customer-led solutions for some of the largest retail companies in the world. As a leading Marketing Service and Technology Partner, PureRED create and deliver digital content and customer experiences at the scale, speed, and precision required by large enterprise retailers and top consumer marketers.
Currently operating with over 500+ experts in Technology, Strategy, Creative, and Digital Production, PureRED works with 14 of the largest 25 retailers and many iconic consumer brands in North America.
Kroger's history dates back over 130 years and started when Barney Kroger invested his life savings of $372 in opening a grocery store at 66 Pearl Street in downtown Cincinnati. With nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states, under 22 banners brands, and annual sales of more than $121.1 billion (2019).
Kroger today ranks as one of the world's largest retailers offering thousands of items ranging from grocery to organic, natural foods, ready to eat, operating more than 2,255 in-store pharmacies, floral shops, and fuel centers in more than 1,545 locations. Throughout its rich history, Kroger has served as an innovator and pioneer in the retail food industry.
The Aproove platform and Professional Services Team have delivered some of the most complex and challenging Enterprise class use cases within the Work Management domain, which elevates Aproove from a helpful enterprise tool to a business-critical, value-driven platform providing clients with immediate and long-term benefits.
Aproove Work Management is a highly configurable platform providing a combination of Work Management, Task Management, Online Proofing, and Workflow Automation.
Today, Kroger runs a highly scaled marketing content operations function, led by the Promotional Execution Team, with 1000+ Kroger users currently accessing the Aproove platform (June 2021). The user base is on target to accelerate to 2000+ by December 2021. On average, the Kroger teams handle over 600+ content versions per week across 22 differentiated Brands operating as distinct businesses, leading to the orchestration of up to 42,000+ proofs and associated notes per month. The Aproove platform is technically handling over One Hundred Million sets of permission activities across hundreds of thousands of tasks for the Kroger and PureRED users to enable this high volume of content traffic.
Implementing Aproove has dramatically reduced errors, increased motivation and satisfaction across the Teams and importantly, saved the operation significant hard costs" Kroger PE Leadership Team
Kroger has been steadily delivering an Enterprise-wide transformation program across the Kroger merchandising teams, borne out of a partnership with Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
A key opportunity within the merchandising transformation program was to change the capabilities supporting the Promotional Execution (PE) function led by Jennifer Schmitz, comprising all the Teams and Operations that manage and support the highly detailed and fast-moving, consumer-facing promotional content. This encompasses (though not limited to) in-store Displays, Signage, Banners, Weekly Advertising, Circulars, Direct Mail, Brochureware across the 22 brands within the Kroger business.
An essential requirement was to stand up a suite of centralized promotional execution scheduling and proofing capabilities in a single place across the Kroger and PureRED teams.
The work management & proofing transformation workstream is a key and critical part of a much wider Kroger Merchandising Transformation. This workstream will step-change the efficiency and effectiveness of work management and proofing at Kroger" Kroger PE Leadership Team
Selecting a best-in-class Work Management Platform Partner
PureRED partners and works with a broad range of marketing technology vendors and possesses deep experience in selecting and appointing strategic partners to tackle any client solution. That could be an Enterprise scale client such as Kroger or an emerging start-up brand. At the center of the strategic partnering approach, a refined set of criteria aims to rigorously assess the suitability and compatibility of the client engagement and a potential partner, whether it be project-based, short, or longer term.
PureRED undertook a series of processes and market evaluations to create a shortlist of best-fit vendors, followed by a structured selection program with a request for proposal (RFP). This process resulted in a refined list of 3 key vendors, including Aproove. The next stage in the selection process was a series of demonstrations and systems deep dive with each vendor to further assess each vendor's suitability for Kroger's transformation needs.
Market and Vendor Maturity Assessment
At a high level, the critical evaluation themes that the platform and vendor needed to offer to be within the consideration set were:
Final selection of the Aproove Work Management Platform
Over a condensed two-week period, PureRED invited the selected potential vendors to conduct a series of use case example demonstrations to key Kroger and PureRED stakeholders and decision-makers. The final decision to choose Aproove as the strategic Work Management and Online Proofing solution was unanimously reached using a balanced scorecard assessment, combined with the due diligence checks results.
Aproove workflows were a feature we really liked when evaluating. It’s so valuable to the end-user customer, as it's completely invisible; it is just how the system works for a user once we have defined the flows for each business case." Kroger PE Leadership Team
The difference between Aproove and other MarTech SaaS providers is Aproove are a SaaS company with a Soul. We get to know and work directly with the people behind the Aproove platform" PureRed team
The Aproove implementation and adoption program design was a distinct step within the critical path. The Professional experience across each team was fundamental to crafting a program design and plan to deliver optimal value in the short and long term. The deployment must mitigate risk to the existing operation and simultaneously exploit the profound capabilities of Aproove to provide the prerequisite organizational change and training of the large, distributed user base.
The Kroger transformation program team designs and drives organizational change management, training activities, and user adoption of any new technology that requires process change (supported by their change management partner Tier1performance). The transformation program team collaborated with the PE stakeholders to help mobilize the PE strategy, shaping the program design and phases.
Based on these key themes, the program team agreed upon
a three-phased program approach to mitigate risk and realize objectives:
It’s great not having to flip across systems to find proofs and versions to add comments; now we can just view and add comments directly from Aproove."
Kroger Merchandising Teams
Being able to put the comment exactly where it needs to go has improved follow-through immensely."
Kroger Merchandising Teams
I like that comments can be checked and resolved all at one place."
Kroger Merchandising Teams
Strategic Change Team
One of the critical activities needed to drive the strategic transformation was defining and articulating the “to be” target end state for the Promotional Execution Aproove transformation.
A significant output of the operating model design work was forming the Aproove and PureRED service and technical support model. Agile methodology was used to build service support themes, epics, and stories to reach a service design where Kroger’s helpdesk routes all user queries and issue tickets to PureRED for 1st line triage and response. Aproove provides all 2nd line and Application support, either via PureRED or directly to Kroger, dependant on need and severity.
The Aproove configuration for Kroger focused on creating simple, intuitive navigation that essentially just did what users expected it to do. Careful planning and design thinking went into the initial iterations of User Interface (UI). Throughout phase 1, structured feedback was collected, synthesized, and defined into a series of change requests that improved the overall experience for users. At Aproove, this process does not stop. There is a relentless and continuous focus on structured enhancements and cyclical releases for the Kroger team.
One of the areas we were really impressed with is the User Interface (UI). The UI is extremely easy to consume; it does not feel like a ‘code or a database’; it just delivers in an intuitive way what the end-user would expect it to." Kroger PE and Change Teams
The Aproove implementation continues to increase value across Kroger's Promotional Execution eco-system. Aproove Work Management combined with the strategic partnership between Kroger, PureRED, and the Aproove teams have increased outputs while dramatically reducing the volume of re-work and the overall amount of comments on the proofs. The result is productivity increases across the Advertising and Display end-to-end processes
Implementing Aproove has dramatically reduced errors, increased motivation and satisfaction across the team and importantly, saved the operation hard costs by reducing late charges on Press Ads. " Kroger PE Teams
One of the program's most significant areas of success has been a dramatic reduction in the number of comments the teams need to make on promotional content. When this happens, it means higher overall throughput for Promotional content. When Promotional content such as weekly Ads are released on time, to plan, and do not go beyond execution deadlines, Kroger has many business benefits.
One of the things I really liked about the collaboration with PureRED and Aproove is they really lean in to listen to the end-user experience and have been very responsive to changes in a very short timeframe to make the process better. This is unusual for a Technology company. " Kroger PE Teams
Reflection & learnings
One of the vital learning conclusions from the program phases (what could we have improved on?) was bringing the rollout to the Merchandising Teams in Phase 1&2 instead of Phase 3. This essential learning is being taken forward into future phase planning.
Business Adoption Indicators
The business adoption approach was structured to strike the optimal balance between realizing the objectives of each phase while also mitigating operational risk and receiving the benefit of the enhanced Aproove capabilities. e.g., Phase 1 delivering complete replication of the existing process and services levels.
Against this background, user growth has steadily progressed from approximately 200 users at launch, rising to 871 by August 2020 and 1001 by May 2021. The current forecast is growing to 2000+ users across Kroger and PureRED teams by the end of 2021.
In line with the structured user growth across the phases, Promotional Content volumes managed in Aproove have increased steadily across the three indicators of operational adoption – Tasks Sent, Notes Created, and Proofs Processed - with proofs and tasks seeing this highest rate of growth.
The next steps for Aproove are to continue the phased rollout to all Mechanising Teams. Complete adoption across all 22 Brands (Phase 3) and further expanding the depth of utilization of the incredibly powerful Aproove functions and features, focusing on enhancements that continue to deliver against the program objectives and principles. Full details of the key feature enhancements can be found in the full white paper.
I love Aproove !" Kroger PE Teams
Case Study References
Source: Gartner Market Guide for Digital Asset Management 2021
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