Technology, a grocery store’s best friend.
By Ben Hale
With the explosion of online shopping and click and collect programs, some experts believe the grocery store of tomorrow may not involve going inside a grocery store at all.
According to market-research firm Mintel, 31% of consumers made a grocery purchase online in 2015, up from 19 percent in 2014. Statista reports in 2016, 5% of people actually prefer shopping online over the in-store experience. While that is a relatively small number, it will only grow…especially as Millennials gain more buying power.
But brick and mortar stores isn’t going away without a fight. Operators are also taking advantage of technology to make the current in-store trip a better overall shopping experience.
In fact, online retail powerhouse Amazon (AMZN) recently announced their first brick and mortar concept called Amazon Go, combining digital technology with an in-store shopping experience.
The goal of this store is to allow people to walk in, pick out what they want, and walk out without ever having to stand in line. Technology inside the store will detect what you purchase, and then charge payment to your account set up on an APP. The first store in Seattle will open to the public later this year. It’s assumed more Amazon Go stores are on the way.
Amazon’s quest to eliminate the line may be several years away, but grocers are working on making the line easier to deal with now by incorporating new technology inside the store.
Kroger (KRG) uses QueVision technology the moment a customer walks in the door. QueVision uses infrared cameras to note a customer’s arrival, and utilizes sensors and predictive analytics to feed managers real-time data. This data empowers managers to know when more cashiers may be needed, and can establish staffing needs when planning schedules based on historical data. Average wait time at Kroger is only 30 seconds, compared to as much as four minutes a few years ago.
Technology is also being tested and implemented overseas as well. The Shanghai Lotus Supermarket in China has tested a Smart Shopping Cart that is WiFi enabled and becomes a shopping aide. Features allow shoppers to search for shopping and discount information, store coupons, as well as to create a shopping list as they move through the store.
While the grocery store of tomorrow may look much different from today, some things will remain the same. The brick and mortar store isn’t going anywhere. It still has the advantage of touching, feeling, seeing and smelling products before purchase. That can be a big deal when it comes to what people eat, especially meat and produce. I think many people enjoy going to the grocery store, they just don’t like the hassle of finding products, long check-out lines or bad customer service. Technology will help to improve this experience, not eliminate it.
As technology rolls out in smaller or independent grocers, it’s important for marketers to tout the impact of technological improvements in their marketing communications. To win business, you need to promote more than what bananas are on sale for this week. You’re also a smoother, better overall shopping experience. Going to the grocery store isn’t a “must-do”, it’s a “want to.”
Focus messaging on how new features provide a more enriched shopping experience. The consumer will spend less time inside the store, so they can have more time to experience the things they love outside the store. They’ll enjoy the in-store experience even more. If you can make a personal connection that goes beyond price, that is a win-win for everyone.
While some smaller grocers feel technology may lead to the end of a physical grocery store, instead realize technology will be grocery store’s best friend, not its worst nightmare.