The Grocery Store of the Future Is Here, Are Retailers Ready?


Online shopping has changed retail forever. Most of us wouldn’t know what to do without it. But the e-commerce revolution seems to have missed an industry – grocery. Why aren’t we making our most important shopping trip easier?

The issue isn’t so much that grocers don’t want to innovate. Until recently, many grocers didn’t have the technological bandwidth to support an e-commerce platform. But times are changing, and stores are adapting to meet increasing customer needs by implementing a unified commerce approach.

Grocery shopping is a tedious process and one that most people prefer to do as quickly and seamlessly as possible. However, the current state of online grocery is not quite as user-friendly as consumers would like it to be. Maybe it’s because consumers like to touch and feel the fresh produce they’re purchasing, and online shopping can’t yet compete with the experience. Maybe it’s because grocery e-commerce is lacking features that apparel and other industries’ websites have – such as the ability to identify the closest store, an accurate inventory, easy-to-navigate menus and the ability to manage large basket sizes.

E-commerce platforms can be expensive and hard to implement for grocers – let alone a platform that works online, on mobile devices, and elevates the in-store experience – but the industry is changing, and grocers need to gear up to stay competitive. “The Store of the Future” report from Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council and Kantar Consulting predicts online grocery sales will take 20 percent of total grocery retail by 2025.

The key to any successful shopping experience is a 360-view of the customer. Grocers need to invest in solutions that can gather customer information from multiple sales channels, online and off, and bring it together into one platform. Retailers should be striving to make shopping seamless across devices – simplifying the journey to help shoppers find what they need more easily.

Part of the reason that unified commerce hasn’t taken off in grocery just yet is the fact that stores are not set up to service different types of shoppers at once. Who is responsible for handling online orders? Should store associates prioritize in-store shoppers over online ones? It can get confusing for employees and customers alike. In addition to the potential strain on employees, there is also the cost associated with implementing new technology in-store–such as creating apps to scan products for coupons, the ability to find the right aisle using the product locator and more– that can be a large demand for grocery stores who are just getting their feet wet with an omnichannel customer experience.

According to Salesforce, the average retailer uses 39 disparate systems to manage the customer relationship. The key to integrating online, mobile and in-store will be finding a way to combine these systems and analyze customer data to best serve customer needs.

Once retailers find a solution that integrates information on sales orders, products, page visits, wish lists, abandoned carts, review history, tickets and accumulated loyalty points – they can provide personalized marketing, support and sales experiences via their e-commerce platform. The grocery store of the future may even send you a notification when you’re running low on milk and walking past your local market.

Shoppers are also seeking the option to shop for items from a specific recipe or the ability to search for specific events like the Super Bowl or a birthday party. Similarly, to how items such as candles and cakes are situated close together in-store to optimize sales, grocers need to take this same approach to online shopping.

And like on any good e-commerce site, shoppers should have the option to view and write reviews on their favorite products. In a physical grocery store this is not an option, but in the evolving world of online grocery, customers should be able to express their opinions and get honest feedback from fellow shoppers.

Ability to fulfill how they want, when they want will also be key for customers. Options to shop in-store, or online, pickup, drive-thru, ship to home, the list goes on. The same can be said for flexible payment options. The ability to pay in-store and ship to home or pay online and pick up in-store will help revolutionize the grocery experience.

Customer expectations are constantly shifting, and the only way grocers can keep up and provide a seamless shopping experience both online and off is with a solid-foundation of customer data, and the right tools to utilize it.

-Gerard Szatvanyi, President & CEO, OSF Commerce

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