In the first few months of the pandemic, grocers rushed to offer online shopping alternatives like BOPIS to meet what they figured was a temporary spike in online orders. Fast-forward more than a year, however, and shoppers are still choosing to buy their groceries online. In fact, Insider Intelligence predicts online grocery adoption will account for 55-66% of shoppers by 2024, a trend vastly accelerated by COVID-19.
To meet this increased desire, retailers need to provide an optimal experience for every consumer, regardless of their chosen shopper journey. Logistically, this means managing record heights of online orders, and to do so grocers have turned to new strategies such as dark stores and micro-fulfillment centers.
At the same time, online ordering is not for everyone; physical retail isn’t going anywhere. This creates a challenge for grocers as they strive to meet customers where they are, making it essential to approach retail from all angles at once.
The Hybrid Grocery Model
To prioritize convenience, safety and flexibility, some retailers are turning to a hybrid shopping model.
The hybrid store embraces automation and technology to fulfill orders, while still giving shoppers the in-store experience that many crave. This might mean customers ordering packaged items ahead of time, enter the store, select their produce and then are met with their pre-ordered items at checkout.
While this model serves as a compromise between in-store and online approaches, an effective hybrid model relies on a strong omnichannel presence rooted in a deep understanding of the customer and their shopping journey.
Understanding the Customer Journey
It's understood that today’s customers are savvier, have shorter attention spans and prioritize safety alongside saving time and money. However, shopping models are not one-size-fits-all. Instead, they should be based on customer data specific to each store.
Analyzing customer trends can explain why your customers choose certain products, why they shop at certain times, or why they order some products online and some products in store. A deep understanding of customer insights can shape how the hybrid store is formatted and the technology required to manage the needs of your clientele.
Not only does this information help develop the perfect approach, but it can also be used to create a more personalized, omnichannel shopping experience that leads to higher customer engagement and increased sales. Personalization can come in many forms, including proactive communication tactics, loyalty programs, product recommendations and more.
How Personalization Informs Strategy
Success comes when customers are reached at the right time by the right message from the right channel, whether that’s email, SMS or app notifications.
Individualized customer data from both in-store and online, such as previous purchases or shopping habits, can be incorporated to ensure the customer is being shown an item that fits their preferences or exposed to a deal that encourages them to shop with you again.
If customers feel that loyalty programs are tailored to providing them value on an individualized level, the relationship will be strengthened. This can be done by sending shoppers customized shopping lists, items they might want to repurchase soon or a super-relevant deal or coupon — anything that makes the experience easier and unique to them.
A Personalized Omnichannel Experience
Grocers are up against a complicated retail landscape in the wake of COVID-19 and meeting the needs of every customer is more complex than ever.
For many, a hybrid store, backed by a personalized omnichannel strategy, allows for increased safety and efficiency in order fulfillment. However, as always, it depends on what the customer needs. Any decision for online or in-store needs to be powered by customer data and personalization, which promotes a positive shopper experience no matter where the customer checks out.
Shekar Raman is CEO and co-founder of Birdzi.