Alexa – How Will Digital Innovations Drive Grocery Technology?

As we move into 2018, grocers continue to explore uses for digital tools that can help them compete with online vendors and engage increasingly tech-savvy consumers. The desire to stay relevant has grocery technology on the rise.

“Customers are now hyperconnected — they have more choices and voices on a scale that is unprecedented,” Vala Afshar of Salesforce recently told PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Your guiding principle must be how you plan to use that data to add value to the consumer or stakeholder. With that comes transparency, and it can’t just be a poster on a wall — you have to live it.”

What can we expect from grocery technology in the future?

  • Voice-based assistants: Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Home are hugely popular with consumers; more than 24 million Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers were sold in 2017 alone. Siri is handling more than 2 billion commands weekly, Alexa is stationed in 4 percent of U.S. households, and voice commands make up 20 percent of all Google searches on Android handsets. Further, a global report released earlier this year shows 56 percent of online grocery shoppers and 47 percent of offline grocery shoppers already use a voice-controlled smart speaker — or plan to buy one within the next six months. As such, analysts see vendors using such technology to track buying behaviors and suggest complementary grocery items, deals, recipes and cooking instructions.
  • Location-based beacon technology: Similarly, grocers are implementing beacon-enabled apps that can track customers’ physical journeys through their stores via their smartphones. The tools allow them to interact by greeting customers, offering recommendations, reviews and special offers, recording comments and wish lists, tracking purchases and offering loyalty points. The info they glean can then inform future strategy. Those declining to build their own versions might opt for other apps that support the technology, including Google Chrome, Epicurious, List Ease or Coupon Sherpa.
  • Smart shelves and smart coolers: These days, shelves and coolers can monitor via video consumers looking at a grocery display, draw conclusions as to age and gender, then show product recommendations and/or targeted video ads that correspond. When an item is removed, a coupon may be offered. Smart shelves can also track when stock needs replacing and monitor shoplifters. Kroger has been testing such technology for years, reports Kroger CIO Chris Hjelmnotes on Retailwire.com.  “A gluten-free shopper might find relevant products highlighted in the nutrition-bar section,” he explains. “Shoppers might receive their ‘personal price’ or hear a ping to alert them a bottle of wine from their shopping list is on a nearby shelf.” A recent Forbes article discusses another scenario in which optical sensors installed in shelving will scan a consumer’s face to gauge his reaction to the product and/or sale being offered, then suggest different merchandise accordingly.

The ability to fully optimize grocery technology in new ways could well be a competitive differentiator for grocers over the next few years.

“Shoppers have countless grocery options, and their loyalty is up for grabs,” states a recent Accenture study. The combination of a changing market and the drumbeat of digital technologies are making it possible to deliver next-level experiences to shoppers in the store and beyond. But winners do not wait to act. Time to get in the express lane.”

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