Today’s top grocery technology trends are aimed at impressing your customers. That technology is also evolving at breakneck speed – so quickly, in fact, that it can feel a little maddening to try and keep up.
Still, it’s important that supermarkets embrace the tools that can help them not just survive, but thrive in this increasingly competitive environment.
“The most successful people in retail technology are excited about the potential to not just improve performance, but change the nature of what we do with food,” notes Bill Bishop in Food Dive.
Here’s a short list of some of the most important tech trends that you need to stay on top of this year:
Since Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods, supermarkets are racing to make their systems the most convenient, comprehensive and friction-free for time-starved customers. Others are working to optimize the advantages offered by brick-and-mortars, but also incorporating technology-enabled features such as GPS guidance – which shows customers exactly where items are located inside the store – and delivery service programs that make the customer’s entire shopping experience faster and easier.
Look for some of the money spent on human cashiers to go toward equivalent technology instead. Already, grocers such as Kroger and Walmart have adopted technology allowing customers to use mobile apps and store-provided scanners to quickly log and pay for their own purchases. And Walmart is following Amazon Go in implementing systems that automatically charge shoppers’ accounts for their items as they leave the store. “Especially with the growth of click-and-collect and home delivery, retailers want to offer a similarly frictionless experience in store,” Grant told Food Dive.
AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence is on track to keep automatically gleaning valuable information about your customer base that can be used to inform pricing, promotions, logistics and other strategy. The challenge for many will be figuring out which data is most relevant to their needs and applying it most effectively. “We infuse data and science into everything we do,” Kroger Vice President Stuart Aitken noted at an investors’ conference last year. “We also have data on clickstream, feedback, rest of market and demographics. Across this entire data spectrum, we create what we call our data DNA layer. (It) has 2,700 attributes today, growing all the time.”
Expect to start seeing grocery orders made via personal assistants that are activated by voice – which allows users to quickly add or remove items from their shopping lists just by speaking aloud to their smart speakers. Juniper Research predicts 55 percent of U.S. households will have voice-powered smart speakers by 2022, but voice technology will go beyond that to be incorporated into wearables, TVs, vehicles, computers, etc.
Data will be more securely shared and money more securely transferred when this methodology becomes commonplace. In grocery, it’s expected to provide more transparency in product origins and distribution, leading to faster identification of foodborne illness issues and overall improvements in food safety.
Value-added mobile apps
Analysts believe we’ll see grocers offer more consumer-facing apps that offer assistance in a number of ways, from facilitating e-commerce and checking out carts to logging loyalty points, tracking shopping lists by aisle, listing coupons, providing product info, managing prescriptions, etc.
For many grocers, the ability to optimize the latest technology could be key to survival over the next several years. Consider which innovations make the most sense for your business, and don’t forgo the investments that could vastly improve your customer’s experience.