We all are aware of the impact that the pandemic has had on the grocery shopping experience, from socially distant checkout lines to the rise of “buy online and pick up at store” shopping. Some of these changes may revert to pre-pandemic ways, but others will likely be part of grocery shopping for years to come.
A recent article in Progressive Grocer outlined several changes in the retail industry and shopper behavior that grew out of the pandemic. Three of these in particular – the battle for omnichannel customers, the resurgence of the “center aisle” shopping, and permanently enhanced sanitation – will continue to impact specialty and independent grocers in 2021 and the future. A strong foundation of retail technology is the critical ingredient for grocers to have the agility necessary to meet consumers’ changing shopping needs.
In the past, many smaller grocery stores were content to stay out of the e-commerce lane. After shoppers witnessed the convenience of checking product availability online and choosing between shopping from home or in-person, omnichannel shopping is a must for grocers looking for growth. The challenge is nailing seamless customer service and shopping experience while finding the right retail solutions to improve e-commerce profitability and maximize efficiency.
Before 2020, grocery stores experienced a decades-long move towards fresh foods, with store perimeter items such as organic produce, meat, and seafood leading in popularity. The pandemic had millions of households venturing throughout the center of a typical store, looking for packaged goods that would help with the new normal of eating in more often and building a pantry of go-to meal ingredients.
Today’s center aisle products have improved quality, selection, and eco-friendly packaging. Along with frozen items, these pantry and packaged goods will continue to hold a strong place in consumers’ shopping carts, and will present an opportunity for sustainability and premiumization.
In retrospect, enhanced sanitation probably would have been a good idea long before the pandemic threatened the world. Stores will likely continue to sanitize surfaces and shopping carts for some time, but there will also be increased pressure to move to touch-free checkout and payment technologies.
Each of these potentially permanent changes requires adopting new technologies, from building a seamless shopping experience online and in-store to monitoring sanitation through retail automation and analytics. Smart retail solutions are the key to successfully adopting these changes and being ready to implement the changes that will be required tomorrow.
STCR helps grocery stores of all sizes find the right technology that grows along with any challenges and opportunities that arise. Learn more about how STCR leads the way in retail technology.