Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash
Retail grocery technology and shopper behavior took a five-year leap into the future this year with the demand for no and low-touch services and delivery jumping 100+ percent overnight. But the change is just beginning.
Retailers have invested heavily in no-touch technology such as cashier-less checkouts, apps, website enhancements and additional virtual services. They’re testing add to cart in-app scanners, touchless payments, and driverless delivery.
There are now 37.5M or 29% of all U.S. households that are monthly active users of online grocery ordering and delivery – double the same period 2019.
To manage that, the size of the dark store – the backend operations where retailers manage their delivery and curbside pickup orders – is growing rapidly as even more floorspace is shifting from traditional retail toward fulfillment centers.
Here’s a look at what else is coming:
Wi-Fi 6 and 5G
Imagine a future where every device you own including your car, fridge, computer, speakers, microwave, thermostat, and mini blinds are connected and know when you need milk.
That’s Wi-Fi 6, 5G, and the Internet of Things coming to a world near you. Soon, we’ll have the bandwidth to make that final shift from the real world to the virtual world. The increased mobile data transfer rates alone will be like going from dial-up internet to fiberoptic – life-changing.
This enhanced technology will enable more reliable virtual reality, 3D video, and augmented reality that will further enhance the shopping experience and more people will use it. Shoppers will begin to let their devices decide when to replenish the milk, while they do other things.
The Amazon Effect on Touchless Brick & Mortar
First, Amazon created Prime memberships and proved consumers not only wanted convenience, but they’re willing to pay for it. Then they took shipping from two days to two hours and shoppers want that so badly they’re willing to pay even more. Other retailers, like Walmart, are now following suit.
Many believe connected devices and all senses search will be critical in the next wave of shopping and Amazon is poised to lead the way.
Recently they’ve ventured into brick-and-mortar grocery with Amazon Go – where, through an app and many cameras – you can take merchandise out of the store without ever interacting with another person.
Digitizing the Supply Chain
Streamlined supply chain inventory management is about to get digitized too. We’re on the verge of behavior-based real-time pricing adjustment that will make shopping even more personalized, relevant, and convenient.
Imagine a system that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to manage dynamic pricing that is adjusted in real-time to changing consumer behavior while considering inventory, profit requirements, and communicates with suppliers.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 upgrades, paired with connected shelving, will make it possible.
With more than 37.5M of U.S. households using a monthly grocery delivery service and spending 32% more than they did a year ago on each order, the battle for delivery dominance is on.
Kantar research shows that 75% of shoppers using a grocery delivery service intend to stick with their first provider. Those subscribers are currently paying between about $10 and $20 a month, and providers are flocking to be their first choice.
Retailers and delivery providers alike are racing to be the service of choice with free sign up offers, increasingly wider grocery varieties available online, and discounted rates for yearly commitments. Walmart+ subscription is the newest player to watch in this space.
Personalize it Like I'm the Only Shopper in the World
Shoppers want personalization and data shows targeting communications nets better returns.
Imagine if you could talk directly to a shopper while they’re standing at the shelf at that moment of the purchase decision.
5G will give us device tracking so precise we’ll know when a shopper is at a specific shelve in store. Using digital shelves and signage, machine learning and artificial intelligence, we’ll know their purchase preferences and be able to immediately serve a unique alert right to their phone. “Awesome Vitamins are $1 off just for you today.”
Shopping is Social
Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram … shopping is being built into social media with all of the major players now partnering with retailers to add their products to virtual shops directly in the platform.
You can start to see a future where, while scrolling different social media platforms, you’re able to add products to your carts as you see and engage with them. On some platforms, you can already watch a video of a recipe demonstration and add every ingredient to your preferred shopping cart.
Soon, shoppers may not even have to go to one retail website to shop, they’ll be able to add products to their “cart” whenever and wherever they are.
While shoppers love the speed and convenience of online shopping they also want to slow down and enjoy retailtainment at other times. Post COVID-19, they will again. In the future, when the store isn't a place they have to go, smart marketers will make it a place they want to go.
The fashion industry has been experimenting with inventory-free stores for experiencing products rather than storing them. They ship purchases to your home. It’s a couture experience at an off-the-rack price.
Consumers are putting more importance on mindfulness and mentally slowing down too and savvy retailers like Lululemon, are experimenting with ideas like “Zen Pods” to give them space to relax. There also happens to be some suitable merchandise for sale nearby.
Virtually Real Stores
Envision stores as the place shoppers go to explore, taste the newest coffee, learn to pair brunch items, talk to brand hosts, feel the merchandise and have it all shipped to their homes.
Or maybe it’s like this virtual reality from Alibaba where we use VR goggles and never leave home. We could virtually walk down store isles, view and learn about merchandise, chat staff questions, and discover related products just like being in a real store, but … not.
One thing is certain: The retail future is upon us; what do you think it holds?