All industries deal with passing trends that come and go over time, but they’ve also got the tough job of adjusting to transformative change. When it comes to grocery stores, this is especially true.
Think back to one, two, or even several decades ago. How has the shopping experience changed since then? Since the first grocery store in America opened in 1916, technology has transformed the way people shop. Credit, cards, POS systems, credit cards, and even the introduction of plastic bags made the grocery business more efficient while improving customer experience.
In a post-COVID-19 shopping landscape, the tech we use continues to evolve. Being able to adapt and use new technologies will help retailers thrive in 2023. Thanks to RIS News and Progressive Grocer, we have new data on eGrocery trends! Their 8th annual Grocery Tech Trends Study reveals telling insight on retailer tech, customer behavior, and more. To help you sift through the study, we’ve compiled a list of the most important takeaways on how your store can embrace emerging tech.
1. Invest in Back-End Tech
Technology will be a key factor in many stores’ success in the future. 57% of retailers already anticipate spending more on new tech and automation in the next 12-18 months. There are two different types of tech the study focuses on, back-end tech and customer-facing tech. Both are important, but in some cases, retailers may have to opt for one over the other. If that’s the case, which is more important? While customer-facing tech is important, building strong back-end systems serves as a foundation to better serve your customers.
In the area of back-end trends, the biggest priority from stores was adding workforce tech, with 40% planning on implementing it in the future. With the current labor challenges sweeping the globe, it’s increasingly important to use tech to retain and train workers. Utilizing new software and tools will help stores keep productive employees for longer.
Another crucial area is data analytics tools, which will be a major growth driver in the coming years. By focusing on analytics, grocers can manage their inventory, study sales trends, and predict future demand. Not only will this help businesses grow, but it will also make common customer annoyances, such as out-of-stock items, less common.
2. Prioritize the Customer Experience
Just as important as back-end systems is customer-facing technology. When asked what customers will value in the future, both customers and retailers agreed that what mattered most to customers were digital discounts and promotions. This comes as no surprise—people will always appreciate feeling like they scored a deal on a purchase. Digital discounts can also be used in combination with loyalty programs, which are a great way to build customer loyalty while giving back to them. These are also the most used by customers in the study, with 72% and 67% percent on digital coupons and loyalty programs respectively.
Savings aren’t the only thing that matters to customers. The shopping experience is also important to shoppers, and the study showed most shoppers are open to trying new technology if they believe it will make their shopping easier or more convenient. For brick-and-mortar stores, a key area is the checkout lane. Many stores have already pivoted to relying on self-checkout lanes, and 82% of customers regularly use them.
However, more and more customers have begun to prefer shopping online and having their groceries delivered. Looking ahead, it looks like building out e-commerce sites, mobile apps, and rapid checkout methods will play a major role in improving the customer experience.
3. Address Customer Pain Points
As grocers begin to adopt new forms of technology, there are bound to be growing pains. Being aware of the common customer pain points will help stores anticipate issues so they can be better equipped to solve them. The most common in-store issues customers had in the survey included out-of-stock items, not finding needed products, and poor checkout experiences. Technology like real-time inventory management and expanded self-checkout options can help solve these pain points.
When it comes to online shopping, the biggest customer complaint remains the same: out-of-stock items. Lack of product variety is also an issue, followed closely by poor website navigation. Putting more resources into UI (user interface) design and adding to their online selection will help grocers address these customer concerns.
4. Don’t Forget the Human Element
Adapting to new technology is important, but don’t underestimate your store’s human staff! Even in e-commerce, the human touch is still something shoppers value. 44% of shoppers in the study said they were concerned about tech replacing human employees. Another 33% said they valued having a hybrid grocery experience, with both tech and human aspects. Having a friendly face during a grocery trip goes a long way in improving the customer experience. Anchoring technology to human interaction is a great way to keep customers feeling appreciated and cared for.
Stores should continue to invest in workforce development and training. Additionally, having staff available to help customers with new technology and self-checkout lanes will be especially important. For e-commerce grocery sites, keeping a live chat open on the website and responsive customer support is a great way to keep the human touch intact.
5. Integrate eCommerce
One of the biggest takeaways from the study is the role eCommerce plays in the shopping experience. Not only is eCommerce a major growth driver for 2023, it’s also a rapidly growing occurrence. Mass and traditional grocers are still the most common place to shop, but four out of 10 people shop using online delivery methods.
Generation Z and Millennials shop online the most, with 50% opting for delivery, curbside pickup, or in-store monthly pickup. We can expect this number to grow as shoppers under 18 grow older, many of which are already accustomed to the convenience of online shopping. Many retailers are already savvy to eCommerce’s importance. 65% expect delivery to drive the most eCommerce growth, followed by ultra-fast delivery and curbside pickup.
Technology is transforming the way we shop for groceries. In the coming years, staying ahead of the curve will be essential for retailers to meet the evolving needs of their customers. Progressive Grocer’s 8th annual study sheds light on new possibilities and challenges that lie ahead for grocery stores. This study confirms what many of us already know about the growing popularity of online shopping and the demand for convenience. More importantly, it also reveals key insights on customer preferences.
Thanks to new technology, grocers are finding even better ways to cater to customer needs. Staying on top of eGrocery trends and the challenges that come with them will determine whether or not many stores succeed. Thankfully, the study shows that retailers are well-prepared for adjusting to the digital age, and are investing in the right places. We hope this breakdown of points from the study has been helpful. If you haven’t already, consider checking out the study for yourself!
Adapt and Adopt With Local Express
Staying on top of the trends, adapting, and adopting the latest technology are essential if you want to be successful in the eGrocery market. At Local Express, we offer all the tools and resources you need to adopt all of the latest eGrocery trends—from back-end tech and the customer experience to common pain points and ecommerce integration. So try our demo and start taking control of your business’s future with Local Express.