The pandemic has reset consumer shopping habits and as retailers begin to explore how to operate better in the post-pandemic grocery store environment, they need to consider six “sticky” trends that will impact business, says Stewart Samuel, Canadian director for IGD.
Samuel, a columnist in Grocery Business magazine, shared IGD insights on changes brought on by the pandemic that are here to stay, and the impact they will have on the grocery store during a presentation at Grocery & Specialty Food West in Vancouver.
Online grocery shopping surged during the early months of the pandemic and over the course of the past two years, consumer expectations for fast delivery, product assortment and quality have grown. Retailers will now need to focus on making these e-commerce platforms profitable and begin to make incremental improvements in fulfilment.
The Amazon GO “just walk out” model was the start of technological changes in grocery. Today, there are more than 30 such stores in the U.S. and other automated models such as self checkouts are proliferating in grocery stores across Canada This trend to contactless checkout and payment will only accelerate and retailers will need to explore solutions to fit customer needs. Samuel estimates there are more than 300 tech startups in North America alone with innovative retail tech solutions.
Use of automation in grocery and the supply channel is going to accelerate as more businesses embrace automation because of cost savings and flexibility. Technologies in use today are using data to draw planograms for future space allocation. Samuel says this is an area where use of such technology can create uneven playing fields and the longer retailers hold off on implementing these technologies the farther behind they will fall. He says North America has lots of startups willing to work with retailers to provide the right technology mix.
Consumers’ focus on health is not going away and retailers would do well to play up in-store messaging and allocate in-store space for health products and services. He suggests retailers consider merchandising plans to showcase brands with a focus on health via end caps and embrace a long-term horizon on initiatives.
Sustainability initiatives will only grow and continue to be central to a retailer’s commercial agenda, says Samuel. Retailers will need to explore sustainable initiatives they can implement throughout the store, such as implementing refillable bulk food stations or partnering with reusable and recycling businesses for different products.
The Hybrid Working Consumer
While hybrid work has different meanings for employees versus employers, the model is here to stay and whether it’s people working at home one or two days a week or more, consumer shopping patterns will continue to change. For example, retailers in downtown business districts or urban neighbourhoods will need to rethink the lunchtime meal and dinner opportunities and help shoppers plan around their schedules. For suburban stores, retailers should consider creating a bit of the downtown experience.