Dr. Kimberly Thomas-François’ passion for discovering sustainable solutions to challenges in the food industry stems from her first full-time job in the hotel and tourism industry back in her home country of Grenada.
Currently a post-doctorate fellow with the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics, Thomas-François focuses her research on smart retailing, or integrating technology into the interactions between shopper and retailer. These systems include digital assistants like computerized information stands, price-checkers, self-checkout, and mobile apps.
“Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen tremendous behavioural shifts in consumers who were previously reluctant to adopt new forms of smart and online shopping,” she notes. “And this is largely due to their desire to minimize human contact.”
Thomas-François identifies four primary groups of consumers in Canadian grocery and retail stores: enthusiasts, potentials, fence-sitters, and traditionalists. She places these groups on a spectrum from most eager to least eager to adopt smart forms of technology in grocery stores. “It’s worth noting that neither ease of access nor a consumer’s level of comfort with technology guarantees they will take advantage of automated resources,” says Thomas-François. “That should be a sign for retailers to continue offering hybrid forms of customer service. We want to give the consumer as much control as possible over their shopping experience. They should have the opportunity to make their own choices.”
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