Retail Lessons for Grocery
While other retail industries have been consumed with the development and implementation of the latest and greatest technologies, grocery has lagged behind. Until recently, grocery has been a slow mover, not feeling the heightened pressure of consumer preference for technology.
In the wake of mandated contactless procedures and other state regulations, grocers have begun to face competition from retail powerhouses like Amazon to go digital in an attempt to delight customers.
While retail and grocery are two unique verticals, there are many similarities between the two. Here are 6 lessons grocery retailers can learn from their retail counterparts as we navigate a post-COVID world.
As new capacity regulations were introduced to retailers, crowding became an evident problem, both in-store and in queues. Headed into the holiday season, crowding will become an increasingly large problem retailers will face as customers head out to stores to secure their needed items. When surveyed by McKinsey, more than 50 percent of consumers want stores to follow guidelines to help keep shoppers and employees safe, while 59 percent say it’s important for stores not to be too crowded.
To overcome this retailers, like Aldi, have begun to implement various queueing technologies such as automatic door counters that shut their entrance doors until the respective amount of customers have left the store. Others have developed app technology that utilizes store cameras to do regular store counts, and this information is then displayed in the store’s mobile app as a capacity bar. This allows customers to then plan their trips accordingly when the store is less busy.
For older stores where implementation of such technology may be difficult, merchandisers can be utilized to spread out “hot items” to avoid crowding.
As customers were welcomed back into their favorite stores amid closures, one change that was evident in consumer behavior was the need for contactless processes. Customers want limited physical interaction with the stores, from perusing merchandise to checkout.
Being that grocery shopping tends to be more hands-on in nature, such as selecting produce, it is difficult to go full contactless. However, features such as online product comparison can allow customers to scan ingredient lists and nutritional facts online to avoid handling excessive merchandise in the aisle.
Checkout offers another opportunity to go contactless. Rather than hand the customer a germ-laden paper receipt, many retailers are switching to its digital counterpart. The receipt lands immediately in the customer’s inbox, and one less physical interaction takes place in the interim. Not only are digital receipts healthier, they also provide a unique opportunity to continue engagement with customers after the sale.
Building on the above need for contactless options, many customers identified a preference for not headed into the store at all. Similar to retail, an early concern that arose was the inability to provide customers with the tactile experience associated with in-store shopping.
Many were quick to implement buy online pick-up in-store options, or BOPIS for short, to allow customers to manage their exposure to contact while shopping. Curbside, a process previously only used by big-box retailers like Target, was also quickly adopted as a means of limiting customer contact.
Retailers and grocers alike rushed to get these solutions up and running, only to have to clean up the process with time. Grocers looking to implement a BOPIS or curbside solution can learn about some of the cons of current solutions here.
COVID has quickly taken many brick and mortar customers online. Whether out of choice or not, customers were forced to head online if they wanted to shop with their favorite retail brands. In response to this, many retailers took the initiative to optimize their mobile apps and website experiences to ensure a smooth transition from in-store to online shopping.
The top two technologies customers are looking for are mobile payments and mobile app orders according to McKinsey. However, timing is of the essence in terms of implementation, with more than 35 percent of shoppers having yet to experience even the most talked-about or basic in-store technologies.
#5: Understaffed, Overworked Employees
Grocery was one of the hardest hit industries with regards to merchandising and staffing. With grocery being deemed essential, the industry faced large crowds looking to stock up on items in response to the uncertainty of the virus. Shortened hours and capacity constraints created an environment with large crowds, limited merchandise have led to stressed, overworked, and burnt-out employees.
Employees are a critical component of keeping customers delighted during high-volume sales cycles and beyond. Being part of the experience online shopping cannot provide, keeping employees motivated and supported is key.
Communication is key with employees during these uncertain times. By keeping the dialogue between employees and management open and honest, retailers can be more informed about the morale of employees. Contributions of employees should also be openly rewarded as a means of keeping spirits high.
Also, solutions like self-checkout and price checkers throughout the store lessen the demand on employees while allowing them to focus on other functions of their job, like stocking shelves.
#6: Disruptors: Big Box Stores
One-stop shopping has seen an increase in preference as customers look to minimize their time in public. Seeing this as an opportunity, many big box retailers, including Amazon and Target, have used this time to expand their grocery selections. Because of this, many customers are doing all of their shopping with these large powerhouses.
Similarly faced with the mounting pressure of big-box stores, many retailers switched their focus to driving a more personalized experience to their customers, a level of granularity that the big box retailers struggle to be able to provide. This includes options like running special promotions for loyalists, birthday deals, random freebies, and more. These seemingly simple acts are key in developing connections with customers that keep them coming back.
The Road Ahead
While the past year has been one of uncertainty, by learning from the pain points of other industries and adapting to fit your vertical, you can be sure that your customers are delighted, safe, and will keep coming back time and time again. Learn more about the technology grocers are raving about here.