Technology is the catalyst for change, and in retail, it’s changing the way businesses interact with consumers (and enhance their relationships) while making daily operations easier and gaining revenue for the business itself. Digital technology in general and mobile technology, in particular, have brought a new wave of innovation that completely changes the game for supermarkets. In this post, we’ll discuss six forms of supermarket technology and the impact they represent.
Beacons are a type of physical technology that ping a customer’s smartphone app to identify where they are in the store. Most operate utilizing the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless networking technology. However, other formats are being developed as well, such as Philips visual light communication systems. It can be used to do everything from helping customers locate items in store to pushing offer notifications to their app to improve conversion. The BLE format has already rolled out in a number of places, from major grocers like Target to more local grocers like Country Market. Country Market pushed the promotion of its myCountyMarket app, and of the 3,000 downloads, 2,000 have registered profiles. Utilizing its beacons, Country Market pushed a promotion through notifications: 50% of the customers that received the offer opened it, and of those, 20% redeemed it. Moving forward the company plans on developing personalized offers based on shopping habits, to increase the success of its efforts.
In-store technology offers numerous ways for stores to improve the customer experience, with the most basic effort being the ability to offer customer Wi-Fi and more extensive efforts such as augmented reality. Stores of all sizes from the local Stop’n’Shop and Kroger to brands like Whole Foods and Sam’s Club, are taking advantage of these offerings to improve the customer’s experience in their store.
Wi-Fi has become ubiquitous because it enables customers to use their apps in-store, as well as compare nutritional information without draining their data plan. Similarly, information kiosks are easy to implement and allow customers to price check items as well as help them navigate the store and request assistance easily. Augmented reality (AR) is being tested to provide supplementary information about products and more engaging data that a store can use to upsell or cross-sell items. For example, if a customer holds up an AR-enabled app to a shelf of pasta sauce, it displays in-store offers, available coupons, or recommendations for pasta, meats or cheeses along with potential recipes. AR is also being tested in supermarkets in Korea to provide quick, on-the-go shopping experiences where customers browse aisles of ‘shoppable’ billboards, then scan the QR codes of the desired items which then allow the customer to purchase within the app and pick up their items at a later time.
One supermarket technology that should see widespread adoption because of the way it makes day-to-day operations easier is smart-shelf technology. This monitors the amount of inventory on each shelf and notifies an employee as soon as it becomes low, or if the last item has been purchased by a customer. This allows a store to efficiently track inventory and keep items stocked on the shelves. This technology also offers stores additional opportunities such as checkout-free stores. An example of this smart-shelf technology is Amazon Go. Recently launched, the brick-and-mortar location offers a checkout-free shopping experience using mobile technology to detect when products are taken off or replaced on the shelf and tracks them all in an Amazon customer’s virtual cart. When the customer is done shopping, they simply leave the store and their Amazon account is charged.
In an increasingly omnichannel world, data itself can no longer be held or considered in silos. The information supermarkets have about inventory needs to be updated in real time to accurately reflect what’s available to customers who are shopping online for delivery or pickup, or in-store shoppers. Equally as important is a cross-channel understanding of who your customer is at every point they connect with your business; a complete picture allows you to fully understand their consumer journey and how your brand should be tapping into it.
We mentioned the utilization of apps in conjunction with beacon technology, but that’s not the only way an app can be useful. Consider Wegmans, which offers an app for both Apple and Android. Not only does this allow customers to add recipe ingredients to their shopping list, but they can also have their list organized according to the layout of their local store. They can browse foods via the app, discovering nutritional information, offers, and even prices. The app also coordinates with the shopper loyalty club.
Buying online for in-store pickup isn’t new to retail, but grocers have just started to adopt. While brands like Amazon are trying to capitalize on grocery delivery, the click-and-collect model provides a lift in margins: 13.8% over the 10.7% for home deliveries, according to McKinsey & Co., Woolworths has found success in a combination of the store beacon concept with this format, whereby when a customer is within a certain distance of the store, employees are given a notification to begin assembling the order for pickup. Utilizing proximity marketing campaigns, grocers will provide consumers with the instant satisfaction they demand.
Increased speed, convenience, and security are paramount to customer experience. While credit cards have certainly become the norm, digitized supermarkets have connected with a new wave of secure payments: wireless payments at POS via mobile or web wallets. These payment methods are easy and quick to use and offer an unprecedented level of flexibility in how a customer can pay. Whether it’s paying through the branded app, as with Wegmans’ app, the smartphone wallet like Apple or Android Pay, or logging into another pay option like PayPal, customers can pay securely in the way that’s easiest for them with no extra burden on the store.
Digitized supermarkets are better positioned to keep ahead of customer needs and present the solutions that will keep them competitive into the future. The successful technology methods for supermarkets that we’ve listed above is only the tip of the iceberg, of course. New technology is constantly being developed as retailers continue to evolve to anticipate consumer needs.