By, CEO and Founder, Lucas Funes
For decades, the retail grocery industry has been adjusting to the newest state of normal -- a constant state of flux. While the industry has been known for it's slow pace of change, consumer preferences and industry disruptors are pushing for rapid transformation. For instance, many grocery chains have been changing their brand lines and taglines. One example is Kroger, who in response to consumer demand for healthier food, changed their tagline to "Fresh for everyone."
Unquestionably, brands who choose to ignore the trends will be left in the dustbin of history. Once uber-popular brands such as Blockbuster, Sears, Toys 'R' Us, and even Tower Records are no longer the market leaders or even competing in this day and age.
So then, let's take a look at emerging retail grocery technologies to be aware of in 2020.
1. Delivery driven e-commerce: Invariably, online shopping is not a new phenomenon. But, what's different is the trend of purchasing groceries online. With Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods, Instacart, Walmart grocery delivery, Tom Thumb grocery delivery, and more -- retail grocery chains are really paying attention to the delivery trend.
In fact, Amazon recently announced free grocery delivery for Amazon Prime members and Walmart is offering unlimited grocery delivery. In the digital age, where we can get almost anything with a tap, it seems logical that grocery delivery would take off the way it has.
For retailers who wish to take part, it's critical to invest in the right technologies which enable accurate delivery logistics while ensuring food safety.
Recently, there have been many news headlines around food being delivered beyond their expiration date. Further, in conjunction with salmonella outbreaks, this type of coverage can wreak havoc on a grocery's reputation. With Webee's real-time dashboard, you can avoid the negative press with an alert system which can automate inventory monitoring.
2. Automation: Microsoft and Kroger have partnered to bring data-driven connected grocery stores to the mass market. The systems are powered by Microsoft's Azure cloud platform and are designed to automate and expedite the shopping experience.
In addition, Microsoft and Kroger plan to package this retail-as-a-service (RaaS) platform for use by chains of any size. Then, there's Grabango, which designed technology to digitize every single item in store to facilitate a cashierless store. Four of Grabango's U.S. clients serve around 600 million customers annually.
It is quite clear that automation is inevitable. Amazon will offer a checkout-free solution through Amazon Go. Also, Walmart plans to use robotic shelf scanners, unloaders, and floor cleaners in the near future.
Certainly, repetitive tasks are not the best use of your employee's time and energy. The good news is Webee offers an infrastructure of sensors and software to ensure your staff only makes the most relevant use of their skills. Plus, Webee's alert system will always alert employees of an anomaly so that they can log refrigeration data manually when needed.
3. In-store experiences: The tech-savvy customer has high expectations. In fact, they want enjoyable and personalized shopping experiences across all retail channels -- but, especially if they are in store. Despite the fact that e-commerce is demonstrating a strong showing, 97% of shoppers will still find a need to visit stores in person. Yet, over half of consumers find that the retail environment is still not as inviting as they expect.
As a result, innovative stores are constantly searching for new ways to increase foot traffic such as through samplings, education, rich customer data, and entertainment. With these methods, technology plays a critical role in terms of collection and analysis of customer data.
At Webee we help ensure food items are sold at the highest quality by utilizing both humidity and temperature control. Offering high-quality products serves to improve the in-store experience. Moreover, the demand for better quality food items continues to grow. Every year, hundreds of thousands of consumers are hospitalized as a result of food-borne illnesses.
Although, this daunting statistic can be reduced though by employing robust food safety practices for both fresh produce and frozen foods. Also, the FDA recommends that perishable food, sitting at room temperature, should be discarded after two hours. This leaves little leeway for grocers in terms of keeping foods at their freshest.
4. Changes in shopping composition: According to a Nielson report, consumers are spending less money stocking up on pantry items and spending more money on fresh produce. For starters, this equates to more frequent purchases based on the type of meal they want to prepare for the day. Meal services such as Blue Apron have taught consumers the value of planning daily vs. weekly menus to eat foods when they're the most fresh. So then, retail grocers must stay on top of the food quality they offer to consumers.
It goes without saying that changes in purchasing behavior will impact the quantity and frequency with which you stock inventory. With Webee's user-friendly dashboard, you can quickly view patterns and fluctuations in your refrigerations units. With this meaningful data, you can then be better prepared for inventory and capacity planning to ensure you have the infrastructure in place to keep your inventory fresh and free from spoilage.
The year 2019 has certainly been an interesting year for retail, and 2020 will come with intriguing innovations for grocery delivery, automation, and connected networks. There isn't any doubt, the latest trends in retail groceries will push the technological envelope. With all of these changes on the horizon, retailers should also continue to incorporate food safety strategies into their game plan to ensure success in the years ahead.
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