Frictionless transactions at the front end of the store to expedite the checkout process are an important part of the overall experience and can be a deal-breaker for shoppers. Determining how technology will change the operating model in the store, from robots to cashless checkout, will figure into that strategy. According to Stewart, that includes options like self-checkout, scan and go, “or simply providing great customer service as shoppers complete their trip.”
For his part, Blischok stresses the importance of the in-store human touch.
“Retailers need to empower employees to do great things,” he advises. “Helping employees realize localization and improve the shopping experience, then rewarding them for doing great things with shoppers, will drive real and profitable growth.”
Hone the Assortment
The importance of the right assortment can’t be overestimated. “Bringing in the right mix of product innovation and creating new category staples will be essential to driving traffic into the store,” asserts Nicky Jackson, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based RangeMe. “Online channels will continue to expand, and social currency for brands will be part of sourcing decisions to offer more points of access for consumers.”
That means paying attention to seasonal sales opportunities. Retailers often miss opportunities for incremental seasonal sales, because of gross-margin goals and concern about being over-SKU’d, so buyers become less willing to take risks by adding seasonal products with short availability windows, according to the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association (PMA).
Some of the most effective product promotions are short-term and spark customer excitement. Creating a themed pumpkin patch outside the store, rather than featuring a single bin of pumpkins in the produce department, will generate excitement in regard to purchasing.
Jackson observes that some key trends to watch are products with clean and transparent food labels, offerings where taste is as important as health, and the continued focus on social responsibility, leading back to a strong founder story.
Concentrate on Fresh and Natural/Organic
Fresh is an area in which supermarkets have a natural advantage over other channels — especially online.
“People want to see, feel and smell fresh products,” says Richard. “Fresh is outpacing center stores in sales, so focusing on that area and finding ways to further engage consumers — like a bakery window that lets customers see and smell fresh bread being baked — is a place [with which] online retail can’t compete.”
Retailers should also continue to focus on natural and organic products.
“Sales of these products will continue to grow across many categories, and shopper expectations and demand continue to increase, especially amongst younger shoppers,” observes Stewart. “Merchandising natural and organic products helps to enhance shopper perception of the retailer’s focus on health and wellness while trading shoppers up to higher quality and usually higher-priced products.”