Click will not surpass brick in sales, at least where groceries are concerned, an expert panel seemed to agree during the final sessions of the Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Conference, Tuesday morning in Miami Beach.
“The Future of the Marketplace,” offering an outlook for the grocery retailing marketplace in the years ahead, was moderated by Rorit Bhargava, CEO of Influential Marketing Group and professor of global marketing at Georgetown University.
The panel also included Thom Blischok, chief retail strategist for PwC; Scott Moses, managing director at Sagent Advisors; and Suzy Monford, CEO of Andronico’s Community Markets, a five-store chain in the San Francisco Bay area.
“The store is alive and well,” Blischok declared, observing that since retailers began to focus heavily on the perimeter, “people have found it’s actually fun to shop again.”
In 2016, Blischok asserted, the trends to follow are local, experiential and a return to the store. Even for omnichannel retailing, grocers need to determine how best to use their stores as an asset.
“Integrate what’s in store and online,” he said, noting that “transparency is really critical.”
Blischok predicted the development of mobile apps for stores that will help shoppers navigate aisles and follow the consumer through the shopping process.
He further argued that click (online sales) will not surpass brick (in-store) in sales.
Strength in brick
Monford agreed. “Brick and mortar is here to stay, but there will be fewer stores in the future,” she said, anticipating smaller stores that will handle custom orders and click-and-collect fulfillment. “We have a chance to be a hero for folks in myriad ways,” she said.
But size isn’t necessarily the issue, Blischok insisted: “Ten years ago, the question was how big can you get, now it’s how small can you get. The real question is how relevant can you get – what size will best service your community?”
Most shoppers are no longer going to just a single store, and stock-up trips are diminishing, Blischok said. “If there’s one trip that will shift this year, it’s the restaurant trip,” he said, advising grocers to create the experience of restaurant-quality food with the ability to order online for pickup or delivery.
Moses noted that restaurants have rebounded since the recession, when grocers benefited from fewer people eating out, so grocers “need another reason to be a destination.” Retailers must extract efficiencies from their operations, he said, to drive down costs to pay for an enhanced store experience.
According to Blischok, dayparting and merchandising innovations are the two most important areas to retailers this year. “Own those,” he advised.
Opening the morning sessions was global consumer trends expert and futurist Sheryl Connelly, who advocated an “outside-in thinking” process for determining how trends will impact your business.
Macro trends Connelly called out as significant to food retailers: ethnical consumption, health and wellness, and what she termed the “cult of curation” over a desire for customized products.
Rounding out the morning was Ron Fournier, senior political columnist for the National Journal, speaking on “The Future of the Electorate” and the 2016 presidential race.