Grocery in the Age of Convenience: What Needs to Change?
Given the option, shoppers will rarely hesitate to bring their business to the retailer offering the best overall experience. This means hard-won loyalty is often as fleeting as a retailer’s ability to keep supporting their needs better than anyone else.
In today’s age of convenience, we’re seeing shoppers across retail verticals demand a streamlined experience, and the grocery industry is one of the most prominent examples.
A recent survey by IRI found that that consumers prioritize saving time, effort and money during their grocery trips. The days of reaching the “pantry load” shopper are morphing into a thing of the past, with consumers more likely to visit a store multiple times each week to buy meals and essentials as needed. This puts traditional grocery store formats at risk of under-serving their customers in the area of convenience in favor of outdated expectations. What’s more, the pressure from below is also growing as many convenience stores are similarly evolving to offer more of a full "grocery" experience.
The whole ecosystem needs to adapt to strike a new balance that allows grocers to retain existing customers and recruit new ones. Let’s take a look at some of the defining factors of modern grocery stores as we continue into the age of convenience.
Mobile ordering to help shoppers plan ahead
Modern convenience requires that grocers allow shoppers to order their groceries anywhere, anytime. As home delivery and curbside pickup continues to grow in popularity, browser and app-enabled mobile ordering allows customers to browse and purchase their groceries at any touchpoint.
What’s more, sending reminders about frequent repeat purchases or relevant offers and promotions directly to customer mobile devices is more reason for them to choose – and stick with – your brand.
Checkout options to reduce time waiting in line
Regardless of whether a shopper needs to buy two items or 20, the length of a checkout line will always be a major deciding factor in choosing to shop at your store. A recent study found that nearly half of consumers choose cashierless checkouts and self-serve kiosks because it’s faster than traditional checkout.
Providing options at the point of sale, including self-checkout and mobile checkout, reduce time spent waiting and lead to an improved customer experience. This will make stopping in for essentials like bread or milk, or meal planning for the week, that much easier.
Positioning fuel as a central service
At the other end of the food retailing spectrum, the small-format convenience store has evolved into more than just a place to fill up your gas tank and grab a bag of chips. Innovative c-stores have emphasized their role as a quick and easy option for high-quality prepared foods, too. Doing so has started to draw a lot of spontaneous business away from the grocery store.
To lure those customers back and to pull in new customers, many large regional and national grocers are rethinking the role of fuel in their own operations. When the gas pump syncs with a retailer’s rewards program, it offers additional incentive for shoppers to take advantage of both fuel and in-store discounts. By providing both fuel and food offerings, the grocer can quickly become the go-to destination when a shopper needs to run either errand.
A word of warning: As fuel services become central to a grocer's customer acquisition and retention strategy, it’s important that back-end solutions aren’t siloed. Retailers require the ability to monitor every point of sale across the enterprise, ensuring one single source of data truth, and a full, extensive view of the customer.
End-to-end control to unify solutions
Convenience isn’t just about the variety or speed of services in the store, though. In a grocer’s pursuit of delivering a unified experience across the whole enterprise, its solutions must integrate with every aspect of the business.
For example, inventory changes must be recorded in real time so that a shopper ordering groceries from home doesn’t order an item that’s out of stock. Promotions must be accurate so that a consumer receives only relevant offers when checking their phone. It’s also essential to unify the multitude of payment options and methods of checkout: Shoppers could be using tap-to-pay at the pump, cash at self-checkout or a debit card linked to their mobile order, and more, and they all need to work seamlessly together for the user and the business.
The complexity surrounding grocery, with all of its nuances, margin pressures and scale of offerings, means that retailers must ensure they think strategically about how to deliver new services. To help customers shop quickly, retailers must act quickly. To do this, their technology and business processes must be able to see the whole shopper-journey picture, not just one piece of it.