LIVE FROM FMI: Store of the Future?


It’s tomorrow’s grocery store, today!

Actually, it’s a glimpse of what food retailing could be –- or should be, if current predictions about shopping behaviors bear out –- as portrayed by a Food Marketing Institute exhibit that opened Wednesday at the 2014 FMI Connect at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

The Retail Experience of the Future (RETF) exhibit provides expo attendees with a preview of how current research, trend analysis and future-focused leaders suggest the world of food retail is expected to change in the next decade, and a presentation of ideas for enhancing the shopping experience and adapting effectively to the changing landscape.

I was among a group of food industry media offered an early look at the exhibit before the expo floor opened Wednesday morning.

“The goal of the RETF initiative is to provoke thought, create conversation and inspire optimism among FMI Connect attendees about the possibilities ahead,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI’s president and CEO.  “The exhibit serves as an informed observation of where consumers, food, marketing and technology are headed, and what that may mean for the food retail industry in the future.”

Future Needs and Desires

The entry corridor to the RETF exhibit focuses on the consumer of the future.  Based on research commissioned by FMI, attendees will experience the shopping needs and desires expressed by four distinct types of consumers:

Millennial Mel: Tomorrow’s Shopper:  This is a Millennial who lives with her parents and shops for herself. Community-oriented, she seeks convenience and welcomes recommendations. She’s technologically savvy and a social shopper; 38 percent of Millennial Mels will share grocery experiences via social media.

Gourmet Gordon: Focused on the Food: Gordon is a Gen X or Baby Boomer with no children; he shops for himself or a spouse. Product matters most; he seeks fresh, quality ingredients. He shops with a conscience; values organic, non-GMO, sustainable, local and ethical sources; and is eco-friendly. Sixty-eight percent of Gordons would pay more for organic.

Metropolitan Marsha: Craves Convenience: Marsha’s a Gen X or older Millennial who shops for her family. She lives in a large walkable city and embraces technology for quick and simple shopping experience; 55 percent of Marshas said delivery schedule control will be a top reason to shop online.

Traditional Tim: Sticks to Routines: Tim’s a Baby Boomer, likely retired, who shops for himself or a spouse. Technology,-resistant, he lives in the suburbs, a midsized city or a small town. Thirty-six percent of Tims say competitive pricing will be the main reason for choosing their grocer.

The Store of Tomorrow

The main area of the RETF exhibit features a series of “what-if” scenarios and vignettes with a structured focus on the following key elements:

  • Stores will become emotional destinations.
  • The store floor will come a “hyper showroom” to help shoppers become smarter consumers.
  • Stores will enable micro-personalization on a macro scale.
  • Retail’s role in its shoppers’ well-being will increase.
  • The store environment will become highly responsive.
  • Store associates will become shopper advocates.
  • Technology will enable the experience without interrupting it.

“The power of the Retail Experience of the Future exhibit is the opportunity it provides to discover, experience and discuss the changes that are coming to our industry and contemplate how our future success as food retailers will be determined by our ability to adapt and meet the evolving needs and wants of our customers,” said FMI Connect Chairman Randy Edeker, who’s Hy-Vee chairman, president and CEO.

Traditional Grocers Here to Stay

As the idea of online grocery sales gains traction, RETF research offers a ray of sunshine to the brick-and-mortar retailer: 83 percent of consumers consider traditional grocers their “go-to” for the foreseeable future.

“They don’t see a future without grocery stores,” said Sabina Saksena of project consultant PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), who led the pre-opening media tour. Consumers see online grocery sales as an “add-on feature” rather than a shift totally away from "real" shopping. “Even Millennials, they want the experience in the store,” Saksena said.

Some other RETF findings:

  • Nearly half of shoppers want store associates to provide in-depth product information.
  • 52 percent continue to be annoyed by long lines.
  • More than 50 percent will want to integrate their mobile devices into their shopping.
  • 5 percent include online grocery shopping as a primary future channel.
  • 28 percent say competitive pricing will be the main reason for choosing their grocer.
  • 39 percent want retailers to reward them for making healthy purchases and trying new foods.
  • 30 percent ranked virtual grocery stores as a top-three "want" for the future.

The RETF is sponsored by American Express, Coca-Cola Refreshments, The Hershey Co., Hussmann Corp., Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, MyWebGrocer, PwC, SAP, The, and Tesser Inc., the lead architect on the project.

FMI has also published the RETF Digital Magazine to showcase related information and ideas, and to underscore the importance of this initiative to the industry. The magazine also features perspectives and insights regarding the future from senior leaders representing the RETF sponsor partner organizations.

On the Expo Floor

Most of my booth visits on Wednesday focused on products and services designed to enhance the in-store experience, streamline shopping and back-of-house operations, and save both consumers and retailers time and money.

  • Motorola Solutions displayed its MC18 personal shopping device that allows consumers to scan items as they shop, and finish quickly at self-checkout. Motorola’s David Smith said the device was designed to solve two key shopper problems: long lines at the store and a desire to save money. Besides streamlining the checkout process, the device is programmed for proximity marketing; they can deliver targeted deals that appear when shoppers scan related items. Additionally, a mobile marketing platform can create a compelling customer experience by triggering localized deals, location assistance and even recipes. Further, an Android-based customer concierge kiosk, which operates like a large tablet device, can maintain wishlists uploaded from customers' smartphones and provide a directory of product information, among other services.
  • Logile displayed its workplace optimization technology, which evaluates retailers' work methods and develops customized labor standards to streamline operations.
  • ECRS promoted its new Raptor automated scanning system for accelerated checkout, using a high-speed belt and projected display that can scan an estimated 45 items per minute.
  • Aptaris demonstrated its enterprise marketing and promotions software that helps retailers execute marketing events and suggests improvements by tracking previous events.

Watch PG’s reports from the show floor on Twitter @jimdudlicek and @pgrocer, and show news on




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