Service Rules, Say Independents in PG Tech Study

NEW YORK -- Differentiation has become a key focus for independent grocers in their drive to become more competitive, and as such, it's shaping their technology needs, according to a survey of retailers conducted by PROGRESSIVE GROCER for its second annual Technology and the Independent Grocer research study.

The drive to up the ante on service is evidenced by increased deployment of customer-facing technology such as information kiosks, digital media displays, and marketing and promotion technology--all dedicated to making more effective connections to shoppers and their needs.

This high-touch environment also results in the avoidance of self-checkout technology, though, as survey results show, most independents realize they'll eventually have to install these units for competitive reasons. While relatively few respondents said they plan to install self-checkout systems within the next year, almost one-quarter of all respondents said they plan to install these units within three years.

Service also means being able to have information on hand when required to serve customers' needs. The result is a jump in deployment of mobile communications technology, as decision-makers try to stay in touch with front-line associates. Forty-two percent of respondents plan to invest in mobile communications devices next year.

"We control a lot from our corporate office, so we wanted to increase the efficiency of our communications between corporate and the stores," said Glenn Gibson, v.p. and c.i.o. of Rockville, Md.-based Magruder's, a participant in the study. "We take a lot of orders for platters and catering. We move product around frequently, and we want to empower people using the information to make better decisions. What it came down to is what would be the medium that we should use for doing that."

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