Time for a Tech Assessment


In today’s brave new world of grocery, it makes sense for grocers to engage shoppers by outfitting their stores with video screens, beacons and kiosks, as well as connecting with them via in-store mobile messaging. That’s because the most important food shoppers for the foreseeable future are the nearly 76 million Millennials (age 19-35). These tech-loving customers are starting families, if they haven’t done so already. That obviously increases the grocery basket per shopping trip.

With those thoughts in mind, it’s time to evaluate the effectiveness of these tech tools in stores that have them. Are they benefiting grocers?

I recently researched this topic and learned a lot from many analysts. They have widely different views, so the report card is mixed. My own observations and reporting are as follows.

On the minus side:

  • Beacons have had limited success. How many grocery stores around the country are equipped with beacons? Not a critical mass. Even in beacon-equipped stores, how many shoppers engage with beacons? Not a critical mass. They won’t bother to do so.
  • Video screens should be a welcome respite from the drudgery of a shopping trip, but not many customers stop to watch. Most of them want to get on with their purchases and exit the store as soon as possible.
  • Kiosks have been installed and removed from stores for years. There is a reason why they never became a permanent fixture and proliferated throughout the country. They never impacted shoppers in a meaningful way.  

On the plus side:

  • Beacons are still a relatively new addition to a store’s digital offering. Allow time for Millennials to opt in. They’ll look forward to seeing what discounts and offers arrive on their smartphones once they enter a store. It will become a welcome greeting.
  • In a large grocery store that bills itself as a destination for foodies, cooking videos can surely enhance the shopping experience. These proud home cooks will indeed stop and watch meal prep tips, and look forward to returning for more.
  • Kiosks will earn their space in more stores. Meal-planning kiosks that offer recipes and coupons are helpful for time-pressed shoppers looking for last-minute ideas for family dinners. Wine kiosks in stores that allow them will attract discriminating shoppers looking for proper pairings with meals.

As you see, opinions vary. My view is that digital devices need to provide value and enhance the shopping experience; otherwise, they’ll be ignored. I also think that widespread acceptance is very much generational.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds