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What’s ‘In Store’ for Tech in 2017?


It’s that time when market watchers make predictions about the new year. I have often made such forecasts with mixed results. So I’m going to try something different this year.

Here are five questions about in-store technology that PG readers can ponder, and then make their own predictions:

Will More Grocery Shoppers Click on SmartLabels on Packages?

New SmartLabels on packages give consumers easy access to detailed information about products. They scan this sophisticated barcode in the store or do an online search to reach a landing page with information on ingredients and other attributes of a wide range of food, beverage, pet care, household and personal care products.

Projections call for nearly 30,000 total products to use SmartLabel by the end of 2017. It’s estimated that within five years, more than 80 percent of the food, beverage, pet care, personal care and household products that consumers buy will be using a SmartLabel.

It’s unclear at this point whether a critical number of consumers will engage with SmartLabel to obtain more information about the products they buy.

Will the EMV Card be Accepted by All Supermarkets in the Country?

Beginning on Oct. 1, 2015, point-of-sale (POS) systems in grocery stores were supposed to accept the new EMV credit cards for payment at checkout. It marked the start of a transition from magnetic-stripe cards to Europay Mastercard Visa (EMV) cards that have an embedded chip designed to provide more protection for shoppers against criminal tampering and take the liability away from retailers. 

The transition remains somewhat uneven, although much progress has been made. While many grocers now enable shoppers to use EMV cards in the store’s checkout terminals, some aren't able to yet. That's because the card networks haven't certified the change yet, even though grocers may have upgraded their POS terminals for the cards.

At some point in the new year, it would be good news if all supermarkets in the country could accept EMV cards for the protection of shoppers.

How Many Retailers and Manufacturers Will Adopt CatMan 2.0?

Category management was one of the most successful business processes of the 20th century, but a redesigned process called CatMan 2.0 was launched in 2016 by the Category Management Association (CMA) for the CPG and retail industries.

The updated process embodies the advances that have emerged in data, analytics, process and success models, as well as all of the game-changing influence of the digital revolution. The updated process emphasizes internal alignment among manufacturer and retail teams. It adds robust sections on deployment, ROI calculation and category plan deployment across the complex supply chain. One of the key improvements is the integration of shopper insights and shopper marketing into the category management process.

Nine major CPG manufacturers and four large chains assisted in developing CatMan 2.0. Other than these companies, many more trading partners need to shift from the traditional process to CatMan 2.0 in 2017 to maintain the momentum of change.

Will More Grocery Shoppers Embrace Beacons in Supermarkets?

Beacons have made news in the grocery industry in recent years. Some grocery chains, such as Marsh Supermarkets, have outfitted their stores with beacons. These sensors are embedded throughout a retail store’s digital touch points like shelves, signs and product displays. They interact with mobile devices using low-energy Bluetooth signals.

Shoppers must enable a special app on their smartphones to connect with beacons. While shopping, the phones can be pinged to accept coupons and other promotions.  

So far, it is unclear how many more chains will deploy beacons in 2017 and whether a critical number of shoppers will use their smartphones to make a connection in stores with these sensors.

Will There Be More Pilots of Checkout Terminals?

National surveys and anecdotal evidence say shoppers continue to be dissatisfied with their checkout experiences in grocery stores. Basically, they dislike standing on long lines and want to get out of the store faster.  

To address these concerns and desires, makers of payment terminals introduced self-checkout about a dozen years ago. The results have been mixed, and some chains are removing these terminals. Meanwhile, Kroger is testing hand-held scanners for use while shopping, and Amazon made recent news with its test of a no-checkout store that relies on a special mobile app for checking in and out of a store with groceries.

Some or all these innovations may catch on and proliferate. Or not. New checkout solutions will aim to improve speed and efficiency,  

Bottom line: I will make one fearless prediction. Buckle up! It’s going to be a bumpy year for innovation.

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