In a few years from now, the state of grocery retail will be very different from what it is today. Technology will have made the entire process of shopping for grocery a lot more seamless, especially in physical stores. For retailers to be at an advantage in the future, they should lay a solid foundation from where they can build on. A lot of the consolidation must start now.
The standards set by Amazon are not the worst to emulate, irrespective of whether one is an online or an offline retailer. Starting from how to set foot in omnichannel retailing, to adding a cutting edge to the overall online operations, to now aiming at reducing in-store friction by enhancing the in-store experience of customers (Amazon-Go), they have for long led by examples.
In this case, let’s lay emphasis on how brick-and-mortar grocery retailers should go about providing that seamless shopping experience of the future to the customers.
The primary complexities of shopping grocery in-store
The Brick-and-Mortar store has for long served as the primary place for people to shop grocery, right up until discount chains and online retailers came into the picture. The brick-and-mortar retailers really need to up their game if they want to remain competitive. They will need to be more innovative and flexible than ever before. They can still be ahead of the eight ball by excelling at the kind of in-store experience they provide to the customers. Customers today want a highly personalized, convenient, seamless, and fast shopping experience. A high degree of in-store personalization and customer service is the need of the hour.
Not all brick-and-mortar retailers are being able to provide these on a consistent basis to the customers. Sadly, there are quite a few complexities that crop up among customers while they shop in the stores. The retailers should look to address the following customer frustrations at the earliest, so they can limit the damage that it might otherwise cause them.
The Amazon Way
Physical retail for grocery will always be there. Recognizing this fact, online giants Amazon have exhibited a strong preference for opting for omnichannel retailing. The existence of ‘Amazon Fresh’ in contrast to their recent agreement to buy Whole Foods Markets Inc. certainly validates the fact. The presence in both online and offline will help them serve retailers way more efficiently than traditional brick-and-mortar. Their online expertise is no secret, and it will only be a matter of time before they start bossing the offline segment as well. With advanced data gathering techniques, they aim to offer a highly personalized, convenient, and hassle-free shopping experience to all the customers. Again, the unprecedented no-checkout technology (Amazon-Go) deserves more than just a mention.
Brick-and-Mortar retailers should look to emulate the Amazon pattern. That does not mean they should strive to outperform Amazon, as that might seem virtually impossible (for most). Their objective should be to reach to a stage where things starts working out for them, and consistently so. They can begin by settling the consumer frustrations listed above. Brick-and-mortar retailers will have to resort to omnichannel retailing. This will help them exist in both the worlds, and it will be easier for them to gather customer insight. They can leverage the customer insights gathered from both online and in-store to enhance the levels of in-store personalization when they come to the stores. Discount offerings can be personalized as a result. An online existence will also make it easier for customers to compare products. They can always just go online and compare the products while they are dwelling in-store, or even before they enter.
Amazon can entertain thoughts about automating the entire shopping journey to perfection, as they have the means to. But, it’s not possible for all retailers of different statures to replicate the same. Retailers should understand that there is nothing quite like the human touch in offline retail. More number of informed associates deployed in-store will allow the customers to interact with them. These associates can enlighten the customers with meaningful suggestions and guidance, which the customers come to expect. It will also make locating products on the floor that bit easier for the customers.
This is the all-important consolidating period for Brick-and-Mortar retailers. In the years ahead, grocery shopping in majority of the stores is not going to be as cumbersome as it is today. Retailers today would want to feature among the majority to enjoy any realistic advantage.