How is technology changing the way we shop for groceries?

Previously I blogged about how retailers are using technology more and more  within the in-store environment.  They are doing this in two ways…

 1)      Bringing technology to the shop floor

2)      Bringing the shop floor to the consumer via technology

Bringing technology to the shop floor

More and more retailers are now enabling wi-fi in-store, to allow their customers greater connectivity while shopping. With QR codes, Augmented Reality, barcode scanners and in-store touchscreens, there are now a multitude of ways for customers to buy, order or gather information online while they are instore. This also gives retailers a great opportunity to upsell their non food offer during a grocery shop (something which customers do not always wish to see in their ‘food’ stores as it takes up valuable space)

Retailers can also make use of technology to streamline internal operations, such as using cameras to monitor availability of stock and queue lengths, mobile signal monitoring to locate hot spots in-store and staff touchscreens to provide them with a better ‘knowledge’ of products to name but a few.

Bringing the shop floor to the consumer via technology

Many retailers are investing in smart phone apps to enable purchasing and online retailing has been around for a while now. This is all really exciting stuff in grocery which will enable the shopper of the future to shop at any time they want, via any channel they want.

 Whilst online is seen to be all about the convenience, there is an aspect that it is also all about the price. Yes, it may cost £5 to have it delivered at a time convenient to me but if I save £40 by only buying what I want and use no petrol, it is worth it.

The fact is that buying on line costs less to all but the very strict in-store customer, showing that impulse buying is much easier face to face. In fact, retailer websites encourage ‘strict’ purchasing through the use of Favourites to simply repeat the last purchase (satisfying the sacred cows of on-line shopping – ease and speed). FMCG brands struggle to compete when they get no shelf prominence against competitors and whilst attempts have been made to promote other brands via ‘Have you seen?’ mechanisms, these have largely failed.

 But perhaps what we all have to remember is that, in grocery, it’s all too easy to get carried away by fancy gadgetry. In fact, a recent survey showed us that 98% of shoppers still shop in-store for (at least some of) their grocery shopping, with online accounting for a minority (less than one in five) of purchasing (and smart phone even less currently around 3% although it is growing at a faster rate than online).

We know that usage of instore technology while they are instore is low too. In reality, people tend to go to whichever supermarket is most conveniently located, and once they are in there, like to get in and out as quickly as possible. We know from our research that proportion of people scanning QR codes is low (9%) and only around 1% of customers walking past a touchscreen or Augmented Reality POS will interact with it at any level.

So how much is all this technology really aiding the grocery shopper? Or is it actually a distraction at best, or completely unnoticed at worst?

We’ve been researching the grocery sector since 1992 would you believe? Technology is clearly advancing and offering new opportunities for retailers – but if it doesn’t offer the savvy customer something better, simpler, cheaper, easier or faster then it is technology for technology’s sake.

When it comes to food and drink, customers are keen to touch and feel products, get inspired by new things to buy and hunt for the best prices.  So perhaps it’s not so different from 1992 after all.

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Danni Findlay
01962 842211
Article date - 10/04/2013
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