Next-gen grocery: Elevating the supermarket experience

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Next-gen grocery: Elevating the supermarket experience
We’ve been exploring how grocery brands can use digital tools, experiment with different formats and excite the senses in order to enhance the customer experience.

During the first national lockdown, we recognised the businesses that supported us as we navigated through those challenging months. Now entering a second round of restrictions, we’re turning once again to those brands to help us through - and none more so than grocery stores and supermarkets.
When other stores were shut and any form of social stimulus was off the table, a trip to the supermarket broke up a monotonous week - and whilst economic instability has fuelled a shift away from discretionary purchases in most categories, the grocery sector is booming globally (Quartz 2020). Tesco saw sales rise 30% in the first weeks of the pandemic, and nationwide grocery chains have seen an 18% point net gain in trust over the past few months.
We’ve been exploring how supermarkets can harness the full potential of their current opportunity and enhance their brand experience in order to thrive as well as survive in this new era.

Embrace the power of digital platforms, services and tools

We’ve seen brands across all sectors amplifying the functionality of e-commerce over the past few months as consumers have been forced to adopt online shopping habits. But the online experience can be dull, particularly when it comes to groceries. Trailing through web pages of product can be painfully repetitive - brands should consider how they can inject an element of joy and impulse to make the process more scintillating. Amazon’s Treasure Truck is a great example of how a few small tweaks can make a difference, with playful branding and a limited-time offer on carefully curated products, events and activities adding a sense of excitement to the online experience. It would be fun to see food and drinks retailers offering their own take on this dynamic and spontaneous service.
Grocery brands should also look to integrate online benefits into their physical environments in order to blend the best of convenience and enjoyment. With the average UK household spending over 18 hours grocery shopping each month (Bother), any time that can be saved is valuable - brands shouldn’t be afraid to adopt more digital tools and platforms in order to streamline the customer journey.
Inspired by airport design, Walmart’s new concept firmly focusses on maximum efficiency, introducing an app to help time-sensitive shoppers navigate their way around the store, find the exact products they’re after and feel in control of their journey. Amazon has taken a similar approach at their new Amazon Fresh store in California. Each Amazon Dash Cart has a built-in tablet for visitors to access their shopping lists online. The tech-enabled trollies then provide visual instructions to help locate items and allow for contactless checkout - resulting in a seamless shopping experience.

At a time where many are cautious about entering stores, it makes sense that supermarkets should be considering ways to put shoppers at ease. Queuing software such as Qudini has been adopted by brands such as Asda already, but stores could also consider offering bookable slots to those who are particularly anxious about shopping at busy times. Swedish grocery chain Lifvs offers a unique, digital-first concept with an app-based process and no staff in-store to allow customers to have more space when doing their shopping. Open 24/7, consumers can check into the stores, scan products and pay all by using BankID - Sweden’s national identification app - for a totally contactless and safe experience. Alibaba’s Hema store in China was an early adopter of a similar process, allowing customers to scan as they go and offering AI-powered personalised recommendations based on past shopping behaviour.
Whilst the pandemic is undoubtedly accelerating the shift to digital within retail, there’s still a little way to go in terms of perfecting the basics. Scaling rapidly within tight timeframes has led to a dip in customer experience in some areas, from the impossibility of getting a delivery slot to having the wrong items delivered and trouble with accessing click and collect orders. But once the operational kinks have been straightened out, there’s a whole lot more that grocery brands could be doing to enhance the shopping experience in this space.

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