The Future of Online Grocery Shopping and How Legacy Brands Can Keep Up

May 16, 2017 Stefanie Neyland



Today’s consumers can shop the world while wearing their pajamas and sipping a latte. They can buy anything while they cuddle their dog, or watch the playoffs, or drink some wine. They can do it at home with no screaming kids in tow.


And, thanks to the latest in beacon technology, when consumers are out and about, retailers can send them personal messages based on their shopping history and preferences.


The consumer chooses how to shop, and technology—coupled with forward-thinking retailers—have made today’s multi-channel shopping experiences the ultimate in personalization and convenience. 


There’s no denying it: the brands that are winning today’s shopping game are the ones that understand that their customers want and desire this experience. 


The disruptors keep disrupting

We all know that online grocery eCommerce is here to stay. The big guns and the startup disruptors know it. They’re constantly creating new and innovative models that offer the customer better, more personalized service. And make no mistake: legacy grocery brands would be wise to pay attention. Fall too far behind and you run the risk of losing your customers to the innovators.


Today, the technology-driven consumer is king. Their idea of a great customer service experience isn’t much different than that of the consumers who came before them. They still want personalized service, but today’s technology is changing how they wish to receive it.


So, who is your customer and how do they buy groceries?

At least one generation in your target market has grown up in a fully connected world. Some others may never embrace technology. To succeed, you must figure out how to cater to both extremes and everyone in between.



[Image Credit: The Nielsen Company: “The Future of Grocery”]


For many, grocery shopping remains a sensory experience. These consumers still want to walk into a store, see all the colourful fruit, smell the freshly baked bread, and meet the baker who decorates their daughter’s birthday cake. They want to see, touch, and sniff their produce.


Some want to pick up that delicious smelling bread in person, but would rather order their paper products and household cleansers online. Others simply don’t care about a sensory experience, and will order everything online. So how do you please them all?


Keeping up in today’s tech-driven world

Success requires a shift in your thinking. To thrive and survive among today’s innovators, you must first understand that consumers are shopping through whatever channel suits them best at any given moment. To succeed, you must open all those channels and merge in-person encounters with the latest technology to provide the most personal, positive customer service experience possible.


The future of online grocery shopping is definitely changing. In the next few years, there will be an upswing in click-and-collect offerings, purchasing options (beyond the store), digital couponing, the use of self-checkouts and digital wallets, in-store mobile technology, dynamic pricing, and innovative mobile apps. If you don’t yet see these in your market, you will soon.


Here’s what the experience may look like: Like today, customers will choose how they shop, whether it’s online, in-store, or click-and-collect curbside pick-up.


Those who visit the store will have a holistic digital experience; as they walk the store aisles, the retailer will send personal messages to their phone. Customers will shop among electronic shelves that will allow stores to change prices more frequently (and stay competitive). Store employees equipped with tablets or smart phones will have instant access to inventory and pricing information. Robots will be managing inventory and possibly stocking shelves.


Finally, the customer will use mobile or self-checkouts and will pay digitally by scanning or tapping their phone.


When shopping from home, mobile apps will help customers to plan their meals and take inventory of their kitchens. The apps may connect automatically with the store and set up instant delivery without the customer doing a thing.


It’s safe to say that whatever customers want, the industry’s innovators will use the latest technology to make it happen.


Where will technology take you? You decide

Legacy grocery stores don’t necessarily have to be left in the dust. They’ve earned the legacy title by weathering countless industry changes over the past several decades.


The technology revolution is a big change, but not an unsurmountable one. With the right approach to personalization and data collection, and some forward-thinking innovation, you can find your grocery eCommerce sweet spot. Just like any big change in commerce, the brands that get it right are the ones that best understand their customer.


When you’re ready to take the plunge, check out our blog post, 10 Steps to a Successful Grocery eCommerce Launch”, and our whitepaper, “A Grocer's Survival Guide to Digital Retail.

To learn more about how we think digital is changing retail, read “Retail Revamped With a Digital Touch”.



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