In recent years, the food and grocery retail sector has seen dramatic changes, with new competitors and new channels, as well as new consumer preferences. COVID’s impact on the industry is also evident.
Grocery stores that are big-box have to offer a more personalized shopping experience. They must also be able to provide a variety of options for shoppers, including online, in-store pickup, and delivery. Grocers must accelerate their adoption and use of technology to enhance the customer experience in order to be competitive in this new retail environment.
Despite the huge growth in online grocery shopping in the U.S.A, brick-and-mortar remains the most preferred channel for most Americans. Amazon.com, an e-commerce company, has also entered the fray by opening its digitally enabled Amazon GO shops across the United States. Amazon’s new format is designed to revolutionize the way technology and data are used in-store. It also promotes the idea that shopping should be seamless for consumers. The Just walk out proposition allows shoppers to go to the store, select their products, and then leave. This eliminates the need to have the product processed by a cashier at the counter or associate.
This innovation does not mean that the store associate is no longer needed. It could instead be the beginning of a transformation in which they are able to free themselves from the burden of selling and serving customers. The in-store team plays a critical role in the execution of a retailer’s Omnichannel Strategy. They bring together technology and data with creativity and flexibility to create a positive in-store experience.
Although in-store associates today are more tech-savvy than ever, there is a shortage of them. It’s crucial that they have the ability to see the right products at the right time and are able to perform their tasks, including maintaining stock availability for customers. In-store staff must have the ability to leverage new technology to improve their productivity and efficiency.
Walmart and other major retailers offer smartphones for free to their employees to help them manage their schedules and tasks. However, there are endless uses of mobile and hands-free technology. This technology is being used by retailers to get real-time information about shopper dynamics, store priorities and product availability. They can also apply dynamic discounts to expired food products. These new capabilities will make the shopping experience even easier for shoppers and improve the experience of store associates, showing them that their efforts are adding value to the business.
Store associates play a crucial role in the transformation of grocery and food retail. With the right training and technology, they can make the difference between winning or losing in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
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Retailers must master ‘Phygital Experiences’ in order to meet customers’ expectations.
Yes, distance can make the heart grow fonder. It can also lead to romanticized expectations that are almost impossible to fulfill. There is a lot to be said about physical shopping. However, some people may have gotten so attached to their retail experience that it makes it difficult for shops to deliver. People want what they can’t have, to use another human characteristic. Some consumers craved brick-and-mortar experiences more than ever in the past 18 months when online shopping was impossible or not as convenient. What happens now? Can consumers go to stores again? And what about the long-term, once the pandemic has passed?
Retailers cannot afford to fail to deliver the core benefits of physical shopping: the discovery and tactile experience, the possibility for immediate gratification and the social aspect. This can be with loved ones or strangers. Retailers must be sensitive to shoppers’ longing for normalcy and constantly innovating to meet their customers’ expectations for convenience, personalization, and ease of use. If they don’t, shops will be disappointed customers.
Building the Bionic Individuals of Retail
Lee Majors, an actor, stars in “The Six Million Dollar Man”, a TV series that focuses on a former astronaut named Steve Austin. Austin, after a fatal flight accident, is rebuilt using bionic implants. He becomes stronger, faster, and more resilient. This makes me think of in-person retail experiences. Our flight accident was the cause of the pandemic. It’s now time to rebuild. We use digital technology and interactive components for “phygital experiences”, which make shopping easier, more powerful, and faster.
“Phygital” is more than a trendy buzzword. It is the idea of combining digital and physical components to create memorable moments. Retailers should follow these best practices to create their own enhanced bionic creatures.
More on the Customer than the Channel
Retailers need to be customer-centric in every aspect of their business. It doesn’t matter where a customer buys as long as they are buying. All experiences should be cohesive and consistent, regardless of channel.
Data, Data Everywhere
Although you may not be familiar with it, personalization is based on data. Not just the collection of it but also how it is used. Retailers need to invest in software, hardware, and training for employees that allow them to instantly pull up customer profiles or create personalized experiences. This could be done by using customized messaging or digital menus when customers enter the store. Employees are now using personalization to reach customers and bring them in stores. These digital content services, which help brand ambassadors to be more effective in their job while still maintaining a genuine connection with customers, will make it easier for them.
Not Just for Technology’s Purpose
The best phygital experiences are truly valuable to the customer’s life. They don’t have to be complex and not all stores need to use every new technology. Kiosks can be used to enhance the in-person experience. They can be used for checking in at airports or learning about store products. Video walls and digital screens can create innovative environments while conveying important messages about safety, sales or inventory. In-store signage, overhead messaging, and television systems can be controlled and customized easily, making it easier for online and offline cohesion. Even better, screens can be easily changed and messages can be modified in a matter of seconds. This is something that in-store shoppers love.
Convenience Is Still King
A 2020 study from the National Retail Federation found that nine out of ten shoppers prefer convenience over price and expect retailers to make it easier for them to save time and effort. According to the research, 83% of respondents believe convenience is more important than five years ago. COVID saw a variety of phygital solutions to simplify and make shopping safer. These included curbside delivery, BOPIS and virtual shopping, where customers can chat with sales representatives. These solutions will be expected by consumers even after the pandemic has passed. However, they will likely have higher expectations of the shopping experience. It shouldn’t be difficult to deliver curbside, but it should also be enjoyable, with some happy music and a brief interaction with an associate.
Bionic but Still Social
Social media can be used to bridge online and offline experiences. Digital storefronts can be created by retailers that showcase user-generated content and promote hashtags, deals online, and ad campaigns. You can encourage customers to visit your store by advertising special deals and events in-store.
These tips will help retailers create the next generation in physical shopping. These new experiences are a reflection of what consumers love about retail, and can be enhanced with digital elements. It’s the retail equivalent to a bionic super-being, combining the best of both the worlds.