This month we are exploring how technology can be used to optimise supermarket experience for customers. Retailers are utilising screens, apps and even robots in-store to locate products, inform purchase decisions and improve efficiencies behind the scenes.
HELPING CUSTOMERS FIND WHAT THEY NEED
In supermarkets, too much choice can create problems. Beyond reducing range, grocers are increasingly implementing tech to simplify the shopper journey and improve in-store navigation. JD.com has introduced smart shopping carts in its 7Fresh stores in China. Customers wear a wristband that allows the hands-free trolley to track them around the store and guide them to products when required. In the future, this technology could evolve to map pre-planned personalised shopping routes for customers. This would not only make shopping trips easier but would also give retailers further opportunity to upsell through providing personalised recommendations en-route. Where Chinese customers are happier to trade personal information for a personalised shopping experience, customers in the West may need more persuasion. Data privacy and building trust will be key for this to work.
With reduced range or stock comes the risk of customer disappointment and lost sales. To combat the impact of out-of-stock occurrences, Delhaize in Belgium has installed ‘endless aisles’ in prime traffic areas of store. These digital screens allow customers to browse a broader product range and order missing items online, while benefiting the brand through introducing more customers to their e-commerce platform.
ENHANCING SERVICE LEVELS
Budget cuts and staff shortages mean staff members are under increasing pressure, however recent years have seen a revival of demand for human service that is friendly, relevant and always-on. Retailers are implementing tech to alleviate this pressure and improve staff efficiency. Kroger is one retailer that has replaced paper price tags with digital screens on shelf-edges, facilitating instant price updates and freeing up staff to focus on assisting and engaging with customers.
Taking service to new boundaries, this year Giant Food Store plans to introduce robots into 172 stores across America. These robots will not replace staff but will be used to spot out of stock items, price discrepancies, and safety hazards, outsourcing mundane tasks and again allowing staff to shift their focus from product to customer.
RE-INVENTING CHECK OUT
Customers are taking check-out into their own hands as several retailers, from Amazon Go to Alibaba’s Chinese HEMA stores, allow people to add items to an online basket as they shop. These Scan & Go technologies aim to streamline the check out process, however, this relies on the customer being familiar with the technology and comfortable enough to use it. For bigger shops and customers with a trolley full of products, this experience can be more stressful, inconvenient and a slower experience.
To combat this, HonestBee in Singapore has launched an automated checkout system that removes the responsibility from customers to scan their own items. In the Habitat store concept, customers take their purchases to the AutoCheckout zone in store where a robot automatically scans and packs customers’ purchases, ready for collection at a designated RobotCollect point. This combines the best of physical and online shopping, as customers can choose their own products but shift responsibility back to the brands for check out and packing. With Asia leading the way in automated checkout, European and US brands will look to learn from initial implementations and adopt the tech as their own.
The possibilities for in store tech span across levels of implementation, from simple add-ons to a more holistically designed environment. However as more retailers look to tech to improve their store experience, careful consideration should be taken to ensure this genuinely enhances the customer journey, rather than implementing tech for tech’s sake.