Buying groceries in the future
Lifestyles, entertainment, and indulgences are all trending towards sustainable options. Why would grocery buying be different? The future generation will be more interested in the nutritional and ethical background of food than its previous generations. This, infused with IoT and preference for convenience, time-saving and healthy products will shape the future of grocery stores.
The history of
the food you eat
The future grocery stores will have a strict criterion for the products they stock. The need to know background information of the products would be an integral part of the whole buying process. Preparing for dinner will be a more of an informative experience, one suited to the individual needs of the buyers. Such concepts of grocery stores are already being experimented. Coop Italia, Italy’s largest supermarket chain built a prototype of a futuristic grocery store for the Milan’s World Fair. Connected LCD panels stretching over long rows of fresh products on open wooden tables give information whenever an item is picked up. Large screens on walls offer trends of purchases and refrigerator doors give recipe suggestions. Every small detail of the products is collected and displayed: where was it grown, its nutritional properties and carbon footprint. The prototype store is, in the words of Luca Setti, Future Food District Coop Manager, ‘how the supermarket of the future will look’ like.
WholeFoods agrees too. It’s format 365 stores have been gaining popularity ever since they opened the first one in Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Here, the customer besides getting numerous alternatives to meatless grocery shopping, also have access to background information such as if the product is ‘BPA-free, grass-fed, cage-free, or even made with renewable energy’. The items all have a back story and the product lines are designed to cater to niche tastes. The 365-store model infuses smartphones technology with grocery shopping, paving the way for future integration. “More smartphones mean more information, more choice, more transparent pricing and more ways to shop,” predicts McKinsey & Company report, The Future of Retail Grocery in a Digital World.
Amazon experimentation with the future of grocery stores offers insight into what the future consumer habits will look like. Amazon’s store conveniently titled ‘Amazon Go’, is a store based on their ‘Just walk out’ technology. With a line-free, no registration and no human interaction model, the customer simply walks into the store and walks out of it with their products. The Amazon app, cameras, machine learning technology and a close check on inventory keeps track of what one picks up and as soon as one steps out of the store, the products are charged on the account. Another version of this experimentation is the Amazon Fresh service where groceries can be purchased online and an Amazon employee will bring them to your car. This saves the hassle of moving around the stores, waiting in lines for checkout and carrying the bags to the cars.
Semenov Dahir Kurmanbievich, a Russian inventor who filed for a drive through patent resonates with the philosophy behind Amazon Fresh convenience. Kurmanbievich’s model too would do away with the cumbersome practice of getting out of the car, walking across the stores, standing in long lines and then carrying products to the car. In his model, the car walks along specially designed counters where the driver can choose products and pay for them while still sitting in the car. The ‘click and collect’ methods of grocery shopping although might not define the future for everyone could serve to the taste of individual shoppers. As per a Nielsen survey, 52-57% of those interviewed were optimistic about different ‘click and collect’ methods for their future grocery shopping.
The future of grocery stores as restaurants
According to reports by NPD and Oppenheimer, the future of grocery shopping could be grocerant; a compromise between a grocery store and a restaurant. Customers could handpick the products and ingredients and have someone else prepare them. They can then either eat in a restaurant within the store or, take away prepared meals. According to the NPD report, Grocerants generated 2.4 billion visits and $10 billion in sales in 2016 and the trends are growing more with time. This new market caters to the demands of the customership that prefers a keen eye at the composition of its products but doesn’t have the time to cook for themselves. Such companies also offer prepared products from the in-house ingredients, giving cheaper take out options than restaurants. Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer of Market Force claims that the ‘biggest trend in supermarkets is prepared meals’. Yet again, these type of outlets will cater to the needs and demands of a future generation that is more concerned about their health and the background of the food products they eat. Furthermore, they are already succeeding to cut down on prices and competitive against conventional take out models. While many such examples exist already, the rising trends, more innovations in product lines and better fusion with the models of restaurants will shape the grocery stores of the future.
The trends are obvious: sustainability, healthy, time-saving and convenience. The future grocery stores will be a reflection of these trends. Combined with latest technology and different levels of interaction, the grocery stores of the future will cater to niche customers in a more individual fashion. Information too will form a big part of this experience.