Grocery stores slow to adopt useful technology
Some Canadians detest going to the grocery store while enjoy discovering new products or new flavours. But most Canadians would agree on one thing. Waiting in line to pay for your items is the single most frustrating part of grocery shopping,
For decades, the most mismanaged part of the grocery experience has always been leaving the store.
To avoid getting stuck in line waiting to pay for their items, Canadians will opt for the often dysfunctional self-checkout machines. Poorly designed selfcheckout lanes have been a source of frustration ever since the technology first appeared in Canadian stores in 2000. Something always goes wrong, which then requires an employee with a portable scanner to come to the rescue. The experience is, most often, embarrassing and annoying. But, despite all the flaws, Canadians still are using self-checkouts. According to a recent survey by Dalhousie University, 66 per cent of us have used self-checkout lanes at some point, and 11 per cent use them consistently.
Grocers have had a love-hate relationship with technology for decades. Most feel technology gets in the way of connecting with customers inside the store. It has long been believed that the only way to build customer loyalty and increase foot traffic is to interact with visiting customers, as much possible. But the time pressures of our modern lifestyle and our constant quest for convenience have not only forced grocers to think differently about how they manage the grocery experience, but have also compelled them to seek different channels to reach more customers, such as online delivery and meal kits.
Wanting to humanize the grocery experience is just one thing with which grocers grapple. Encouraging impulse buying is an art grocers have mastered in the brick-and-mortar environment. While you wait in line, you’re surrounded by candies, gum, magazines, and other small temptations. However, getting customers to buy on impulse in front of a screen is another story.
But grocers see what’s coming. According to the same Dalhousie University survey, nearly two per cent of Canadians buy food online regularly, and more than 34 pert cent are thinking about doing so. This means Canadians slowly are been drawn to solutions which can save them time, and avoid the hassle of grocery shopping. More than 14 per cent of Canadians also have ordered ready-to-cook products from meal kit providers, a number which is likely to increase.
External disruptors like Amazon want to remind Canadians that technology can serve a purpose in the grocery business and make any visit a civilized endeavour. Amazon Go is a store in which you don’t need to talk to anyone. You pick out your groceries and walk away without paying. Sensors detect what you have picked up, and the appropriate amount is automatically deducted from your bank account. Nontraditional grocers are demonstrating there is a better way to implement technological solutions to enhance our shopping experience.
The industry is going through a significant transition. Canadians are demanding more convenience, and not just the younger generations, but anyone who doesn’t want grocery shopping to be a slog.
Grocers know consumers are expecting seamless solutions that will make grocery shopping more pleasant. But grocers also recognize no one wants to pay more for better technology, or delivery for that matter. So, patience is a virtue. Grocers will get there, but it may take a while.