Despite the wave of digital transformation spreading through the retail sector, the supermarket shopping experience has largely remained the same. Shoppers visit physical stores, pick items by hand, and wait in checkout lines before exiting. While self-checkout does seem to be gaining in popularity, 67% of consumers say that these systems have malfunctioned on them in the past, suggesting that there are big opportunities for new types of innovation.
In the wake of the pandemic, online grocery shopping and “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) models have certainly gained steam, but the majority of us still prefer purchasing groceries in physical stores. One recent study found that 94% of shoppers plan to continue shopping in person, at least some of the time. Thus, any attempt to digitalize the supermarket shopping experience must occur within the physical world.
Here are five technological solutions that are doing exactly that and changing the way we shop for groceries in the process.
1. Digitalizing the shopping cart
The shopping cart is an essential portion of the grocery purchasing experience. Supermarkets have tried turning the cart into an advertising platform over the years with varying levels of success. Some grocery chains like Kroger have gone a step further and introduced smart carts that allow customers to check out and skip waiting in lines.
While these smart carts represent a huge leap ahead technologically, they often are extremely costly for grocers and demand special storage conditions. While national chains like Whole Foods or Kroger could reconfigure their stores to accommodate them, regional or independent grocers might find the cost prohibitive.
This is where innovative solutions, such as the ones developed by Shopic, come into the picture. Upon entering participating stores, shoppers can take a Shopic device off of a charging wall and attach it to a standard shopping cart, offering the benefits of a fully developed smart cart thanks to the power of AI.
Shopic’s devices identify items as shoppers place them in the cart, without needing any manual scanning. Customers can check out items using the attached touchscreens and skip long lines. Shoppers can even create lists, and Shopic’s device will guide them to item locations within a store, saving them time.
2. QR code-based personalization
Increasing shopper engagement rates is a goal that many supermarkets pursue. More engagement equals more purchases and more advertising income from brands. Supermarkets use plenty of tactics such as weekly print circulars and email newsletters to keep shoppers returning.
While these efforts are useful, supermarkets struggle to engage shoppers for long within their stores. Unlike fashion retail situations, supermarkets cannot deploy sales staff to ask customers what they need. Shoppers prefer being left alone in supermarkets, asking for information when they want it.
QR codes have offered supermarket chains a great way of boosting engagement. Customers scan codes when they want to and receive the information they want. The number of visits to a QR code-linked URL also gives supermarkets insights into shopping habits or product demand.
Recently, QR codes have received intense development focus from firms looking to boost the supermarket shopping experience. For instance, Contact Pigeon’s two-way QR codes offer a vast array of information to shoppers while giving supermarkets insights into customer patterns.
These codes are nascent, but their applications are immense. Supermarkets can customize offers and promotions depending on a shopper’s location and prior purchase history. They can incentivize form signups to deliver even more personalized recommendations.
The result is more customer data and better analytics for supermarkets, along with easier access to information for shoppers.
3. Just walk out
Amazon’s Just Walk Out was perhaps the biggest leap in supermarket shopping in recent years. While the technology giant is still perfecting its system, Just Walk Out has been gaining steam thanks to its revolutionary approach.
The Just Walk Out system allows shoppers to identify themselves upon entering a store by scanning a QR code or their palms on a sensor. Then they shop as usual, and instead of checking out at a counter, simply walk out of the store. Their Amazon accounts are billed automatically, and they receive a digital purchase receipt.
Amazon’s system uses a combination of high-definition ceiling-mounted cameras, deep learning technology, and sensors to monitor a shopper’s movements within a store at all times. The result is a seamless shopping experience that gives Amazon more data about its customers while delivering hyper-personalization.
Trigo, another promising startup, offers a similar solution, called EasyOut.
4. Smart packaging
One of the critical components of enhancing the in-store shopping experience is goods packaging. Supermarkets can deliver immense value through packaging by offering consumers information about product sourcing and manufacturing.
For instance, prismIQs smart packaging helps food manufacturers embed product traceability information on packages, giving consumers insight into how sustainable their food is. Smart packaging also simplifies inventory management and product tracking from a supermarket’s perspective.
Best of all, smart packaging can also guide users when it comes to unboxing and first-time use. These packages can play a huge role in delivering great purchasing experiences when buying electronic goods or other sophisticated equipment.
By onboarding customers to a digital journey, supermarkets can understand shopper preferences better and deliver customized buying recommendations.
5. Voice-based ordering
The proliferation of audio assistants and smart devices such as Google Home and Alexa (from Amazon) has led to consumers using voice-based searches more than ever. Supermarkets are leveraging this trend by offering consumers the ability to order goods through their voice assistants and pick them up in-store.
For instance, Walmart partnered with Google before the pandemic to offer customers the ability to order groceries through Google’s voice assistant. Shoppers could simply use words like “milk,” and Walmart’s engine would scan past purchases and add the right brand and type of milk to a shopper’s cart.
Voice-based ordering is already making waves in e-commerce, and applying this tactic to in-store pickups makes sense. Supermarkets offer consumers greater convenience while gaining insights that lead to more personalization.
Technology is changing the way we purchase groceries
On the surface, you might think technology has not changed the grocery shopping experience a lot. However, supermarkets are leveraging innovative tech to deliver new experiences daily. Only time will tell how these experiences will evolve and change how we shop for daily goods.