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Nell Alverson, Director of Marketing

The New Grocery Experience

Anyone that’s been to the grocery store lately understands that this is not your mother’s grocery experience. Gone are the days of sipping coffee while walking up and down the aisles deciding what to make for dinner. The grocery store looks very different these days – from one-way aisles to pre-sanitized shopping carts to face masks and gloves.

As we move into the next normal, grocery stores are quickly modifying the customer experience to create the safest environment possible for shoppers. Shoppers are equally focused on staying healthy, and stores are quickly adapting to meet customer concerns through online ordering, curbside pickup, and offering delivery services.

My company markets technology for the grocery industry, and while I am continuously researching the solutions available for our partners, I still find myself surprised at how technology has changed my grocery experience and the way I shop today.

How I procure my groceries today is certainly not the same as it was several weeks ago, and it may never look that way again. Acosta’s research shows that 28% of online grocery shoppers made their first online grocery order in the past four weeks. I was one of those 28%.

My grocery list is no longer on a pad of paper; it’s sent online via an app that allows me to select, purchase, pay and pick up groceries curbside at my appointed time. Technology in the grocery store is ever-evolving, and consumers are catching on.

Mobile devices used to only be for barcode scanning inside the store for things like inventory and stock replenishment, but today they are an extension of the cashier outside the four walls.

With the mobile device, the store associate now “picks” my order and then houses it in a refrigerated storage location at the front of the store. When I arrive at the store, I use the convenient drive-thru lane and text the store to let them know I’ve arrived for pickup. An associate brings my items to me, loading them in my trunk and allowing for a completely contactless experience. 

Things are changing inside the store, as well. Cashiers, donning masks and gloves, are now standing behind plexiglass shields, adding a layer of protection for them and for the customer. Payment devices now have contactless options, which allows me to move through my purchase without having to touch the device to finalize my transaction. All of these added procedures provide a safer environment for employees and customers alike. But that is not all that has changed.

I, like countless others, am now having difficulty finding necessary grocery items Everyone knows that toilet paper and paper towels have been hard to come by. This is frustrating from a consumer standpoint but is also an area of concern for the grocer. If I can’t find what I need, how likely am I to come back or shop at the store?

Inventory replenishment is key to making sure that, as a customer, my experience is not only safe but efficient. Using mobile technology to manage inventory and receiving that information in a more efficient manner allows the grocer to get those orders for re-fulfillment in more quickly and accurately.

And, if I’m shopping in person, I prefer to utilize self-check-out to limit my exposure to a cashier or others in the store check-out aisle. This helps eliminate contact but grocers still need to make sure these stations are cleaned regularly between customers. Again, safety is the priority at this point.

All things considered, this might be the start of an innovation push in grocery that the industry tried to start earlier but just didn’t find take off. We, as consumers, hadn’t felt the need for it, so the grocer wasn’t feeling the demand to make these investments and changes. But now it is necessary. ScanSource can help provide answers to the questions grocers may have on how to implement these solutions effectively and efficiently. The goal is for grocers to better serve their customers, me included.