Coming to a Supermarket Near You: An Interactive Digital Shopping Experience

By: Esther Shein| - Leave a comment

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Supermarket retailers are increasingly testing out new technologies to create a better digital shopping experience beyond their point-of-sale (POS) systems. Smart grocers are innovating and offering customers more digital functionalities so they can glean granular insights about and add to the shopping experience.

“Unique and exceptional customer experiences will continue to replace our culture of big-box, one-size-fits-all shopping,” Florent Peyre, chief operating officer and co-founder of Placemeter, wrote on Retail Minded. When retailers accomplish this, it results in a “better understanding of customers … propelled by more versatile and real-time analytics that reach far beyond POS considerations.”

What a Digital Shopping Experience Means at the Market

The influx of digital technology in the retail industry has brought heightened competition among those willing to differentiate their offerings to meet customer needs. In-store technology can help a supermarket position itself above competitors by offering a unique and easy customer experience.

For instance, according to Azoft, many supermarkets now offer Wi-Fi that encourages customers spend more time in the store and allows them to find supplementary information about groceries as they shop. Interactive information kiosks are another way to help shoppers navigate the store or take advantage of current specials.

Digital has also become a key strategy for supermarkets when it comes to targeting up-and-coming generations. According to Nielsen, 30 percent of millennials and 28 percent of generation Z (ages 15 to 20) have shopped online for home delivery. Having the ability to place orders from an app is an important element of the digital shopping landscape, and grocers need to communicate consistently with customers if they are going to provide a complete digital shopping experience, the source notes.

These offerings can benefit organizations beyond the advantages that come from customer loyalty — for instance, smart shelf technology can send a text message to select employees after a customer removes the last item off a shelf to inform them the item must be restocked. Because retailers are engaged in a constant battle to offer the right products at the right place and time, priced optimally and with just the right inventory to meet demand, this type of supply-chain technology can keep customers happy through constantly stocked shelves and help grocers better manage their inventory.

Back-End Improvements Required for Digital Shopping

These technology changes will require grocers to invest in their back-end infrastructure if they want to properly support their new offerings. Interactive digital kiosks or app-connected delivery services don’t help the store or the customer if the kiosk is too bogged down to function quickly or if a millennial’s grocery order is lost somewhere between the app and the store. A kiosk experiencing downtime is arguably more damaging to the customer experience than having no kiosk there at all.

A back-end infrastructure is also required to support the mobile and social tools that give shoppers access to digital circulars, coupons and shopping lists. On the back end, grocery organizations must also support and maintain database management systems, security, office productivity, email and backup and recovery services, according to advisory firm AlixPartners.

“Even more tools are required to connect systems, maintain data integrity, monitor performance and protect against intrusion,” the firm notes.

To make all this happen, stores need sophisticated network technology. For instance, grocers should consider leveraging cloud environments that provide flexibility in terms of computing needs and the ability to scale systems up and down based on demand. Grocery stores are bound to experience ebbs and flows of both foot and network traffic throughout the course of the day, and the network must be able to react accordingly.

However, it’s not enough to install new technologies and assume they will work — as systems evolve and change, IT also needs to ensure there is appropriate and consistent network integration so, for example, back-end systems can communicate properly with the mobile apps being used in the store.

It also makes sense for grocers to invest in back-end technologies that integrate data on inventory, pricing and promotions across all channels to improve decision-making, inventory turnover and, ultimately, sales.

Grocers must stay on top of emerging technologies so they can respond to rapidly changing business requirements and customer demands for a better shopping experience. However, this is also means updating their back-end infrastructure to support new tools and optimize uptime.

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About The Author

Esther Shein

Freelance Writer

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor specializing in technology, business and education. Her work has appeared in several online and print publications, including Inc., Computerworld, NetworkComputing, InformationWeek, BYTE, CIO, CMO.com and The Boston Globe. She has written thought leadership whitepapers, customer case studies and marketing materials in addition to news and feature articles. Prior to going freelance she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, an online enterprise technology magazine. She was also a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week) and worked at The Associated Press.

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