From erecting cardboard cutouts designed to obscure produce shortages to jettisoning their usual discounts and promotions, grocers have turned to a range of solutions to get themselves through the global supply chain crisis.
With experts forecasting continued turbulence until at least 2023, it’s increasingly clear that more such solutions will have to devised. To successfully navigate this new normal, grocers will need strategies to ensure their resilience in the face of whatever the coming months and years hold in store. A tech-savvy, hybrid approach to optimizing operations holds one of the keys to doing just that.
From improving inventory management to winning greater customer loyalty, here’s what grocery retailers stand to gain by embracing retail technology and going hybrid in 2022.
Optimizing Store Operations
The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a significant shift in shoppers’ expectations when it comes to the grocery experience. After nearly two years of accelerated e-commerce adoption, more consumers have grown accustomed to the convenience, comfort and efficiency that online shopping provides. Think that experience won’t affect customers’ expectations as they return to physical stores? Think again.
While the supply chain crisis has hit both the brick-and-mortar and digital realms, shoppers’ impatience for any form of friction makes it ever more pressing for retailers to properly manage inventory and close any gaps in the shopping experience. This is where a multi-faceted strategy and proper preparation on both the front and back ends will prove essential.
For once, retailers need complete visibility into all aspects of their stores’ operations, from inventory levels to fluctuations in supply and demand to in-store foot traffic. To that end, they can benefit mightily from new monitoring and data-analytics technologies, which can help them better understand what’s happening on the floor, proactively address potential supply shortages, and tailor planning according to extensive historical and seasonal data.
Grocers can’t end the global supply chain crisis by themselves. But they can tap into the power of data to ascertain which products are most vulnerable to an inventory shortage, forecast which items are likely to be in higher demand at a given time, and measure changes in shopper preferences and behavior. Armed with these insights, grocers can prevent unnecessary shortages, avoid waste and excess orders, and better navigate a fast-changing and unpredictable retail climate.
Delivering a Hybrid Shopping Experience
Investments in advanced technological solutions won’t deliver optimal return on investment if they aren’t paired with a hybrid approach. Given how e-commerce has conditioned shoppers to expect seamlessness, personalized service and convenience at every step of the way, grocers’ priority should be ensuring that the in-store experience is just as frictionless.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for making this a reality, but there is a wide range of tools at grocers’ disposal for making the hybrid shopping experience a truly rewarding one for retailers and shoppers alike. These include frictionless checkout options and a variety of other innovative applications designed to bring e-commerce-style personalization to brick-and-mortar shopping.
Additionally, smart cameras and other shelf-monitoring technologies can help retailers optimize stocking and boost revenue, thereby delivering the consistency and convenience shoppers have come to expect from e-commerce. Walmart, for example, managed to stock shelves 90% faster and increase sales by 30% in its meat aisle after harnessing cameras and real-time data analytics.
Such hybrid technologies are particularly well-suited to a retail climate in which e-commerce accounts for a growing share of sales — and is decisively shaping customer expectations — but most customers will continue to do their shopping in-store. Retailers that get the hybrid formula right will be able to move effortlessly between the physical and digital realms. Indeed, over time, they’ll help blur the distinction between the two.
There’s no denying that the pandemic and the ensuing supply chain crisis have given retailers many headaches. But these massive disruptions have also given rise to new opportunities for grocers to innovate, get creative about how they engage customers, and unlock new operational efficiencies. By seizing these opportunities today, grocers will position themselves for success in 2022 and beyond.
Raz Golan is co-founder and chief executive officer of Shopic.
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