What Does the Grocery Store of Tomorrow
Look Like?

What does the grocery store of tomorrow look like? This was the question that Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs, and Joseph Dressler, Quotient’s General Manager of Retail, sought to answer in a recent panel discussion. 

From new eCommerce technologies to the rise in cashless shopping and omnichannel grocery experiences, keep reading to uncover the trends of tomorrow that grocery stores are prepping for today. 

This panel discussion was part of Localogy’s Place 2021 Event.

The Pandemic Is Leaving Its Mark on Grocery Retail

Many of us are familiar with the empty shelves and shortages on toilet paper and hand sanitizer that marked the early stages of COVID-19. But while those products have since been restocked, grocery stores are still juggling other changes as a result of the pandemic—namely, the need for smarter eCommerce services.

"Overnight, we went from the year 2020 to the year 2030 in terms of eCommerce demand."
—Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs

While demand for eCommerce services has leveled off since its highest peaks in 2020, many shoppers are still embracing a hybrid form of shopping in which they move fluidly between in-store and online experiences. According to Williamson, “The return to normal is happening a lot slower than the departure from normal.” That presents challenges for retailers, who have to juggle the logistics of meeting their consumers’ expectations. Are there enough eCommerce distribution centers to fulfill orders? How do they hire enough drivers for grocery delivery? What can retailers do to streamline click-and-collect services? Retailers must address these questions when dealing with the new normal of eCommerce grocery shopping.

Williamson noted that consumers shop differently in stores. They’re more focused on getting in and getting out as efficiently as possible. For Peapod’s parent company Ahold Delhaize, this means thinking more strategically about what the in-store experience should look like and which touchpoints can be eliminated. When imagining the grocery store of tomorrow, Ahold Delhaize must examine the role that food plays in people's lives and how grocery stores can fulfill their needs.

"It’s not just looking at the amount of people in the store, but what are those people doing when they are there, and how are they interacting with more traditional commercial levers that we would have utilized in the past to drive impulse or drive sales?"
—Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs



Why Should Retailers Embrace Omnichannel?

Prior to COVID, the grocery segment was actually slower to adopt eCommerce compared to other categories like electronics and clothing. But now that the pandemic has kickstarted grocery stores’ eCommerce growth, Williamson says their true focus has become omnichannel capabilities.

"All of the evidence suggests that most customers are omnichannel customers … They expect the same type of experience, the same assortment, the same pricing and promotions—they expect all of that online."
—Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs

According to Dressler, consumers who use omnichannel services are more engaged than their non-omnichannel counterparts—meaning they’re more valuable to brands, too. For retailers to properly serve these customers, they should focus on creating a seamless experience in which shoppers don’t have to sacrifice when moving between brick-and-mortar stores and eCommerce platforms.

Embracing omnichannel tactics also opens retailers up to a whole new world of data. Rather than just understanding purchase data from in-store activity, eCommerce reveals how consumers shop—which aisles they go down, what kinds of products they’re searching for and more. Retailers can use this information to personalize the entire eCommerce shopping experience to each individual shopper.

"Retailers have had a lot of data for a long time. But there’s the difference between having data and being able to activate against it. If your business is happening exclusively or primarily in a physical store, that data only gets you so far."
—Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs


What Does This Mean for the Grocery Store of Tomorrow?

To close out the session, Dressler and Williamson explored possible features of the grocery store of tomorrow. For Ahold Delhaize specifically, that means making more stores click-and-collect enabled, investing in technology to improve employee efficiency when picking items and opening up dark stores to serve exclusively as eCommerce fulfillment areas. 

Retailers can also explore ways to reconfigure store layouts to reflect a picking shopping experience rather than just a live shopping experience as well as how third-party sellers can integrate into their eCommerce platform. Another trend that Williamson believes is here to stay is cashless payment options, which can include scanner guns, smart carts, mobile device checkout and more. 

Ultimately though, both panelists agreed that the key factor for any new innovations will be ease of use. Consumers will only adopt new solutions if they are more convenient than their traditional modes of shopping. 

To learn how Quotient can help you prepare for the omnichannel grocery store of tomorrow, explore our omnichannel advantage page or contact us at [email protected].