Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in August 2019 and has been recently updated to reflect the most current industry news.
2020 proved to be a dichotomy for the grocery industry. On one hand, companies had little time to implement safety protocols as they continued to provide essential services to the public. On the other, being forced to roll out programs – many that were still in their infancy when the pandemic hit – offered valuable lessons that will impact the future of grocery going forward.
Now, as the dust settles on the prior year’s turbulence, grocers are poised to build on their recent experiences and strategize for long-term growth. With disruptors like e-commerce options, delivery services, and labor shortages, investing in the consumer experience is an undeniable strategy to secure a competitive edge in the market.
Today’s shoppers expect more from physical stores. Self-service technologies like grocery kiosks and smart lockers can provide the kind of customer service that prompts shopper loyalty. Here are ways in which self-service programs can benefit supermarkets as they look to the future.
Reduce wait times at the deli and meat counters with grocery kiosks
We’ve all been at the back of the deli counter mob, silently tallying how many people are in front of us based on when we arrived. And don’t get me started on that one latecomer who always jumps the line. It’s enough to give even the most patient person a headache.
Further, these counters aren’t the most efficient for customers trying to get in and out quickly while they wait for an attendant’s attention or for the employee to finish fulfilling the order.
Imagine removing this friction point with a self-service kiosk that allows customers to place deli, meat or bakery orders and then continue with their shopping as it’s being assembled. Like a quick service restaurant, orders would be sent to the kitchen crew who can quickly focus on preparation. Not only does it improve productivity for customers, but more employees can be redeployed to expediting versus order-taking.
Once done, the shopper simply returns to the counter to pick up the order.
And much like a fast food restaurant’s well-known phrase, “do you want fries with that,” grocery kiosk technology can also provide opportunities for upselling, leading to larger ticket orders. Programming kiosks to ask if a customer would like to add a deli salad to an order or to suggest additional products that go well with a purchase can be a simple way to see profits go up for in these departments.
Wayfinding for hard-to-find products
A store redesign can leave customers wandering aimlessly from aisle to aisle on a five-minute hunt for a particular item. When associates aren’t readily available, wayfinding can be an aggravating experience for shoppers who are unaccustomed to a store or having a difficult time finding an obscure ingredient.
Offering wayfinding grocery kiosks at key places in a supermarket can alleviate the frustration of locating items and can also keep patrons from needing to ask employees who are often concentrated on tasks like stocking or cleaning.
And when not in use? Grocery stores can take advantage of the kiosk’s idle screen to promote weekly specials or rewards.
Simplify bakery orders
If you’ve ever ordered a custom cake for a kid’s birthday, you’ve likely encountered the bakery’s three-ring binder with laminated sheets of cake options. You might have also placed the order using a paper form.
Grocery kiosks can eliminate the need for these oversized books and outdated order sheets.
First, kiosks allow for easy browsing, offering opportunities to replace physical albums with digital galleries displaying a grocer’s entire cake portfolio.
Second, self-service technology can prevent small mistakes that happen on write-in forms, like forgetting to fill out a crucial detail or leaving off a phone number. Kiosk software could also be set up to send an auto-email letting the customer know an order was received or that it’s ready for pick-up.
At the end of the day, a self-order kiosk in the bakery department offers the digital experience customers have come to expect.
Along with grocery kiosks, smart lockers have gained traction in the supermarket space recently. With some big-name grocers piloting test sites, it’s a matter of time before we hear of more stores offering the convenient technology to their shoppers.
Grocery lockers offer customers the ability to place orders and pick up in-store. Much like the popular grocery pickup programs, smart lockers differ in that they offer flexibility to shoppers who might still prefer to pick out their own produce or need to run in the store for a forgotten item. These customers can design the shopping experience that works best for their preferences and time allotments.
The Future of Grocery Self-Service
With all the conveniences self-service technology provides, it’s no surprise many industries have found ways to implement it into their customer experience strategies. Grocery stores are no exception and can easily improve their patrons’ weekly shopping trips as well as the store’s own bottom line with the help of interactive kiosks and grocery lockers.