Humans will always need groceries to buy and to eat — that’s a given. But shifting consumer preferences have the retail landscape adjusting so drastically that even the most steadfast retailers are being forced to reexamine their processes or risk becoming a thing of the past. Grocery stores are next on the chopping block.
Give it a few years (maybe less) and grocery stores in the future will look worlds different than they do today. The rise of online shopping and “convenience” everything means supermarkets will need to get creative and resourceful as they address the “adapt or die” philosophy spreading through the industry. Some have already started introducing unconventional elements to their store experience to lure customers back in, suggesting that a traditional trip to the grocery store will soon evolve into something wildly futuristic.
Just how progressive will they get? Here are eight ways your grocery shopping experience could change in the coming years.
1. Grocery shopping will be fun again
- Grocery stores in the future will become an enjoyable, time-saving experience
Though Americans love to waste their paychecks on restaurant and bar food, they’re quickly abandoning supermarkets for something more “fun.” Future grocery stores will likely attempt to recapture interest by erecting community social hubs that combine groceries with entertainment and other basic services like laundry and food halls.
Kroger is already catering to the urban consumer in Cincinnati, Ohio. Here, store staples pad the first floor while a growler station, wine, and beer bar await on the second. This smaller Kroger store is already seeing an uptick in how much money consumers spend per trip, so other grocery stores in the future will probably follow suit. Customers can expect additional entertainment features like food halls, ready-to-eat-vendors, and vertical gardens offering shoppers access to fresh ingredients instantly.
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2. Advertisements will tug at your heartstrings
- Stores will access personal information via smartphones to tailor advertising efforts
Grocery stores in the future may also get a bit more personal. Thanks to human’s insatiable addiction to smartphones, major brands will attempt to personalize their sales pitch to shoppers walking the aisles. A version of this is already in play. Coca-Cola teamed up with Google Cloud technologies and Albertson’s to introduce digital screens in soft drink aisles that access a shopper’s smartphone, it’s location, and browser history data.
The data received is used to estimate the customer’s age, gender, and shopping habits, which in turn, determines which ad is played on the screen in real time. It takes “emotional pull” to a whole new level. Coca-Cola said the pilot test boosted soft drink sales of coke and other product, as well as a return on investment on the cost of the screens.
Next: Could grocery stores in the future come to you instead?
3. Pop-up and pick up
- Grocery stores will come to you.
As urban areas continue to expand across the country, grocery stores in the future will need to get overly creative when it comes to access. Some cities already utilize the pop-up grocery concept which provides food sources to urban areas where parking and commuting are difficult. This could be implemented on a wide scale should major chains catch wind and narrow down a workable process.
In this instance, supermarket chains will morph into a grocery store on four wheels, offering the communities access to food staples and household provisions on a reoccurring basis. Think: food trucks, but with more variety.
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4. Automated shopping shortcuts
- Shoppers will be able to reorder essential items quickly with just one click.
Auto-bill pay is a very profitable feature for companies requiring subscriptions and contracts (we’re looking at you Netflix and cable companies). So why wouldn’t grocery stores implement their own version of auto-renew services to busy consumers with long grocery lists? Some grocery sellers have already begun to do so. Amazon Dash and Walmart’s Easy Reorder include auto-replenishment options in their online marketplaces. This was after Accenture Strategy reported 47% of shoppers said they would use auto-renew services for everyday household items like soap while 43% of shoppers said they’d use it for fresh food items like fruits and vegetables.
Stores will also likely incorporate machine learning into their supply chain initiatives to automatically restock shelves with fresh food items based on demand. Considering that 40% of grocers’ revenue comes from fresh products, stores can’t afford even one “out-of-stock” error either in-store or online.
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5. A farm-to-table experience
- Grocery stores in the future will operate in-store farming units and offer easy access to nutritional information.
Innovative grocers will probably become the next industry to capitalize on the farm-to-table trend currently sweeping the nation. Mike Lee, founder of The Future Market tells Food Dive that he expects shoppers will soon be able to pick their own produce from vertical farm units planted directly in the grocery aisles.
His company also developed a retail concept where a two-way telecommunication system connects shoppers with nutritionists, chefs, and farmers ready to answer their produce questions instantly. Customers today want full transparency regarding what’s going in their bodies, and stores equipped with resources to help shoppers discern nutritional value will be most successful. In his words, “The marketplace of the future is about delivering food to consumers on their terms.”
Next: On-the-go shopping
6. Virtual reality kiosks on every corner
- Fulfilling your grocery list will be accomplished on your drive home
Amazon has already begun to cement their influence on the grocery format via on-demand services, but supermarket operators will probably get more aggressive in placing their products in front of consumers in the future. Freestanding kiosks — stationed in office buildings, subway and train stations, or outside other retail locations — will allow shoppers to place quick orders and pick them up on their commute home.
Forbes contributor Bryan Pearson predicts these innovative kiosks would support advertising efforts while simultaneously promoting a weekly grocery special. “They also could mimic the shopping experience, projecting specific items on a wall (or through virtual reality) so commuters see them as if in the store.”
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7. A new kind of mall
- Standard shopping malls will morph into food malls anchored by grocery stores
Given all the available retail space left vacant by failed shopping malls, it wouldn’t be too far off to assume that grocery stores begin to increase their presence there. This is already happening in countless U.S locations, but expect it to expand in the future. Supermarket giants like Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Kroger will replace anchor department stores like J.C. Penney, Macy’s, and Sears to form a new kind of mall: a food village. Futuristic grocers will operate alongside other profitable wine stores, spice shops, food vendors, and cooking stores to lure shoppers through the doors and open their wallets.
Next: No human interaction necessary
8. Conversation-free, checkout-free shopping
- Future grocery shopping will be cashless and cashier-less
Amazon is pioneering a cashless and cashier-less Go store in Seattle where shoppers can walk in, grab what they need, and walk out. It’s been well-received thus far, and we can expect future grocery stores to follow suit if they have any hope of staying competitive in the market.
In this scenario, consumers shop normally as dozens of cameras watch their every move. The images captured from these cameras accurately identify different people in the store as well as objects they are picking up and holding. “Picking something up adds it to your ‘virtual shopping cart,’ and you can pop it in a tote or shopping bag as fast as you like. No need to hold it up for the system to see.” Amazon’s PR rep explained to TechCrunch.
Those with the app automatically tie their purchases to their account and walk out of the store without ever communicating with a human employee (unless they want to).
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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