Retail in 2015 is starting to resemble the Wild, Wild West, with everyone scattering to find the golden nugget. New technology continually is making consumers lives easier, while making retailers lives more complex. National Grocers Association’s Advancing Retail team is keeping up with the new trends and product introductions in the competitive retail space with their series Coffee With CART. In the June 18 session, three major topics were discussed: delivery options for online grocery, how passwords have evolved and technology that allows consumers to buy products right when they realize they need them.
Online Grocery Delivery Expands
While some retailers are still trying to figure out how to get into the ecommerce game, the larger, established players are testing out new features. Even the likes of Amazon know that ecommerce isn’t cheap. To combat some of their rising delivery costs, they are looking to a crowd-sourcing delivery mode, much like Uber. With the movement of new companies into ecommerce, anything companies can do to minimize their expenses while continuing to drive value for consumers is a must. The trick will be whether the service changes at all and what customer service or package tracking issues might arise from this different model. Cutting out huge expense is of definite interest, but not if it creates inefficiencies or unhappy consumers.
Amazon isn’t just changing up business models though, they are looking to patent new ways of securing our technology. Soon, according the article, your ear may be the only thing necessary to unlock your smartphone. Yet, how much do you actually put your smartphone to your ear? Surely alternate ways of unlocking the phone (like a fingerprint or code) would still be possible, and there still is the case of accepting or denying the call to consider, but it is intriguing to see how technological advances are making lives easier. How this applies to a grocery store is a bit more of a reach, but as the article also states, there are companies looking into all different kinds of account recognition technology. Based on what is being explored, it wouldn’t be unheard of for a consumer to be recognized as soon as they walk into a store or are at a checkstand to pay. As mobile payment evolves, this transmission of information may be the stuff of past sci fi movies. As the CART team pointed out, retail locations are the innovation labs of the future. The environment in-store is where shoppers are present and able to engage in real time, yet many people look at the in-store environment as a reflection of what is now happening online.
In many instances though, consumers no longer have to wait until they are in the store to purchase product. Amazon is bringing the fulfillment of product needs to the second a consumer realizes the item should be on his or her list. The Dash button and the Echo voice programs give consumers the ability to order immediately, just one more way Amazon is accelerating the movement of CPG items online. These CPG products are essentially becoming commodities, and they are becoming easier and easier for the consumer to purchase anywhere, not just by physically pushing a button or speaking into a phone, but these buy now buttons are also everywhere online, from Pinterest to Facebook to Twitter to Websites. Consumers don’t have to go far to find what they need, and the ease of purchase acts much like an impulse buy at a store. What should retailers to to combat this movement? Online shopping, as mentioned previously, is rapidly becoming the norm for consumers, but there are still many that want to hand pick their own produce and select their cuts of meat. Retailers need to be aware of the trends impacting their business though, and evolve when the timing makes sense. The trick is catering to the right consumers in a way that makes their lives easier.
All three main topics discussed in this edition of Coffee With CART evolved around the ever-expanding set of offerings retailers must consider, not only to make consumers lives easier, but to compete in the retail space. Retailers must continue to be aware of how the industry, and consumers’ lives, are changing.