Not so many years ago, grocery shopping used to be a more personal experience. Families shopped at the same store every time, usually on Sundays, to buy food and supplies for the week. It was quite common—and even expected—for shoppers to build relationships with store employees. The butcher knew customers’ names and what cuts their families preferred. And the cashier greeted them with a smile and asked them how their day was going.
But now our lives are getting busier, and there are more food options—at grocery stores and otherwise—competing for customers’ attention. According to a report by the USDA Economic Research Service, people are eating out more and spending less on groceries. The reason? Convenience. Today’s grocers, therefore, are forced to evolve to keep up with the needs and preferences of shoppers.
Nearly two-thirds of millennials reported purchasing deli food, carry-out, delivery or fast food within the week prior to when the survey was conducted. The report also found a continued shift toward healthy eating, citing an “increasing appetite for fruits and vegetables.” In response to both these trends, grocers are finding ways to add convenience without sacrificing health.
Convenience Trends in the Supermarket
Some stores are experimenting with the concept of a “produce butcher.” Like a traditional butcher or the deli server might do with meats or cheeses, produce butchers slice and prepare fresh fruit and vegetables, then offer samples and serve as an educational resource for customers.
Cooking classes are another method grocers are using to attract customers. Publix stores in Orlando, for example, offered a class on preparing a variety of dumplings from around the world. If the hands-on participation is too involved, customers can simply enjoy the cooking demonstration while sipping a drink and sampling the instructor’s creations.
The epitome of healthy options and convenience in the supermarket, however, is the rise of the grocerant. Offering a variety of ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat foods, the grocerant meets the needs of time-starved, yet health-conscious consumers. It also provides yet another reason for customers to visit the store, which often leads to some traditional grocery shopping.
Whole Foods is one example of a store that has implemented this approach to great success. From a coffee bar complete with baristas, to soups, salads and sandwiches, to a selection of entrees and sides that can feed one person or the whole family, the store has breakfast, lunch, dinner—and even drinks—covered.
Turning Trends into Reality
Any or all of these options can help grocery stores add convenience and draw customers back into the store. The challenge, though, is adding these services without breaking the bank. Since the grocerant is the option with the greatest value-add to customers, it’s a great place to start. I would argue that the grocerant is not just a trend, but a necessity. It’s also the easiest option to put in place, since you can leverage retail technology to turn it into a reality.
Here are a few examples of how:
- Periscope fresh-item management software from Invatron includes a recipe management tool to house all the information necessary for each fresh-prepared item, including ingredients, units of measure, nutrition labels, pricing and instructional guides.
- Electronic shelf labels from DisplayData enable a dynamic pricing strategy to encourage the sale of perishable food items and reduce margin loss from shrinkage.
- NorthStar self-service restaurant kiosks by Custom Business Solutions (CBS) provide added convenience to customers, much like the self checkout lanes at the front of the store. Developed specifically for restaurants, this technology is particularly vital when establishing a grocerant.