Nearly half of consumers polled stated they still prefer grocery shopping in-store. The reality is shoppers like having control over the selection of produce they eat and enjoy the experience of hand-selecting the food they feed their families. Grocery shopping and cooking at home is both an essential activity, and a source of entertainment, comfort and luxury. Couple this omnipresent human nature with rising inflation, labor shortage, and supply chain issues, and the online grocery shopping spotlight is beginning to dim.
Now, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s all lights out. Ecommerce is still up year over year in the grocery industry. With COVID creating a paradigm shift in how consumers shop and with Millennials and GenZ making up a larger portion of household shopping, we know it is here to stay. But the reality is – brick and mortar is here to stay, too. And, in order to win and keep customers, grocery retailers must focus on the experience of both.
So, we sat down with TRUNO’s Director of Service, Kyle Hein, to get his pulse on the current state of the grocery store front end and what he says is “the most important investment every grocery retailer can’t afford to not make”.
A ‘Feet on the Street’ Perspective
With a rapidly growing national service team of just over 180, Kyle is able to provide perspective into the front end of grocery retailers from coast to coast with one to several thousand locations. Experts in servicing anything inside a grocery store essential to the buying and selling of goods, Kyle and his team have an insider pulse on the grocery retail front end.
So, what trends do Kyle and his team see today? They can be broken up into three parts:
1. While the most frequent call type still involves payment devices, aging and over-sanitized pin pad issues due to Covid have calmed down.
Pin pads and payment devices tend to be the first piece of equipment at the point of sale to cause issue. High frequency use, complications from Covid cleaning policies, and ever-changing payment technology trends have caused these devices to be the reason behind many calls into our service network. The good news is manufacturers have caught up to the increased demand of these devices and supply is starting to settle.
2. Self-Checkout implementation rapidly continues, and with-it new considerations and challenges in maintenance and troubleshooting the machines.
Self-Checkout lanes have been around for two decades. Today, they have a proven ROI and measurable benefits making them a sound investment for retailers. However, with this rapid adoption, there can be an adjustment period when it comes to the machines operating at a store with such high frequency. Furthermore, cash recycling can cause issues to the machine faster because coins and bills are dirty. The right technology partner, with self-checkout specific expertise, can ensure your machines remain reliable and operate according to your unique business needs.
3. The most consistent ‘trend’ is really pretty simple – clean and well-cared-for equipment lasts longer.
Point of sale is a community device but employees taking ownership of your point-of-sale lanes at the store level will keep them in better condition longer. That means looking to Store Directors to create a culture of cleanliness and preventative care at each individual lane and relay that to employees and cashiers is vital. Kyle recommends looking at the store’s opening and end of day processes first. Add in simple tasks such as vacuuming under the conveyor belt each closing. Small steps on a regular basis, have a big impact.
These three trends might feel slightly daunting at first. But, in reality, they are all manageable and with this knowledge comes power. That brings us to what Kyle says, “he wishes every retailer his team works with knew.”
The ‘Most Important Investment’ is Creating an Ongoing Budget
Technology equipment – especially hardware – is often budgeted as a one-time capital expense. Kyle urges that retailers of all sizes need to take things a step further and budget out the future life cycle of their technology equipment and software.
So, what does that look like?
As equipment ages, more issues will arise and often parts become increasingly harder to find. At TRUNO, we operate to create a lower total cost of ownership for our customers’ technology investment.
However, when technology is not continually invested in – the customer experience quickly begins to collapse along with it.
Think of modern technologies such as store apps and digital coupons. Or even Apple Pay and touch technology. Terminals from 10 years ago were not built with the functionality to accept payment from an iPhone. Hardware today has far more horsepower to manage the multitude of activities we now expect to occur at the point of sale.
Makes sense, but how can you stay ahead?
Sit down with a technology expert and look at the equipment you have today. At TRUNO, we like to take a consultative approach and guide retailers on best-fit options based on their unique business needs and manufacturer considerations.
Kyle emphasizes that today’s grocer should work to extend the life of their technology, without losing sight of the future plan for their brick-and-mortar front end. Shopping in store is as much about customer service as it has always been, but today technology plays arguably the largest role in creating a positive in-store experience for shoppers. It is important to take a hard look at your front end and set the stage accordingly.