Everywhere you look right now you see the grocery industry is changing. As one of the largest industries in America, many players are gearing up for what looks to be an all out corporate throw-down. Entrenched industry giants are racing to prove they’re still relevant, upstart brands are carving out space on legacy shelves, and digital kingpins are beginning to admit that not everything is going online as predicted by the prophets of Silicon Valley (and Seattle).The very open question remains: who is going to win the Food Fight?
I believe that for the first time in a long time, the every-day shopper just might.
You have probably never shown up at their grocery store and seen a new piece of technology that didn’t already exist somewhere else. From self-checkout to beacons to digital signage, your local grocer is the last kid on the retail block to get the Nintendo64. Begrudgingly, technology has never been an expectation of our local grocery story, being low tech even felt like part of the charm. But as technology advances and innovation claims have grown louder in the industry, so have the expectations for their ubiquitous adoption.
Each player, whether a new entrant or entrenched incumbent, has claimed they are ahead of the game, the pioneer, the new king of the hill. Each update and install has given their PR teams a chance to use words like “revolutionary” and “unprecedented.” But ultimately, shoppers are still making their shopping decisions by asking the same set of questions:
- Which store has the best price?
- Is that store closest to where I live?
- Does it carry everything on my family’s shopping list?
These are questions that span across all stores, all brands, and all shoppers. These are questions that until recently had kept shoppers hoping and guessing. There was no way to peek into a nearby store to see the answers. But that is what all of the other major retail categories in their lives have trained them to expect: transparency and the chance to make the right decision for themselves with all of the data available and easy to access.
Shoppers want to shop in the real world the way the do online. But the grocery store is different because a sweater vest from TJ Maxx doesn’t have an expiration date and a new flat screen TV doesn’t get mushy and turn brown after three days on the shelf.
This is what we’ve learned over the past 3+ years building Basket: The usual approaches to bringing a trillion dollar industry into the future haven’t worked in grocery. The products, distribution, and shoppers all interact with each other differently and in a much more personal way. Mass blast advertising with spray & pray gimmicks will go by the wayside in the years to come as shoppers expect the same level of personalization in the real world that they are receiving online. Grocery retailers will be forced to begin having a personal relationship with their local shoppers again. Everyone will adjust to the new normal, but this time, shoppers will be armed with the technology and information to be the ones in-charge.