view of a grocery aisle

Technologies and Trends shaping the Supermarket of the Future

Food businesses will have to change to stay competitive – online, in-store, and at sorting and processing plants too.

The technological boom and the increasing adoption of Industry 4.0 among retailers are creating disruption across all industries. This change is coming to supermarkets which will have an immediate impact on the entire food industry supply chain. Technological innovations – both online and in-store along with the shifting consumer demands will re-shape the supermarket of the future.
Traditional brick-and-mortar supermarket chains are strengthening their own e-commerce capabilities to stay on par with their digitally native competitors. The global grocery e-commerce market is forecasted to expand from an annual value of 43 billion pounds to 135 billion pounds by 2025.

Another aspect that e-commerce players must note is while they are making efforts to establish a strong foothold in the US and European markets, they may face serious challenges because the existing grocery market is saturated and the margins are low. This indicates that the global growth in food e-commerce will be driven by Asia, where there is a willingness to purchase groceries online, along with rapid urbanization, low labor costs, and a newer retail market.

Rising consumer expectations

Widespread food shopping online and fast deliveries to customers’ front doors will only just be the tip of the iceberg in the new world. Computer codes and algorithms will further enable supermarkets to collect data about shopper preferences and habits and use this to personalize their offerings to customers. Recommendation engines further help nudge customers to make purchases similar or related to the products that they have already purchased or been looking for via the “Recommended for you” web pages.

The growing number of people with moderate incomes and lifestyles will become more aware of food safety and more curious about how their foods are sourced and screened. Moreover, food shoppers will develop higher expectations and become critical when buying fresh fruits and vegetables. More will want to know how fresh the produce is and whether or when it is ready to eat.

Consumers will further have the ability to check information about the origins and nutritional value of produce and will be able to see suggestions for recipes and food pairings. This will attract a greater number of customers while making each feel as if they are being provided with individual shopping experiences.

The ad-hoc demand created through the online ‘nudge’ will challenge the traditional food supply chain. Processing lines will need to know precise details about the food – where it is coming from and what is in the storage to meet the demand.

Technology to ensure quality and safety

Grading and inspection equipment – at point-of-origin, prior to shipment to the supermarket, or from the on-line dispatching warehouse – can ensure that the fresh produce has the desired size and ripeness without bruising or mold. In addition, sorting equipment at different stages in the supply chain will be able to provide essential information on sizing, quality and other quality markers.

Traditional supermarkets fight back against the online disruptors – and information about shoppers’ preferences and habits will be an important weapon. Consumer-facing technologies, such as shopping-cart-mounted devices or smartphone apps, will steer shoppers towards the aisles and shelves where they are more likely to make purchases. Sensors in the store’s shelves will keep track of the items customers put in their carts and bill their mobile payment system as they exit the store.

Looking ahead

Another likelihood is that supermarkets will remain the same size but change in concept, becoming destinations for click and mortar shopping. Retailers need to offer consumers a consistent omnichannel experience, stores will connect the physical and digital worlds. Here, consumers can see and feel products they might order online. Here, too, the online product offering could also be accessible via interactive screens.
These changes align with the forecast growth in consumer demand for healthier, high-quality produce, more choice, and greater convenience – a demand which will increase massively as household incomes rise in developing nations, bringing 70 million more people globally every year.

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