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January is the right time to peer into the future. After all, the new year represents 12 months of new opportunities. So let’s look at some ways technology will change grocery shopping and the in-store environment in 2015 and beyond.
These days, most supermarket shoppers carry a smartphone. Some of them may be scanning QR codes on packages or displays. Others may be looking up nutritional information before making a purchase. Still others may be checking their electronic shopping list.
While shoppers will continue to do these things in 2015, they will also witness more tests and rollouts of programs targeting them with promotions sent to their mobile phones, such as iBeacon. By enabling the service on their smartphones, shoppers receive coupons, weekly ads and product updates via the location-sensing iBeacon technology.
Using digital to engage consumers will make the store a more interesting and – dare I say – fun place to shop. Such an enhanced in-store experience leads to more customer loyalty and a bigger basket at checkout. It also gives supermarkets a competitive edge over nearby stores not equipped with the latest technology.
Using video cameras in the ceilings of supermarkets to record shopper behavior is not new. But more retailers will analyze and use the resulting data this year. They will move displays around the store and perhaps deploy new traffic patterns that follow a shopper’s true path to purchase. The result will be increased sales.
Another interesting part of this video analysis that will become more important this year is facial recognition. The most sophisticated cameras are able to detect the approximate age and ethnicity of shoppers. Retailers will benefit from knowing, say, that their shopper base includes more Millennials and Hispanics than last year. Such valuable information will change product assortments.
Speaking of product assortments, traditional category management is ripe for change via new data collection methods. Image recognition powered by on-demand robotic technologies that map whole stores down to shelf positions can provide deeper insights into assortment management as well as optimally link the shelf to the supply chain. Improved camera technology now emerging provides a snapshot of the shelf. Accurate real-time information tells trading partners about compliance with the planograms as well as the in-stock and out-of-stock conditions.
I’ll end with my wish list: Some retailers will cleverly use digital signage and navigation cues to enliven the sleepy traditional grocery store. Others will find new ways to digitize the shopping experience using mobile phones. Checkout lanes will undergo a revolution due to automation.
Just don’t get me started with smartwatches – at least not until 2016.