It’s time to make predictions for the new year. With so much happening in technology, making five tech predictions may seem effortless. That’s partially true. There are easy predictions and risky ones. Mine are based on anecdotal evidence, interviews with tech experts, and just my hunch. Here is what I predict will happen in five important areas:
In-Store Technology: Some grocers have outfitted stores with beacons, which are Bluetooth-enabled devices that connect with partnered smartphones nearby. Beacons rely on apps to receive their signal, which then trigger ads, coupons or product information to be sent to shoppers. More grocers will test beacons in 2016, but few will roll them out chain-wide in the new year.
Also, more grocers will install electronic shelf labels (ESLs) that display prices and sometimes nutritional information. The industry will be watching Kroger’s test of a “smart” shelf in one store in Cold Spring, Ky. Some 2,000 shelf edge devices are installed in center store to show digital prices and ads. Once testing is complete, Kroger will roll out the system, which will encourage testing by competitors.
Online Grocery Ordering: More than 65 grocers have partnered with Instacart, which lets consumers order groceries online and pairs them with a personal shopper who hand-picks items and delivers to the home. This model will continue to be popular in the new year. Meanwhile, there will be more testing of curbside pick-up of groceries. This model will prove to be very popular with consumers who have the option to hop in the store to buy an item or two they forgot to order online, or just to hand-pick produce.
Point of Sale: In the last few years, retailers such as Big Y Foods, Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Costco and others have removed self-check machines from their stores. I predict at least one more major chain will do so in 2016 because of customer complaints about scanning issues. At the same time, there will be considerable interest in the Scan, Bag, Go service offered by Kroger in 15 supermarkets in the greater Cincinnati area. Shoppers there can use a handheld scanner to use while shopping. When finished, they scan a special bar code on a terminal at the front of the store that transfers their order to the checkout. The process saves time and reduces checkout lines. Kroger will expand this service to other stores, and competing grocers will begin testing a similar system.
EMV: On Oct. 1, payment terminals in stores were supposed to be able to process the new smart cards with an embedded chip. EMV is an acronym for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa. The change is part of a global transition from magnetic-stripe to chip technology to improve security during credit and debit card transactions. Not all grocers have updated their payment terminals, but almost all will do so in the new year. Food retailers not equipped with the latest chip technology in their payment terminals will be liable for the cost of all fraudulent card transactions
Data Quality: Data synchronization between retailers and manufacturers will improve in 2016. That’s because of the benefits from the GS1 US Retail Grocery Initiative, which aims to enhance data quality and improve product information and images, supply chain visibility and operational efficiencies. The organization has been working with suppliers, distributors and solution providers on the National Data Quality Program. The mission is to steer the industry to adopt, implement and adhere to an industry-driven and defined data quality program.
Those are my predictions, bold and otherwise. Let’s see if I am correct.