The future of grocery belongs to the fast.
That's arguably the biggest takeaway from Xcelerate Retail 2017, a technology conference held by Symphony Retail Solutions, a division of Symphony Technology Group, which took place Sept. 12-14 in Las Vegas. And while other essentials critical for success also were shared – from increased focus on customer-centricity to implementing new technologies such as artificial intelligence and promotion-planning software – the message was clear: Food retailers that move the fastest at developing and implementing their strategies to compete in an Amazon.com world will be the ones that compete successfully against the ecommerce giant.
“If we are to do anything going forward from this moment in time, it's to appreciate that the future is coming at us faster than ever before,” said Jim Carroll, a futurist, noting that retailers need to think big, but start small, and then scale fast.
Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, founder, chairman and CEO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Symphony Technology Group, also pointed to the necessity of moving faster, but not while looking at yesterday's performance statistics. Amazon received tremendous publicity when it recently cut prices on just 80 items at Whole Foods Market, on its first day as the owner of the Austin, Texas-based grocer. But it didn’t receive the attention for the price cuts themselves – it did so for the speed at which it implemented them.
Grocers need to be as fast with what they do, because disruption will continue, and technology will play a much more important role in grocery, which will require grocers to work with technology companies not just to defend themselves, but also “punch back” at Amazon, Wadhwani noted. In the next couple of years, grocers trying to fight Amazon will need technology to help with dynamic pricing and to understand promotions.