COVID-19 and changing consumer preferences are reshaping the role of physical grocery stores. Fortunately, technology can help grocers keep up.
For example, predictive forecasting technologies like Shelf Engine reduce waste by ensuring shelves stay stocked based on demand.
These advancements can also streamline store operations from checkout and talent management to merchandising and replenishment while improving the in-store customer experience and aiding cost management.
E-commerce has prompted brick-and-mortar grocery stores to evolve. Whether it’s enhancing in-store shopping experiences or offering on-demand delivery services, supermarkets are using artificial intelligence to multiply their fulfillment strategies and increase customer satisfaction.
Online shoppers get frustrated when the items they order are out of stock or they receive deliveries with incorrect labels and pricing. Grocery delivery services that use AI can reduce such inconveniences by tracking inventory in real-time and ensuring the accuracy of prices and product names.
AI-powered platforms also offer personalized promotions to a shopper’s based on their shopping history. These technologies have a deep understanding of the consumer’s food preferences, allergies, and other relevant information to make recommendations that are highly relevant and accurate. This approach can help reduce food wastage by making it easier for a shopper to plan ahead and make the right purchase decisions. Moreover, implementing AI in the grocery store and superstores helps prevent theft by identifying suspicious activities and detecting anomalies.
As grocery retailers continue to focus on online fulfillment and omnichannel strategies, robots are becoming increasingly important. They can help speed up the order fulfillment process and cut down on labor costs.
Unlike other automation technologies that can replace human jobs entirely, these robots tend to be used in places where people still shop. One example is Marty, a supermarket robot from Badger Technologies that detects hazards such as spills in stores. The company claims that 172 Giant and 325 Stop & Shop stores now use this technology.
Another example is Alphabot, a robot that Walmart uses to pick online orders in-store for e-grocery customers. The technology can help companies avoid the inefficiencies of separate fulfillment centers and dark stores. It also enables grocers to offer same-day pickup. Customers never see the robot but benefit from faster, cheaper delivery. This helps increase customer loyalty and satisfaction. The technology can also help grocers manage inventory during periods of high demand or staff shortages.
For many shoppers, nothing will ever replace the experience of seeing, touching and smelling fresh produce. But new innovations repurposed from technology used in other industries are pushing grocery shopping into the 21st century.
AI-enabled cameras are monitoring store shelves to ensure the correct products are stocked and can even keep track of inventory, reports Smart Brief. These cameras can also spot pricing errors or out of stock items, which could otherwise affect customer satisfaction and sales.
Daisy Intelligence is one company using AI to solve these problems, and the grocers it works with are seeing significant operating efficiencies. The firm claims its AI-powered cameras help grocers optimize pricing, merchandise assortment and replenishment, talent management, promotions and point of sale security.
Its technology can also prevent “sweethearting,” in which cashiers make fake scans to conceal unauthorized purchases. It also reduces shrinkage, which can cost a business as much as 30 percent of revenue. The company is working with a number of large grocery and CPG retailers.
In a pilot scheme, Kroger is delivering groceries to customers in Texas using driverless vehicles from Nuro Co., a startup founded by veterans of Google’s self-driving car project. The cars, called R1, are essentially delivery robots that can travel up to 25 mph. Customers order their groceries on Kroger’s app and can tap a code on the vehicle to unlock its doors. The cost is automatically charged to their connected accounts.
These vehicles cut down on the amount of secondary packaging, which appeals to environmentally conscious consumers. They also reduce the amount of food waste, which is a concern for many supermarkets.
Autonomous vehicle technology may eventually threaten brick-and-mortar convenience stores’ business model by lowering the number of trips needed to buy that ice-cold energy drink and snack, but that is still far off. A survey of 300 auto, energy and technology executives last month found that 75% believe Level 5 fully autonomous cars will be available to consumers only by 2030.