4 Online Grocery Technology Methods to Future-Proof Your Operations
Fast, scalable grocery fulfillment has become the norm, exponentially accelerated over the past few years by the COVID-19 pandemic and consumers’ increasing need for convenience. Whether in-store shopping or grocery ordering, seamless experiences are the name of the game, as evidenced by an increase in online grocery technology.
A recent McKinsey report found that grocery banners are realizing gains from expanding omnichannel experiences. In fact, omnichannel customers spend two to four times more than in-store customers, highlighting the opportunity that arises from winning consumer trips across channels.
In the current, lightning-fast ecosystem, grocers must continue transforming — and enhancing — their online grocery technology to survive. Here are four online grocery technology trends to watch over the next few years to help retailers keep a competitive edge.
Optimization of the in-store and online shopping experience
At present, most grocery banners cater to in-store customers when it comes to store design. The unprecedented growth of delivery services, however, may lead retailers to find a better balance that uses online grocery technology to optimize the shopping experience for both customers and shoppers. For example, Connected Stores unifies the in-store and online shopping experience through seamless, personalized technologies, such as:
- Electronic shelf labels (ESLs): Carrot Tags, our solution that integrates with ESL providers, will make it easy for both shoppers and consumers to find and learn about products, including gluten-free, organic, SNAP-eligible, and more attributes.
- AI-powered smart shopping carts: Caper Carts are equipped with features like AI, scales, touchscreens, and sensors that let consumers easily scan items as they place them in their cart.
- Scan & pay technology: With Scan & Pay, shoppers and consumers can scan items as they shop and pay via mobile phone. This feature can also link items purchased in-store to an online account — so it’s easier for the customer to buy again
- Online shopping lists: With Lists, consumers can scan a QR code on a Caper Cart to sync their shopping list from the Instacart App or the grocer’s Instacart-powered app. Products purchased in-store become part of the shopper’s online lists and can be repurchased online or via the Instacart or retailer website.
- End-to-end order-ahead and catering software: FoodStorm Catering software lets consumers order prepared foods online or at in-store kiosks and streamlines operations for catering management.
To improve the efficiency of in-store shopping, Instacart announced the launch of its in-store navigation tool for shoppers in early 2022. The interactive map enables Instacart shoppers to locate products more easily and efficiently. Currently rolled out to 300 stores, the navigation tool aims to help achieve quicker grocery fulfillment to as little as 30 minutes.
Online grocery technology that facilitates ultrafast delivery methods
With grocery delivery quickly becoming widespread, fulfillment companies are racing to help make last-mile deliveries as quick as possible. In fall 2021, Cincinnati-based grocery chain Kroger partnered with Instacart to unveil Kroger Delivery Now, an express offering that enables grocery delivery orders in as little as 30 minutes. Instacart’s Convenience Hub launched alongside the Delivery Now service to provide customers an express storefront full of quick-pick items fulfilled in those abbreviated time frames.
Next-gen technology is well within reach even for smaller grocery retailers, who can partner with an online grocery technology company like Instacart to help reimagine last-mile processes.
Consolidation of digital systems
A grocery banner can have all the online grocery technology in place for a cutting-edge shopping experience and streamlined operations management. Investing in technologies, however, does no good unless platforms are easy to use and convenient for everyone from store leaders and employees to customers and shoppers.
A recent Salesforce report found that the average retail organization uses about 44 different systems to engage customers. Outdated software and hardware are out in favor of cloud-based systems that can consolidate solutions into a single, cohesive platform.
That’s where grocery retailers are realizing the value of partnerships with online grocery technology companies. The Instacart Platform, for instance, offers a full suite of end-to-end technologies as well as modular technologies via API integrations to power retail white-label storefronts, fulfillment, in-store innovations like smart carts, retail media, and granular data insights.
An online community for employees and shoppers
Digital assistive technology and artificial intelligence will undoubtedly be part of the fulfillment process now and in the future. That’s why it’s more important than ever to create an environment that facilitates discussions among the people who will interact with that technology the most: employees and shoppers. The teams that make order picking and delivering possible will remain critical players in the future of online grocery technology and omnichannel fulfillment, and their views are indispensable.
Instacart’s Shop Talk feature gives shoppers access to a robust online community and the ability to crowdsource solutions with other shoppers. By providing a space to share and communicate all things Instacart, it serves as a common source for insights and suggestions. This, in turn, enables Instacart to stay up-to-date on how to better target shoppers’ needs and address areas of opportunity in the fulfillment process.
In an industry where customers are growing accustomed to a rich, omnichannel experience, staying informed and agile is everything. By taking advantage of emerging online grocery technology, retailers can stay on the cutting edge, ready to meet evolving consumer expectations with technology that makes shopping fast, easy, and fun.
Instacart is one of the end-to-end solutions that caters to retailers of all sizes and digital maturity levels.
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