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Brenda McCurry, Vice President, Supplier Services, POS and Barcode at ScanSource and Karen Bomber, Director of Marketing, Productivity Products at Honeywell

The In-Person and the Click-and-Collect Grocery Shopper: The Importance of Building an Infrastructure to Please Both

Think about the last time you bought groceries. If you’re like most Americans, chances are high that it looked different than the way your parents used to shop. Particularly within the last year, consumers have made it clear to grocers that convenience is king. Formerly a leisurely errand, grocery shopping has adopted an e-commerce element, from getting your goods delivered directly to your door, to buying online and picking up curbside. As consumers have grown accustomed to the online shopping effect, grocers are feeling the burden from two customer bases: traditional shoppers still using brick and mortar stores, and those actually using the stores as micro-fulfillment centers. This new business model causes a unique challenge for grocers, but with the right tools they can adapt to meet the changing preferences of their customers. 

 

Digital Fulfillment:

The influx of convenient shopping options has driven grocers to rapidly adopt some form of online grocery shopping so that consumers can order groceries right from their couch. By providing at-home delivery and click-and-collect grocery shopping options, grocers can reach a wider customer base than before. However, they cannot do so until they make one critical investment: a strong digital infrastructure. The implementation and operability of a grocer’s e-commerce structure can determine a grocer’s ability to compete in a rapidly changing business environment.

Fortunately, with online grocery shopping booming over this past year, grocers can be confident in their decision to build up a digital infrastructure. Whether it’s a mom and pop store or a national chain, grocers across the board are looking for trusted advisors to guide them through this digital transformation. Implementing wireless configuration within your store and beyond is the first step to allow for an interconnected physical and digital storefront. This provides options to connect delivery and point of sale systems, inventory management platforms, loyalty/engagement programs, an online web store and more. Having the capability to integrate different areas of operations is crucial for maintaining smooth operations both in-store and on-line, especially as convenience continues to guide the direction of the industry. Grocers should look to trusted partners, such as a value-added reseller, or VAR, who can provide turn-key technological solutions that help digitally configure stores as they venture into e-commerce.

Accommodating the Click-and-Collect Customer:

As grocery stores continue to offer shopping solutions for the online, on-the-go grocery shopper, facilities are forced to become a type of micro-fulfilment center where employees both stock shelves and package e-commerce orders. However, brick and mortar stores were not built to serve as fulfillment centers; they were built for in-person grocery shopping designed with casual browsing and impulse purchases in mind. Grocery stores can work around this new dynamic with innovative uses of technologies that can be used to help employees to fulfill online orders with ease and continue to provide customer service to in-person shoppers.

 

Offering e-commerce options can bring in a higher number of patrons, but jumping into this without the right tools can also result in a loss of customers. Once the right digital configuration has been established in a store with wireless access points throughout, mobile devices can serve as modes of communication within the store. Employees can communicate with each other to help avoid wait times for curbside pickup and errors in order fulfilments. When a customer places an order for apples but instead receives bananas, the customer will quickly lose faith in the store’s ability to process online orders. Employees can use compact and portable Android tablets connected to the wireless infrastructure to relay errors, like a mis-pick for a curbside pickup, and solve the fulfilment issue in an efficient manner. Customers choose click-and-collect for the convenience of it, so why not make it more convenient for grocery operations by implementing these digital solutions?

 

Accommodating the ‘Traditional’ Customer:

While e-commerce continues to exponentially grow in the grocery industry, there will still be customers who want to hand pick their onions and feel for the ripest avocados. To maintain success in this rapidly evolving industry, grocers must implement solutions that please both customer types. Grocers need to ensure that while they meet the needs of click-and-collect customers, they are not impacting the traditional, in-store shoppers who need a stocked grocery store. E-commerce shoppers create an added demand for products from a single store, so it is imperative that stores monitor product levels as items are purchased since it impacts a singular supply. Grocers can utilize their strong wireless infrastructure in-store and online to monitor their inventory. When an in-person shopper sees empty shelves, it may prompt them to look to other stores. To solve this issue, employees should be staffed with mobile devices with wayfinding apps to help their customers find goods quicker and inform them if there is additional stock stored in the back. Consistent monitoring of product levels can alleviate potential e-commerce bottlenecks and ensures top notch customer service to both types of patrons.

Recently, in-store customers also expect greater disinfection measures, which requires point of sale products to be frequently cleaned or have contact-less options. Over the past year tech and point of sale companies have enhanced their products to meet this need. It is imperative that technology with touchpoints are equipped to handle frequent cleaning. Grocers can now install check-out technology like disinfectant-ready mobile computers, docking cradles, barcode scanners and printers designed to withstand the regular cleaning protocol required to control the spread of infection and disease. These solutions are designed to keep the customer safe and provide grocers with long-lasting investments.

Savvy grocers who invest in the proper infrastructure to support them digitally and physically are most apt to succeed as consumer trends continue in the direction of convenience. Fortunately, these solutions can easily be implemented by working with trusted partners, like a VAR, who can ensure that grocers have the right technology to compete in this industry. Wireless and mobile technology will not only boost the traditional, in-person business that grocers have accommodated all along, but it will strengthen a whole new digital customer base.

 


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