Two Years of Retail Digital Transformation in Two Months

Exploring Innovation in Food Retail

If anything was going to shine a light on the inefficient technological legacies within the retail sector, perhaps the last on most people’s lists was a mass pandemic. That’s exactly what it has done, however, forcing retailers and their supply chain partners to get their products to customers at scale, via novel channels.

The adoption of online shopping is not new, but the speed at which those reluctant consumers shifted to web was astonishing. Perhaps one of the most significant examples of this is the food sector, an industry that has had to adapt to keep the nation fed as well as safe. The key to this swift adaptation has been unlocking innovations that have transformed the way consumers interact with food retailers.

The role of innovation and technology has been explored by S2G Ventures in their recent research ‘The Future of Food: Through the Lens of Retail’. It found that investment in digital is a critical factor for brands who want to maintain loyalty in this new normal.

“We have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” Satya Nadella, MSFT, 2020.

The Types of Innovation

The kinds of tech being embraced by food retailers are vast and diverse, but broadly they all point to creating an online/omnichannel experience that improves outcomes for both customers and the business. That means making it easy to choose the products that generate trust and loyalty.

  1. Virtual Reality – recreating store layouts online is a powerful way of capturing the experiential nature of bricks and mortar shopping
  2. Augmented Reality – this is a useful way of allowing customers to interact with a product virtually in as close a way as possible to being instore
  3. Artificial Intelligence – AI can be used to turn data into better experiences for customers. If AI can predict what shoppers need and when, predictive shopping baskets can make the process of online shopping much quicker. The options with robotics are unlimited in reality and can improve everything from click and collect to stock and operations.

Smart Fulfilment is Key to Building Loyalty

Food retailers have had to adapt very quickly to increasing numbers of online orders. This has meant adjusting online web experiences for customers,

“75% of customers report that they would spend more and shop more frequently with a retailer that offered timely delivery of online grocery order.” S2G Ventures, 2020

and also optimising store layouts for order fulfilment. Bricks and mortar stores are no longer just for shoppers, but also need to be easy for staff to use as ‘micro-fulfilment centres’. This also extends to maintaining the same high standards of products that people would expect shopping for themselves. Fresh produce needs to be consistent to build trust and loyalty. Having these elements in place will allow food retailers to deliver on time and to a high quality, which is the key to maintaining that loyalty.