The role grocers have always played in the hearts of their customers has become even more entrenched following the Covid-19 pandemic. How they capitalise on that position is what will determine their success as competition in the sector hots up again.
Supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores that stayed open throughout the lockdown continue to adapt as far as possible to the new normal. What everyone had expected to be temporary has now become embedded: social distancing, staggered entry, checkout screens, frequent cleaning, and protective equipment worn by both customers and staff. These are now the familiar sights in any retailer selling food and household items.
Retailers such as Aldi, Carrefour and Sainsbury’s have introduced new one-way routes through their stores to restrict the number of customers per 300 square metres. Special shopping hours have been allocated to essential workers and customers over the age of 75.
Retailers are working hard to ensure they retain loyalty with their customers and maintain trust during these uncertain times. Many shoppers also just want to get in and out as quickly as possible, which is why grocers have worked so hard to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 by introducing easy-to-follow rules on movement through the store and checkout.
Understanding how these shoppers behave will be critical to the fundamentals of grocery retailing – pricing, ranging, merchandising, promotions, new product introductions. According to The Grocer magazine, supply issues forced brands and retailers to rationalise when the pandemic first hit, but financial pressures may see a general reduction in ranges longer term. There will therefore be even greater pressure on supermarkets to manage remaining ranges tightly and this will require a much better view of demand, both historical and forecasted.
Loss prevention measures must be effective and at the same time not invasive. With margins under pressure from increased competition, smaller ranges and more unpredictable demand, grocers will want to manage shrink very closely.
Inventory visibility across stores that carry the biggest ranges in retail will be important for a variety of reasons – ensuring the fullest possible baskets that satisfy customers, but also deliver the best returns; making sure stock is in the best possible location for sale, but also to reduce wastage; a view of on shelf availability to determine optimum replenishment; and, analytics on inventory performance to support buying, merchandising, pricing and promotions.
Whatever “normal” turns out to look like, it is clear that grocers will need both the data and the intelligent analytics to support changes in every part of the supermarket. Ultimately, everything is connected. While grocers look to data to support discrete tasks in the store, they will want to analyse consolidated data from both in-store as well as external sources such as weather, social media and demographics to drive planning for store design, ranging and assortments, and customer management for self-scanning, self-checkout and traditional checkout.
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