What is the Future of our Grocery Stores?

By Carrissa Pahl Published on Feb. 19, 2021

The rise in mobile grocery shopping due to the Covid-19 Pandemic has highlighted more reason than not to change how grocery shopping is done. Even though many are stuck indoors, everyone still needs to eat. There is no doubt that how people grocery shop is going to evolve in the coming years.

With the rise of Covid-19 since March 2020, grocery shoppers were in need of finding safer ways to shop. This included mobile grocery ordering, home delivery, and curbside pickup. However, these processes were not ready for the tsunami of consumers who tried to take advantage when the first wave of the pandemic hit. Many of these platforms have experienced growing pains that need to be worked out, but they are definitely becoming more popular and demand is there.

Food Buying as an Experience

Many consumers choose what grocery stores they go to or what products they buy based on experiences. Blake Morgan at Forbes believes that the grocery store of the future will be more focused on experiences and will resemble a learning experience about food rather than just roaming the aisles. Will these stores of the future offer cooking classes, wine tastings, and restaurants to dine in?

New developments like Amazon’s grocery store, Amazon Go, have opened people’s eyes to the option of having no contact with any person while shopping. This will make the shopping experience safer from a health standpoint by avoiding contact with others.

David Katz, founder of New York-based Katz Architecture and a specialist in retail store design, believes that more stores will implement welcoming areas as grocery store shopping as an experience becomes more popular. Having a space that welcomes shoppers as they walk into the store instead of a bombardment of items could improve customer sentiment. Katz says there is no right answer to the design of future grocery stores, but people will have to investigate and experiment with different designs and ideas.

Katz also predicts that people will want to be outdoors more. Will grocery stores move towards more open and outdoor spaces in the future?

Taking the Step to Energy Efficiency

Grocers are also investing in energy efficiency and becoming friendly to our environment. With an eye towards saving water and electricity, companies are looking to update a range of systems including: refrigeration equipment, stoves, dishwashers, and heating and cooling equipment. Simple actions like adding doors to refrigeration units will easily help grocers reach their sustainability targets

If technology is out of reach for a store, there are many other ways to work towards becoming more environmentally-friendly. Simple changes like banning the use of plastic bags, stopping the use of all plastic packaging at stores, selling discounted foods when they are no longer fresh, sourcing products more locally, and buying less can all make a huge impact on waste output and the footprint of grocery stores.

The Technology Behind Evolving Grocery Stores

Cashierless Checkout: This concept changes everything. Avoiding long lines could change how people think about going to the grocery store. Stores are taking on many different forms of how to go cashierless.

Cameras and Shelf Sensors: In some stores, cameras are installed on ceilings and sensors in shelves to detect when something is being pulled off the shelf and by who. In the case of Amazon Go stores, upon entering the store people scan their Amazon app and throughout their shopping experience the cameras and sensors pick up what’s in the cart. After leaving the store, the card on the person’s Amazon account will be charged for the groceries.

Smart Carts and Baskets: Some companies have switched from ceiling cameras and shelf sensors to smart shopping carts. These carts can sense the items being put into carts. Some have barcode readers and others cameras. A card reader is a feature on some of them so there is no need to go to a checkout station at the end of a shopping experience.

Touchless Checkout Kiosks: Using overhead cameras, touchless checkout kiosks can verify what a person is purchasing and charge them without having to scan any barcodes.

Self Scanning: Some stores still have you scan your own items, but apps that let you scan items from your phone and then pay from your phone eliminates the need for extra people completing the transaction.

There are so many technologies that are already out and even more in the works. Which ones will shape the future of how people grocery shop?

Why Has Contactless Shopping Become so Popular?

Even before Covid-19 took storm, people were experimenting with grocery delivery or curbside pickup. The convenience of not having to get out of a car or even leave the house to get groceries needed for the week appealed to modern consumers. But as Covid-19 continued to spread, customers became more intrigued and focused on minimizing their time in contact with other people.

Even though these options are enticing, plenty of people still prefer to walk the aisles and really see what they are getting. A study from McKinsey & Company found that before the pandemic, nearly 98% of U.S. grocery sales were in stores. Even with the rise in popularity of curbside pickup and home delivery, 85% of sales were still in stores at the peak of Covid-19.

This is why stores are investing in new technologies to offer contactless checkout and shopping experiences. Some big retail stores such as Walmart, Publics, and Wegmans have implemented these new technologies such as self checkout apps allowing customers to skip the line and never have contact with anyone in the store. Not only does this make shoppers feel safer, but also it keeps essential store employees safe.

Grocery Store Tech Startups

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Caper: Skip the line with Caper’s innovative, AI powered smart cart. This cart makes it easy to engage in no-contact shopping since it has a credit card scanner included and skans all of your items as they go into the cart. Thanks to AI, sensor fusion, and machine learning, engage in a seamless checkout that’s easier, faster, and more fun than ever before.

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Mashgin: Mashgin is on a mission to create frictionless checkout using advanced computer vision. By using visual automation and modern deep learning techniques, Mashgin builders better experiences and performs visual tasks so humans don’t have to. Their powerful technology identifies multiple items in seconds so customers can scan, pay, and be on their way. No barcodes are required since the system will immediately identify any goods on the scanner and the experience is completely touchless.

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Zippin: Zippin makes contactless retail a reality by improving omnichannel fulfillment, providing a superior inventory management system, and keeping essential workers and shoppers safe. Their AI-driven checkout-free technology platform enables retailers to quickly deploy frictionless shopping in stores. Zippin’s mission is to banish standing in line for good with their checkout-free technology that’s easy and cost-effective for retailers to deploy and greatly improves customer experiences in-store. They also offer inventory tracking and insights to ensure the right products are in the right place at the right time.

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Grabango: Grabango is a free service offered by grocery and convenient stores that allows shoppers to skip the checkout line and simply walk out after scanning the code in their Grabango app. Their mission is to eliminate lines and save people time. Their system allows you to shop as you normally would and it will add up your items for you. Simply scanning the code in your Grabango app on the way out will secure your payment and you can get on with the rest of your day.

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Trigo: Trigo provides an AI and computer vision powered frictionless shopping experience and automates in-store processes for grocery retailers. Their cloud-based item catalog with automated new product enrolment process is channeled across all stores, making the system scalable and easy to replicate. It’s multi-solution platform includes a range of solutions that optimize store operations, empowering grocers to make data-driven decisions. Trigo has built their platform with the hopes of protecting shoppers’ privacy and being up to date with the latest data protection regulations.


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