With 2020 coming to an end, it is a good time to reflect on what has been happening in food retail globally. We at BrandLoyalty are active in over 50 countries, putting us in a good position to assess how supermarkets and their customers are adapting to difficult circumstances. Especially in current times, developments in retail are skyrocketing and outpace many other industries. I’m incredibly proud of how our clients have adapted to all these changes without friction. Some new trends barely existed before the pandemic struck, whereas others were already well established. There are also trends that have been highlighted or fast-forwarded since January. Let’s look at all of these, and the opportunities they present.
1. Adjustments caused by COVID-19
Food retailers have reacted really well, by swiftly and decisively keeping their local communities provided with life’s essentials. We are now all familiar with the physical in-store measures taken to ensure hygiene and social distancing. Plexiglass barriers, floor stickers and trolley-cleaning systems have become very common. Underneath these lies a deeper and more meaningful psychological adjustment: consumers have become much more aware of and food retailers have reclaimed their role as a cornerstone of society. There is a greater appreciation of the availability of SKUs, and supermarket staff are increasingly recognised by governments and the media as key workers. Retailers can build on these positive associations and the opportunities this provides. COVID-19 made consumers’ needs and preferences shift constantly and therefore, winning consumers’ loyalty has become more important than ever before.
2. The power of seamless self-service
For some time now, retailers have been enhancing their technological capabilities and consumers have quickly become more digitally capable. This has translated into an increased demand for self-service shopping. Basically, people want to be in greater control of how they do things.
Queueing at the checkout has always been the biggest irritation factor, so fingerprint or facial recognition payments are becoming popular methods of speeding things up. In Asia, you can now even pay with your eyes, by using an iris scan! Even without such futuristic solutions, the number of self-service checkouts has expanded dramatically. These are also being accepted more readily than before: in Europe, 30% to 40% of sales are now being done via self-scanning. The number of unstaffed stores is growing globally too. While the pandemic continues, the lack of human interaction at the checkout becomes a positive rather than a negative. So now could be a good time to introduce more self-service points and digital systems in order to accustom customers to new ways of shopping and paying.