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4 min read

Why the Time is Right for Grocers to Go Digital

By Greg Gomez, VP Business Development, Neal Analytics

Even before the onset of COVID-19, the grocery industry was in the midst of significant transformation. Personalized rewards programs, shopping apps, home delivery options, experiments with frictionless shopping — the grocery industry had begun to recognize the importance of knowing its customers and providing an improved customer experience that included digital options.

But the pace of transformation was lagging other retail segments in many ways, including the shift to E-commerce. The reality is that most consumers simply enjoy going to the grocery store. In fact, the primary grocery shopper in U.S. households visited a grocery store an average of 1.6 times per week in 2019 and spent an average of 43 minutes per visit.

All of that changed with the pandemic.

New Customer Behavior, New Data Needs

After a flurry of panic-buying and hoarding of toilet paper and cleaning products, safety concerns began to take hold and new patterns of consumer behavior emerged. Shoppers significantly reduced the number of trips to the grocery store and placed a much bigger emphasis on planning for each trip to ensure that they purchased everything they would need until the next trip. There was also a significant increase in online ordering and home delivery.

It’s clear that COVID-19 has accelerated the push in the grocery industry to collect customer data and understand customer behavior in order to provide the right products and experiences at the right places and times. The need to understand the shifting customer journey requires extreme agility and the ability to update preferences on a regular basis.

This means being able to make sense of customer data to make business decisions. There are a number of ways to do this, but the option with the quickest time to value is a fully capable customer data platform that ensures the collection of customer data from all points on the customer journey and provides key insights into customer behavior, making grocers nimble enough to meet customer expectations and needs both in ordinary and extraordinary times.

What Becomes Possible With Customer Data

Making good use of customer data to provide the best possible experience will also have a positive effect on business performance, in this particular moment as well as in the future.

  • Contactless shopping means customers are using their mobile devices to scan and pay for products. Not only does this save time and eliminate the need to exchange money with employees, it also gives grocers more data points and opportunities to interact with customers while they shop.

  • Predictive shopping carts, which can significantly improve convenience by pre-filling customers’ online and in-store shopping carts with the items that they are expected to need, based on historical purchases and purchase frequencies.

  • Hyper-personalized offers and promotions while customers shop in the store.

  • Greater precision around package sizes, optimized product assortments, and private label expansion. Not only will this help the customers feel like the stores have what they want, it will also be effective in avoiding supply chain issues during extraordinary events like a pandemic.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly accelerate the pace of digital transformation in the grocery industry, and customer experience will be at the center of the innovations associated with this shift. As the lines between the physical and digital worlds become more fluid, those retailers who invest in maximizing the value of their customer data will be positioned to survive and thrive in this evolving industry. That means identifying all their data sources, assessing use cases, activating data by getting it all in one place and analyzing it for insights, and testing to refine and optimize.

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Thanks to contributing writer Greg Gomez, VP Business Development at Neal Analytics.

For more on getting the most of your customer data to build loyalty, check out Amperity's Comprehensive Guide to Retail Personalization, available here.

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