The grocery industry is projected to continue growing and evolving as investments from venture capital firms help fuel innovative solutions to meet ever-increasing customer demands. One thing seems certain – the future of the grocery industry is a mix of digital and in-store experiences. Micro-fulfillment technology may become a mainstay and common in stores across the US.
Creating The Grocery Store of the Future
If you venture into any grocery store in the US today, you will find a series of stocked shelves with non-perishable items as well as temperature-controlled areas for perishables, refrigerated and frozen food. Store layouts haven’t changed much since the early 1900’s however, the time has come for many grocery retailers to “re-imagine” the grocery experience by leveraging AI and micro-fulfillment technology.
Technology has changed the way consumers shop with a dramatic shift to digital ordering. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has evolved to allow regularly purchased items to move to a “subscription model” with shoppers regularly picking up or receiving their staples at home. In the future, your local grocery store could install a micro-fulfillment center that houses the most commonly ordered items with workers quickly picking and preparing orders without walking around the store with bulky carts. Younger consumers may readily embrace this innovation, still coming to the store to pick up their order and spending their in-store time selecting specialty items.
So, what are some ways a grocery store can become an omni-store of the future? Retailers can adopt micro-fulfillment technology in their stores to free up storage space, allowing more room for highly selective items such as deli, meat and produce. Start with a detailed store layout with the non-perishable items identified that could easily move to high-density storage. This frees up available space for fresh produce, meat and specialty items as well as “customer-experience-oriented” features such as sampling areas or coffee stations.
Another benefit possible when installing a MFC in the grocery store of the future is the avoidance of manual picking operations for digital orders. An in-store MFC can replace workers traveling the aisles filling orders, therefore removing congestion for existing customers. It is even possible for online grocery orders to be fulfilled in a completely segregated dark store without any customer walk-in traffic. Micro-fulfillment technology in this instance would allow for high-density product storage and limited labor to productively pick orders for either delivery or on-site pickup.
Grocery stores of the future will emphasize the experience and strive to make shopping more convenient and enjoyable. While most people think of eCommerce and micro-fulfillment as the complete automation of goods and services, grocery stores need to ensure that the application they are implementing is aiding in the overall customer experience, increasing productivity, and allowing for scalable solutions as their business grows with increasing digital demand.