Tech Is a Priority for Grocers

A majority of US grocers offer mobile apps now

Omnichannel initiatives are seeing greater adoption in supermarkets, and more are fully integrated than last year.

Keeping up with technology isn’t the most pressing concern among grocers (that would be labor issues or competitive threats), but it’s definitely on their minds. In fact, it was the third most cited concern in the annual Progressive Grocer survey, up from ninth place last year. Nearly three-fourths of respondents planned to increase their tech spending in 2018.

Omnichannel initiatives are still a priority, and a majority (56.0%) said they are currently operating a fully integrated strategy connecting in-store and digital channels. Only 12.1% had no plans to execute omnichannel features.

The leading omnichannel feature offered was mobile shopping apps (54.2%). The next most popular were delivery-related: click and collect (31.8%), third-party delivery services like Instacart (31.8%), and curbside pickup (30.8%). Notably, in-store mobile product scanning was implemented by roughly a quarter of grocers, while only 8.5% offered it last year.

Since mobile plays such a strong role in these grocery executives' strategies, they were asked about the biggest benefit that smartphones provide. Mobile coupons was the top response, cited by 55.6%. Meanwhile, Facebook lost value, dropping to 25.9% from 59.1% in 2017. Scan-and-go technology wasn’t even included in last year's survey, and now 17.6% think it has value.

Expect to see more supermarkets and other retailers adopting mobile scanning tech in 2018 thanks to the attention garnered by Amazon Go earlier this year. This week The Kroger Co. unveiled its version, Scan, Bag, Go, which lets shoppers use an app or an in-store device to pay for goods. Kroger plans to expand the feature to 400 stores by the end of the year. And Meijer announced that its Shop & Scan test, which began in November 2017, will be rolled out to all 235 stores by summer. 

Waiting in line is frequently cited as one of the biggest in-store shopping pain points, so many retailers are attempting to leverage shoppers’ always-present mobile devices to their advantage. In a statement, Terry Ledbetter, chief information officer for Meijer, characterized the impact that the new Shop & Scan feature will have on the shopping experience as “dramatically faster and more convenient for our customers."