Supermarkets are essential retailers and have remained open throughout the pandemic. These all-important businesses are doing whatever they can to help stop the spread of the virus, which has meant quickly adapting the experience they deliver to customers.
Protective screens have been put up in-store at checkouts, as well as markings outside and inside stores to ensure shoppers and staff maintain social distancing. Opening hours have changed to better serve the most vulnerable customers and online capacity has been increased for supermarkets to be able to offer more deliveries to people’s homes.
It’s hard to imagine a reality beyond lockdown at present, and according to global data from consumer insights experts GlobalWebIndex, nearly half of consumers won’t be visiting in store for a period after lockdown restrictions begin to ease – but there will be a time when we return to a ‘new normal’. This, however, could mean the way we shop completely changes in several different ways.
The future of shopping
Just before the Covid-19 pandemic impacted retail in the UK, Amazon Go Grocery was launched in the US. This physical store of the future uses cameras and sensors to track customers’ movements and track the products they are putting in their basket. Customers choose items they want to buy and can walk out of the store without needing to visit a checkout or interact with a member of staff. Amazon delivers the receipt over email and the purchases are billed to their Amazon account. It’s a smooth, digital-only in-store experience.
Although convenience was at the core of Amazon’s Go Grocery offering, the technology that enables this contact-free shopping experience could set a precedent for what the future of shopping looks like. As restrictions begin to lift, social distancing measures will likely still exist and if people remain nervous about venturing out to physical stores, this new store concept could increase confidence. Knowing that there will be reduced interaction with staff and other shoppers could make this model more appealing to consumers. Other supermarkets and retailers would hugely benefit by taking similar steps to ensure customer safety and reassurance to bring people back to the store.
Social distancing measures will most likely be upheld for some time once we are out of lockdown, and this new way of shopping is an ideal solution and can still provide the enriched customer experience that Amazon strives for. It will offer customers with product information and experiences that are unique to them and enable Amazon to develop even stronger customer relationships through personalization.
Understanding customers’ dietary and lifestyle habits, and marrying their preferences both online and offline, means Amazon will be able to take it a step further and enhance the powerful picture it already has of its customers. Amazon will be able to provide even more tailored product recommendations and communications based on a complete view of the customer. Investment in personalization technology will enable other supermarket brands to keep up and provide a holistic customer experience post-lockdown
Greater confidence in online
Even if other supermarkets do not follow suit and are not able to refit their stores to mimic Amazon Go Grocery, we will see a new appreciation for online services. Many consumers who have not shopped online regularly for their groceries before the pandemic will continue to do so – GlobalWebIndex research shows that over 40% of consumers say they will shop online more frequently after the outbreak, proving there will be a long term boost.
The pandemic has allowed supermarkets to demonstrate to consumers that they can receive the same personal and immersive experience they usually expect in-store, online. By providing customers with product suggestions online in the same way they could ask an assistant in store for advice, supermarkets would be able to bring the personalized customer experience to a digital setting.
Setting a new bar for the industry
As it has done for years across retail and entertainment, Amazon is now going to raise the bar in customer experience for the grocery sector by helping customers remain socially distant at this challenging time.
Even outside of its Go Grocery business, household and pantry essentials are currently the priority for Amazon, and by offering flexible fulfillment options and communicating regularly with their customers across all channels, Amazon is able to support its customers and win trust in this time of need.
Consumers have been conditioned by the high level of convenience and choice they get from Amazon. The Amazon Go Grocery store will only further set the bar for experiences offered across the grocery industry.