How the industry is reinventing itself—and key ways it’ll elevate the customer shopping experience

“The future of grocery” is a popular refrain in the food retail industry. You’ve likely seen it sprawled across headlines, scattered through articles, and stamped onto advertisements. Over the past year in particular, talk of a changing grocery landscape—one rooted in e-commerce, delivery, and pickup solutions—has consumed retail media. Now, retailers and consumers alike are finding themselves in the unique position of what they thought was a near-post-COVID world threatening to head back into crisis mode, and many are questioning what the next few months will entail, let alone the next few decades.

As new trends gain momentum, new technologies attain ubiquity, and societal circumstances continue to shift, what will the so-called future of grocery actually look like—and how will it elevate the customer journey from end to end? To answer that question, start by asking yourself one simple question: “What do I want for my grocery store experience?” Odds are, it’s already in the works.

Here’s a teaser on all that retailers and consumers can look forward to in the coming months and years, and how it’ll enhance everyday shopping experiences, in-store, online, and in between. Stay tuned for upcoming posts to learn more about how each one of these topics is impacting the grocery revolution—and how perpetual innovation is reinventing retail as we know it.

Subscription services. It’s been said time and time again: we’re now living in the subscription economy. Across a wide range of industries and services, people are paying weekly, monthly, or yearly fees for a steady stream of quality products—and the food retail industry is no exception. From Prime Pantry to Walmart Plus, we’re willing to bet there’s even more to come.

No more checkout lines. Nobody likes a line, and in our increasingly fast-paced world where instant gratification is the rule, lines are a problem that nearly every rising digital retail company is trying to solve. Swiftly is empowering shoppers to say goodbye to checkout lines, and that’s only the only beginning of what’s in store for time-constrained customers.

Instant deliveries. The standard window for grocery deliveries has been steadily shrinking, from week-long Fresh Direct to same-day Instacart to 10-minute Gorillas. In an efficiency- and convenience-obsessed consumer landscape, the fastest services will win. Right now, it’s a race to the finish line.

In-store navigation. Wandering from aisle to aisle and scanning the shelves to track down the items on your shopping list is often endured as an unavoidable part of the in-store shopping experience. But before too long, it won’t be. From new, interactive map features to in-store apps that will direct you to every item you seek, the potential for item-specific GPS navigation tools to transform the in-store customer journey is limitless, and the smartest developers are already capitalizing.

In-store dining. From the Starbucks at the entrance of Target to the cafe corner with seating at your local grocery shop, more and more stores are enhancing the in-store experience with food. The motivation is simple: the more time customers spend in the store, the more comfortable they’ll become, the more they’ll see, and the more they’ll walk away with in their carts. Whether they’re looking for a full-day activity or just have some time to kill, experiential grocery shopping is more than just transactional, and it’s not limited to coffee and tea, either. More and more stores are introducing prepared food aisles, hot bars, and salad bars—and it’s turning grocery stores into dining establishments of their own.

Built-in advertising. Applications like Swiftlyprovide customers with product suggestions as they walk through the aisles, based on factors like their order histories, brand preferences, and what’s already in their carts. Enhancing the shopping experience by ensuring customers don’t forget the buns for their burgers or the marshmallows for their s’mores delivers customers an intelligent, interactive shopping experience—and it benefits the retailers and their CPG partners at the same time. With powerful tools like Artificial Intelligence (AI) at retailers’ disposals, there’s no saying how far this category can go.

Pandemic-fueled innovations. From sanitization robots to curbside pickup and more, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the grocery landscape in myriad ways, and the marketplace is only continuing to evolve. With shifting customer preferences, expectations, and emerging virus variants, increased distancing and sanitary innovations will continue to pop up—and they’re all positioned to elevate the shopping experience for health-conscious consumers.

Integrated shopping lists. While most shoppers have likely shifted their grocery shopping lists from Post-It Notes to the Notes application, more than 70% of Americans still make a list before they go shopping. With applications like Swiftly that integrate the shopping list onto the platform that powers consumers’ in-store experiences, finding items is even easier, and forgetting them entirely is impossible. The shopping list is a small but mighty force in the food retail category, and with new technologies like Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML), its future is brighter than ever.

This list is only the tip of the iceberg. As retailers, brand partners, and customers alike look ahead, viewing the evolution of the grocery shopping experience through the lens of the customer journey is key. After all, shoppers are the backbone of the retail industry—and delivering them the solutions they seek is what drives the smartest, most successful innovations. For more perspectives on the reinvention of the grocery store experience—and how these developments are elevating different aspects of the customer shopping journey—check out the Swiftly Blog.