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Emerging Technologies Independent Grocers Can’t Afford To Ignore

NGA

by Jim Dudlicek / director, communications and external affairs for NGA

Recent technology changes have been so fast and frequent that even veteran grocery executives are left scratching their heads about what to do next.

To offer independent retailers some guidance, NGA and the Retail Solutions Providers Association hosted a recent webinar during which grocery and c-store tech experts explored what’s around the corner for 2022 and recommended actions that grocers can take today.

Jim Roddy, RSPA’s VP of marketing and business advisor, moderated a session that included Bob Bauer, president and CEO of BMC; Scott Doody, president of Interstate POS; Rene Stai, product expert at LOC Software; and Eli Yeheskel, VP of operations for Stor.ai.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Self-checkout rules. The industry-wide labor shortage has focused new attention on self-checkout and consumers are increasingly embracing the technology as a convenience that helps them get out of the store faster – it’s like the new ATM, Doody remarked.

And speaking of labor, the need to fill the gaps left by a lack of associates on the floor means retailers should prioritize “anything you can do with an app,” Stai said, noting that scan-and-go technology is finally making its way to smaller retailers. “Everyone needs to be talking about it.” Also the “smart cart,” which Yeheskel called “the future of self-checkout.” Waiting in the wings, Bauer revealed, is smart video and heat-mapping technology that monitors crowd size and dwell times to help retailers better allocate labor, as well as scale management that ties produce and deli scales into back-of-house systems for better inventory monitoring and profit control, “a double win for retailers and customers.”

E-commerce is here to stay, though leveling off after its pandemic spike. “It’s definitely not going down – it will stay flat or grow,” Bauer said, citing data suggesting a two-thirds/one-third split between in-store and online grocery sales, respectively, in 2022. And why not 15- to 30-minute delivery? “Independents can do better than the big chains on this because they know their neighborhoods,” Yeheskel declared.

What can we expect in 2022? Electronic shelf labels, ordering kiosks, loss-prevention technology, e-commerce fulfillment, more app-based solutions for coupons, loyalty rewards and age confirmation for restricted items.

What should you do right now? Regardless of what technology you use, Stai said, “Make sure your staff are your cheerleaders.” Yeheskel cautioned, “Make sure you have ownership of your data.” Bauer, noting that “online ordering is not going away,” recommended using and managing self-service technology. Echoing that sentiment, Doody advised, “Be engaged with the technology – don’t set it and forget it.”

To view this complete webinar, along with all the webinars in the series, visit https://nga.sclivelearningcenter.com/MVSite/default.aspx.

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