In preparation for the upcoming 2024 NGA Show, NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara discusses the future of retail grocery and highlights how The NGA Show can help retailers prepare for future growth through educational sessions and networking opportunities.
Q: What will the supermarket industry look like in the coming years?
Grocers navigate a rapidly changing retail landscape filled with evolving consumer trends, emerging technologies, and new products. Staying informed about this dynamic industry is crucial for making informed business decisions. Harnessing technology will become more critical for supermarket operators, especially independent grocers. This includes using shopper data and innovative applications of artificial intelligence to improve workflow and empower staff for better customer interactions.
Whether customers shop online or in physical stores, the main focus remains on enhancing the shopping experience to build customer loyalty. While data plays a pivotal role in guiding these decisions, understanding and managing the vast concept of data can be challenging. Grocers need to use customer data and advanced analytics for personalized offers, product recommendations, and improved loyalty programs. We have also seen a resurgence of interest in local products and community-focused initiatives. Independent grocers have strong ties with local farmers and producers, supporting regional economies and the communities they serve.
Q: What is the latest technology that can change the industry?
We continue to hear a lot about artificial intelligence (AI) and many independent grocers and wholesalers are integrating it into their current suite of technologies. We anticipate AI will be further leveraged in a number of areas, including streamlining store operations and elevating the customer experience.
Q: What products or services will be important in the years ahead?
Technology platforms that help retailers process, understand and leverage data will be essential to grocers looking to maintain an edge over competitors by better serving the needs of consumers. NGA partners with BRdata on Independent Insights, a cloud-based program that allows users to see item, category and basket trends among independents nationwide to more easily determine what items are trending, selling or not selling. Moreover, grocers stand to gain advantages from services that facilitate and improve product traceability, aiding them in upholding elevated standards of food safety.
To that end, NGA has teamed with ReposiTrak to maintain an online traceability resource center, while Ecolab is NGA’s official food safety partner to offer members a wealth of services and educational resources. Additionally, independents can set themselves apart from larger competitors by embracing emerging brands that fulfill evolving consumer trends. To help independents access these products, NGA has partnered with product discovery platform RangeMe to create a collection of emerging brands.
Q: How will the economy impact the industry over the next several years?
Inflation has driven up prices for grocery operators as well as consumers. For consumers, that means seeking out better deals across different channels as well as different stores. They’re choosing private labels over national brands. And they’re being more selective about their purchases, so while most folks are spending the same or more on groceries, their basket sizes are basically staying the same. Grocers will continue to be challenged to deliver value for their customers as they contend with higher prices for everything from goods to energy to labor. Operators should explore the aforementioned technology solutions to enhance the customer experience and shore up the value proposition they offer versus larger competitors.
Q: What should grocers expect from the supply chain?
The flow of goods has greatly improved but not fully healed since the height of the pandemic, when independent operators showed great agility in finding alternative sources for high-demand goods. These new business relationships should serve grocers well as the supply chain continues to recover. Grocers should work more closely with their wholesalers and CPG suppliers to better understand their mutual needs.
Q: What resources do you suggest retailers use to learn more about the future and how to adapt?
The NGA Show provides countless opportunities to learn from your peers and other industry thought leaders with specialized educational workshops for retailers. The 2024 event, taking place March 10-12 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, will feature sessions centered around AI and technology, including the returning Technology Summit as well as featured sessions on topics, such as “The Role of AI in Executing Competitive Strategy,” “Smart Shelves: Revolutionizing Retail with ESLs” and “The Future of In-Store Tech.”
In addition, the expo floor will feature more than 400 companies showcasing innovative and game-changing products and solutions including many of the partners mentioned above. Learn more here about attending or participating in the next show.
And if you’re not already an NGA member, consider joining to take full advantage of year-round opportunities, including share groups, webinars and dedicated committees.
At NGA, we’re committed to helping independent community grocers and wholesalers succeed and better serve the consumer through policies, advocacy, programs and services.
Read more from The Shelby Report’s Industry Experts.