Nine Factors in the Food Retail Experience of the Future

The Retail Experience of the Future exhibit at FMI Connect in Chicago featured research from PwC's report "Front of the Line; How Grocers Can Get Ahead for the Future". These are the topline learnings:

1. The mobile device will be integral to the shopping experience, inside the store and beyond. Store-provided devices and kiosks were also popular, but personal devices were 30 percent more favored, and more than half of the respondents want to see their mobile device integrated into the shopping experience. Beyond the store, 80 percent of respondents would use devices for grocery lists, and 75 percent would use them for pick-up or arranging delivery in the future.

2. Shopping online will grow, but has its obstacles. Survey respondents indicated they are 2.5 times more likely to continue purchasing packaged goods than fresh foods online. A strong majority (62 percent) of respondents said delivery schedule control is important in online shopping. One out of two indicated that the primary reason they will not grocery shop online is because they can't see the product.

3. The traditional grocer remains the favored choice. Of those surveyed, 83 percent consider traditional grocers their "go-to" for the foreseeable future, with 52 percent of respondents designating traditional grocery stores as their first choice, and almost everyone including them in their top three for preferred grocery shopping. When it comes to what a shopper is looking for in a retailer, 44 percent say a wide selection of fresh produce is a top factor for choosing a grocery retailer now and in the future.

4. Pricing remains a key driver of customer loyalty, but other rewards will help. More than a quarter of the surveyed shoppers (28 percent) said competitive pricing will be the main reason they choose a grocer and 67 percent included it in their top three reasons. Other expressed desires include customized coupons (57 percent) and cheaper private brands (58 percent). A substantial number (83 percent) of respondents want future loyalty programs to offer flexibility when earning and spending points. They also want increased gamification of the shopping experience, with 39 percent saying they want retailers to reward them for making healthy purchases and trying new foods.

5. Improving the shopper's experience by providing information and removing annoyances. Nearly half of those surveyed said they want store staff to provide in-depth product information. More than four out of ten indicated an appreciation for staff helping with shopper decision making, such as recommendations on certain products. Over half report being most annoyed by long lines and crowded stores.

6. Consumers indicate a willingness to pay for their choices. Of note, 64 percent of respondents said they would pay more for organic. Reflecting the increasing consumer demand for transparency regarding the origins of their foods, 52 percent indicated they would pay more for non-GMO foods.

7. Shoppers want their international tastes honored. A well-travelled group, 68 percent of respondents report eating ethnic food 6+ times per month and expect stores to carry the global products necessary to satisfy their hunger for multi-cultural cuisine.

8. Consumers will make decisions based on a retailer's social responsibility efforts. Giving back to the local community was the minimum acceptable level of social responsibility, according to 87 percent of the respondents.

9. Customers will talk about their shopping experiences with friends and family. Four out of five shoppers surveyed indicated they will share their grocery experiences in person; 30 percent will share via social media. Consumers of the future will be sharing their shopping experiences – whether positive or negative – with an increasing circle of contacts.