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Retail Foodservice

How Digital Can Be a Retail Foodservice Ally Instead of a Competitor

Technology can be used to attract shoppers looking for fresh meals and convenience.
Photo courtesy of Wegmans Food Markets

While there is a great hullabaloo about e-commerce siphoning sales away from traditional grocery stores, technology can be used to attract shoppers to in-store foodservice areas.

Engaging consumers through digital tools is important way to share information on a retailer’s array of meal and snack solutions that fit their lifestyles. In fact, not using technology as one of many marketing and merchandising tools can be a glaring oversight: According to a recent report on digitally engaged food shoppers from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, a mere 7% of food retailers believe they have the skill set to succeed in digital, compared to 22% of manufacturers. This comes at a time when that same report project that 70% of consumers will grocery shop online within five to seven years.

By incorporating technology into their overall communications outreach, grocers can provide the solutions shoppers are looking for in meals and convenience. FMI’s report advises stores to integrate digital offerings in tandem with their brick-and-mortar operations and optimize omnichannel marketing and promotional efforts. “People, process and technology are the trifecta for a true omnichannel collaboration model,” said Mark Baum, FMI's chief collaboration officer.

Technology can be leveraged in many ways to take advantage of new sales opportunities in foodservice areas of grocery stores. In its report on 2018 food trends, the International Food and Information Council cited the use of connected, voice-controlled digital assistants (think Amazon's “Alexa”) to facilitate consumer decisions and purchases and the use of online ordering for food offerings.

Many retailers are already going omnichannel in their approach to merchandising and marketing all areas of their stores, including grocerants, in-store restaurants and hot food bars. Grocers throughout the country, spanning major chains such as Kroger and independent grocers, offer services such as Instacart and Shipt that help them compete with restaurant delivery services such as GrubHub. Tony’s Fresh Market store in suburban Chicago, for example, offers its own spinach pie and ready-to-eat crunchy sushi rolls, among other items, through Instacart.

Other retailers are fusing recipes and meal shortcuts made in-store. Wegmans, for example, posts recipes such as its “EZ Meal” made with Wegmans’ ready-to-cook barbecue ribs; its prepared asparagus, jicama, corn and red peppers veggie bowl; and its prepared braised kale and carrots veggie bowl. With the click of a button, those items can be added to a digital shopping list.
 

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