Is This What the Future of Grocery Will Look Like?

Habitat by Honestbee in Singapore voted as one of the 2019 top must-see retail innovations in the world
Photograph courtesy of Habitat by Honestbee

From robot restaurants and smart devices to electronic shelf labels and cashless pay, the digitization of grocery has taken shape in countless forms—many of which eliminate human interaction from the shopping experience altogether. But is the future of grocery really destined for nearly human-less interactions?

As retailers test new technology and in-store innovations to offer shoppers the coveted omnichannel experience, they might consider looking to their counterparts overseas for inspiration.

Take a look at Habitat by Honestbee, the multi-sensory, omnichannel store concept developed by Asian online concierge and food delivery service Honestbee. Integrated with the company’s mobile app, the 60,000-square-foot flagship store in Singapore caters to both online and offline customers and serves as not just a grocery store but also a dining destination, distribution center, and a logistics and retail innovation lab.

Touted as a “tech-meets-food grocery and dining experience,” the store offers more than 20,000 grocery products, inviting shoppers to “see, smell, hear, touch and taste” an array of international items, and it features 20 food and beverage concepts for shoppers to leisurely enjoy amid the store’s nature-inspired, cozy design elements.

In fact, Habitat by Honestbee customers are spending more time—an average of two hours—in the store than any other supermarket, according to the company. Two of its largest groups of customers fall between the ages of 26 to 35 years old (41%) and 36 to 45 year old (28%), and 64% of these customers are multigenerational families that visit the store for its “friendly neighborhood feel.”

Since its debut in October 2018, Habitat by Honestbee has welcomed nearly half a million visitors and has been voted by IGD1 as one of the top 16 stores to visit in 2019 in the world. The store also ranked as one of the top 10 Google trending searches in Singapore in 2018.

“We are pleased to have had such a resounding success since the launch, not just with customers but also with the business community in retail, property, grocery and F&B,” Pauline Png, managing director of Habitat by Honestbee, said in a statement. “A strong growth in sales pushes us to continue delivering a memorable experience for customers to visit, try new products and return. This tactility that Habitat by Honestbee provides ignites a curiosity for our products, which are also available online.”

In fact, since launching the offline store, Png said the company has observed a spike in online orders for its fresh supermarket deliveries.

Habitat by Honestbee’s “NewGen Retail” concept aims to inspire more human interaction while leveraging innovative technology to remove traditional shopping inconveniences, such as long checkout lines and handling cash. Not unlike Alibaba’s Hema stores—which have become a pillar of high-tech brick-and-mortar along with concepts such as Amazon Go—the store utilizes in-store checkout and order collection points—AutoCheckout and RoboCollect—to deliver a convenient alternative to traditional retail processes. Through the store’s app, shoppers can also order and pay through features such as Scan & Go and in-app wallet BeePay.  

The retailer’s multiconcept kitchen boasts a custom-build experiential space featuring eateries ranging from a Japanese-inspired craft coffeehouse to a Josper-grilled steakhouse. Each kitchen is maximized to ensure a strong sale return by uniquely operating multiple concepts within one space.

The retailer also continuously reviews customer feedback and data to improve the 360-degree experience. For instance, after finding that customers often compile orders for families and friends together, Honestbee will soon be providing an option to combine food carts on the app, enabling orders from the store’s multiple food and beverage concepts in one receipt. This marks an extension of its top local hawker centre experience already available on its online delivery app in Singapore.

In addition, the company plans to enable customers to make informed choices on the app, with engaging product information and content, including personalized recommendations. By leveraging data, the app will provide relevant recommendations for food, beverages and groceries based on an O2O (online to offline) algorithm. The company also recently launched its Honestbee membership program, BeeHive, where customers can get value deals for their groceries and food purchases both online and at Habitat by Honestbee.

“The launch of Habitat by Honestbee has allowed us to elevate our business into an omnichannel platform and work with partners like no other online player can,” said Joel Sng, CEO and founder of Honestbee, in a statement. “Habitat by Honestbee has leveraged on our brand's promise and expertise in utilizing data to optimize the customer experience. We are confident in fueling the growth of Habitat by Honestbee to other markets.”

In the second quarter of 2019, the company said it will also be launching a multiconcept kitchen and convenience store powered by data.


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