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  • The Time to Hesitate is Through

    Organic produce aisle

2020 has been a year of contrasts for the grocery industry. On one hand, retailers saw higher sales from the increased demand for household essentials, cleaning supplies, baking ingredients, at-home meal options and other items. But it also was a year of unprecedented challenges brought about by rapidly changing business conditions, stockpiling, shortages, concerns about shopper and employee safety and on top of all that, sharp shifts in consumer shopping patterns and behavior.

What will the new year bring? Undoubtedly, more change. And grocery businesses that don’t adapt will risk falling behind. That’s why there’s never been such an important window of time to make strategic investments in your store(s) to remain relevant and competitive. Even when the pandemic starts to come to an end, studies show that consumer shopping behavior, to a great degree, will be forever altered. “The impact of (the COVID-19 outbreak) will be profound and more far reaching than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” Scott McKenzie, Nielsen Intelligence Leader, told Supermarket News: “The pace of change is also extraordinary.”

Is your grocery business ready? In store, grocers must adapt to in-demand technologies such as contactless payments and check-out free options (i.e. mobile apps) as well as backend technologies such as electronic shelf labels and real-time analytics. With the shift toward online grocery shopping — a trend that’s expected to remain popular with consumers long after the pandemic ends —a robust online presence and grocery ordering system is an absolute must. Its critical grocers pay close attention to the entire pickup & delivery process and other technologies to make sure they’re providing a top-notch experience for their customers.

Lady holding basket of produce

But that’s just a start. Identifying and understanding your customer base has never been so critical. Nationally, two clear and significant sets of consumers will emerge next year, according to Nielsen. There are those with ‘insulated’ levels of spending — in other words, those who have had employment throughout the pandemic and remain largely unaffected by the day-to-day economic impact of the outbreak. There are also those who were negatively affected (job loss, furloughs and other challenges) and will remain restrained in their spending habits in 2021 and perhaps beyond. One group is comprised of ‘value’ oriented and price-sensitive shoppers interested in store brands and more affordable grocery options and the other is comprised of shoppers who are less price-sensitive and more likely to splurge and purchase premium foods. According to Nielsen, 75% of Americans believe it’s important to always get the best price on a product. Meaning that no matter which set of consumers are coming into your store, setting the right price is critical.