Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a turning point and we’re heading into the “new normal,” it’s a pivotal time for grocery stores to think about how they’re going to operate and grow their business in the future.
A lot has changed over the past couple of years, but despite the challenges of implementing or expanding curbside pickups and contactless checkouts, reconfiguring store operations for better safety, or revamping the supply chain, many stores benefited financially.
In fact, U.S. grocery store sales skyrocketed from $693 billion in 2019 to $774 billion in 2020 and $803 billion in 2021. Additionally, profits soared from around 1% to 3% beginning in 2020, and they have remained healthy ever since.
Now it’s time to think about some of the best ways to reinvest those financial gains, so that stores can sustain and grow from this new high point. Let’s take a look at four key ways that grocers can do this.
- Enhance the Efficiency and Convenience of Curbside Pickups and Deliveries
At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, many customers turned to curbside pickups and deliveries to avoid going into stores. But consumers have fully embraced the convenience of these services, and they’re now a hugely important part of grocery sales.
Online grocery sales reached nearly $98 billion in 2021, representing 13% of total grocery spending for the year, and more than 70% of U.S. households received one or more orders during 2021.
To support and sustain this growth, stores need to make sure they have the right systems and technologies in place to make online ordering as fast, efficient and user-friendly as possible, and they also need the right mobile tools and solutions to help store staff fulfill and manage orders, especially for curbside pickup.
One way we’ve been helping stores enhance their curbside pickup performance is by implementing Zebra mobile computing technologies to give store staff better mobile access to their point of sale software for inventory, pick lists and item scanning as well as order and pickup management.
With a rugged smartphone-style touch-enabled device such as Zebra’s TC52 mobile computer, staff are able to pick, manage and fulfill orders with complete digital efficiency and accuracy as well as the ease of tapping a button on a screen. When this is combined with upgrades to the store point of sale to optimize curbside pickup support, there are great opportunities to save time, labor and effort with every sale, all while providing faster and more convenient service for customers.
- Create Faster and More Frictionless Checkouts
Another area where speed and convenience are top priorities is the checkout, where consumers strongly prefer a quick and frictionless experience. One excellent way to deliver on those preferences is to upgrade to faster and more frictionless checkout scanner scales that can be used in both a traditional and self-checkout.
For example, our technology partners at Zebra have introduced a new MP7000 grocery scanner-scale that features a next-generation, multi-plane, 1D/2D bioptic imager and a massive scanning zone, which dramatically improve checkout scanning speed and reliability. Zebra’s scanner-scale combines this advanced imaging with sophisticated scanning algorithms that capture virtually every electronic and printed barcode instantaneously, regardless of its orientation or condition.
When shoppers have a chance to use these scanner-scales, they’re often startled by how much faster and more easily they’re able to scan items. Instead of having to rotate and position items just the right way, and instead of having to move them across the scanner window and often make multiple attempts to get barcodes to scan, they simply move an item into the scanning area and it scans instantly, the first time, with virtually no need worry about a barcode’s position.
The MP7000 also features a high-resolution 2.3 megapixel color camera that supports new applications which work with the camera to automatically identify items such as produce. This enables shorter point of sale picklists for simpler and faster checkouts, and the same technology can also be used to help reduce self-checkout losses by verifying that the proper barcode is scanned for each item.
Improvements such as these save time with every scan at checkout, which delights customers and gets them on their way quicker while boosting overall store efficiency.
- Get More Done with Less Labor
Labor shortages are a big problem across nearly every industry right now, and that includes grocery. Some companies such as Walmart, Wegmans, and Kroger are instituting scholarship programs and other hiring incentives in an effort to attract workers and build a more adaptable and resilient workforce.
But incentives are only part of the equation. Even if you can get workers in the door and retain them, there’s the issue of how we can equip them with the best tools to get more done in less time, with less effort, so workers can enjoy their jobs more and stores can get the most out of limited labor.
This is another area where technology plays a key role. Many stores had to muddle through the pandemic with their existing technologies, or they had to make some patchwork temporary improvements to keep up with surging demand and changing operational needs. But now is the time to reassess store systems and technologies.
Do you have mobile scanning or computing devices that are slow, cumbersome, and can’t keep up with the connectivity and workflow speeds that your workers need?
Are you running clunky and outdated point of sale or store management software that doesn’t have the capabilities you need for more efficient e-commerce, inventory management, and store operations?
Have you looked at opportunities to save labor and costs by upgrading to faster and more efficient hands-free and mobile technologies for managing inventory, pricing, labeling, and customer service?
Right now is an ideal time to invest in technology that will meet your operational needs in the years ahead, so you can grow your business by streamlining your grocery workflows and get more productivity and efficiency out of your workforce.
Whether it’s equipping your staff with hands-free wrist-worn mobile computers and finger-worn ring barcode scanners for hands-free inventory management, or it’s upgrading your point of sale and mobilizing it with touch mobile computers, there are many areas where you can make significant gains. And right now, it’s more affordable than ever, particularly with some great rebate programs that allow you to trade in your aging technologies for savings on your new purchases.
For example, we’ve been working with Zebra to make many of its latest grocery technologies available at significant cost savings through the GO Zebra trade-in program. It allows you to trade in qualifying devices, including non-Zebra solutions, and save as much as hundreds of dollars per device on the purchase of new hardware to support your store operations.
To learn more about the trade-in program, the best ways to optimize your stores for the future, and the latest Zebra grocery solutions, connect with our grocery industry experts at POSRG. Call us now at 866-462-1005 or contact us to get started.