NEWS + INSIGHTS

August 9, 2021

In the News: Evolving Grocery Practices to Meet Modern Lifestyles

This article originally appeared in Today’s Grocer Magazine online and print edition. August 2021.
Written by: Eric Price

Grocery stores have always provided an essential service and one that has become even more important during the pandemic. Few businesses have operated without interruption since COVID-19 upended daily lives, and even as vaccines roll out and restaurants reopen, the critical need for grocery stores remains. However, what has changed dramatically during our collective distancing are consumer behaviors, and one specific economic force certain to continue to impact the traditional shopping experience is delivery service.

Technological advancements have ingrained delivery services into daily routines more now than ever before. Expanded, out-of-the-box, big-box services and the proliferation of industry-adjacent providers, like Instacart, are giving consumers countless options for safe, at-home shopping. To compete with these market forces in the longer term, neighborhood brick-and-mortar grocery stores will benefit from embracing the shift and evolving business practices with design and program strategies that accommodate the mainstay delivery presence in modern lifestyles.

 

Reimagine Parking

Reconfigured parking areas present opportunities for grocery stores to streamline shopping experiences based on process. Evolving the one-size-fits-all parking approach to suit different shopping styles can organize traffic for efficiency. Bifurcation of lots into zones for curbside pickup and in-store errands are a start. Additional designations for 20- or 30-minute parking for delivery services add another layer of filtering. Like the “20 items or less” express lane, expect to see checkouts specifically assigned for delivery services – and, ideally, installed close to the timed parking slots.

 

Highlight Value and Local Connection

Neighborhood grocery stores typically can’t compete with big-box prices, so why try? Instead, these markets benefit from a focus on being the better alternative and embracing the personalized, “small business” customer experience. One of the more positive outcomes of our shared pandemic experience is a newfound appreciation for community, with people looking to support surrounding businesses. Specialized food options and local flavors and ingredients are ways to deepen the community connections and build on relationships. If your store already has a niche, focus on it and emphasize its uniqueness to your offerings. Strong sales support also makes a positive impact on the shopping experience.

 

Leverage Technology Enhancements

In today’s technology-rich climate, digital solutions are at our fingertips 24/7, and there is no reason grocery stores should be the exception. A host of tools can be leveraged for exceptional end-user experiences. Updated payment methods with phone-enabled systems can make a quick trip to the store easier – and who leaves home without their phone these days. Loyalty programs are another way to help understand buyer’s habits. And access to purchasing history can be a win-win for stores and shoppers alike as past purchases help inform future orders.

 

Location Wins

Ultimately, one of the strongest ways that neighborhood grocery stores can compete with big-box retailers is location. Location beats out technology, and a lot of smaller grocery stores are already established in locations that are engrained in the community. Technology enables deliveries to arrive within a day or two, but sometimes an immediate need for ingredients or essentials, like first aid, medicine or diapers, send shoppers to their local market. People will make a quick trip to pick up what they need and there’s little technology to replace that, be sure the experience makes them want to come back for more.

 


 

Eric Price is the Commercial Studio Director for Lowney Architecture and has over 20 years of experience working on a wide variety of hospitality and retail projects throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a Licensed Architect in the State of California and can be reached at  moc.h1632101666craye1632101666nwol@1632101666cire1632101666.

 

 

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