Heading to the supermarket might seem like one of the life’s experiences that haven’t been touched by technology. Taking a trolley through the aisles and filling up on groceries is pretty low-tech, right? Well, maybe not. Increasingly, supermarkets are tapping into technological advances to help make them more efficient – and improve the experience for shoppers.
Here’s how supermarkets are using technology to their advantage:
Better stock management
Supermarkets have long been able to track the sale of goods through barcodes. But this process has been significantly sped up thanks to the creation of mobile barcode scanning software. This software can turn any smart device into a scanner – with a real-time inventory helping to spot areas where there is a spike in demand. So, if there are a sunny weekend and BBQ grill food is flying off the shelves, this can be spotted and addressed to meet the demand. This has also helped supermarkets to run efficient home delivery services, for people who want their groceries delivered to their door.
Customers will soon get fed up with being made to wait in a queue to be able to pay for their goods. American supermarket chain Kroger has introduced a QueVision system to address this. Using heat-sensitive infrared sensors it counts the number of people entering and leaving a store, and there are also sensors above checkout lanes that can detect when they become busy, alerting managers to the amount of extra staff that need to be deployed to deal with a rush.
How do we tackle the issue of food waste? While a mountain of unsold food is thrown away by shops and restaurants every day, there are plenty of people who cannot afford to feed themselves. While supermarkets might want to do their bit, a lot of organization is needed to help match up the ‘supply’ and ‘need’. FoodCloud is a not-for-profit social enterprise which uses a technology platform to connect stores and charities. It allows stores to upload details of their surplus food – and then sends a text to local charities to inform them and allow them to distribute it to those in need – providing the missing link.
If you think your ‘push a trolley around’ routine isn’t high tech, that might be about to change. Supermarkets are experimenting with augmented reality to enhance this shopping experience. This will mean that, for example, by holding up a smartphone to an item beacon, shoppers will be shown a range of information – including product descriptions, user reviews, ratings, and discounts. This technology could allow those self-same smartphone users to hold their camera up to an aisle and see coupons and offers highlighted to guide them to the best deals or even offer recipes and ideas of what can be done with the ingredients they’re looking at. Mobile technology is now at the forefront of the shopping experience, particularly due to the introduction of mobile payments; a concept that is slowly rising in popularity.
Most supermarkets operate some form of reward card system and this provides them with a gold mine of data on their regular customers. This is being analyzed and used in an increasingly sophisticated way – with shops able to target individuals with personalized offers based on the items they regularly put in their basket.
Whether it’s stock control, staff management, cutting waste, targeted offers or an augmented shopping experience – supermarkets are harnessing technology in a big way to try to attract and retain customers.