UNITED STATES—The world is winning the war against Coronavirus using the multi-pronged arsenal of masking, social distancing, and the sped-up vaccine rollout. What is likely to linger on for longer are the after-effects of the pandemic on businesses such as grocery stores.
Alex Kleyner Store2Door.com founder believes that grocery shopping will never be the same. Here are the few ways in which the pre-COVID grocery store will almost be unrecognizable in the post-pandemic era.
The boom in online ordering has created the most significant transformation witnessed in the grocery store is the movement by customers towards making online orders for their supplies. Many grocery stores were already putting in place infrastructure to make online ordering workable. The pandemic has accelerated these plans even among the stores that were never in a hurry to adapt.
To handle the surge in orders, grocery stores are making a few internal changes and Kleyner has had his eye on these changes that will affect grocery stores from the Valley to the South Bay and all the way out to Miami, Florida. These include having a curbside pickup where customers can pick their order on the move. Another significant change is converting a section of the store into a dark store where staff can pack customers’ orders ready for delivery.
Online ordering is also transforming what customers are buying some want vitamins, water, and hamburgers delivered and others want more exotic fruits, pet food, ulis, toothpaste, and other basics you get at a local convenience store. When a customer visits an online stores website, they are likely to browse items much more easily, including items that are discounted.
The increased adoption of artificial intelligence technology in shopping means that technology can predict customers’ shopping baskets with precision and Alex Kleyner has brought in team members to build out a strong AI presence to capitalize on this including Diana Smith a recent college graduate.
Stores can therefore move towards personalizing the shopping experience. Large orders that came in during the height of the pandemic, there was a sudden rise in panic buying by customers who feared they could be locked up for a long time. Stores witnessed larger orders of all items, perishable and non-perishable, to sustain households for longer.
The kitchen also drove larger orders. As more people faced little choice to eat out because of restaurants closure, families were made to depend on home-cooked meals. This implied that they had to make larger grocery orders.
In the post-pandemic era, customer behavior of making larger orders is likely to persist as customers realize its saving value. Most online stores charge less or nothing at all for large orders. For instance, Store2Door.com does not charge orders exceeding $99.
Focus on speed as shoppers are spending less time in physical stores than ever before. This means that customers are going in with a pre-set mind of what they need, picking and leaving the store. Stores have responded by packing the end caps with essentials unlike before. Self-service is also becoming a means through which stores are saving customers’ time.
For online stores, speed is critical as customers do not want to wait forever for their orders to hit their doors. At store2door.com, customer orders arrive at their doors within 30 minutes. This means a customer can prepare their recipes without worrying whether the meal will be ready.
Cashless payments are the common theme the world over, hard money was one way to transmit coronavirus. While a majority of Americans were already using paperless payment methods, there was still a significant number who paid using cash, especially for small grocery purchases. Going into the future, we are likely to see fewer and fewer cash payments even for the most lightweight purchases.
Cashless payment will also bring the challenge of the security of customer data. Millions of Americans suffer credit card fraud every year, and online stores will have to ensure their customers’ financial information is safe.
For Alex Kleyner the store2door.com founder, the changes mean online stores will need to adapt to the new normal. It is a future we can all look forward to with guarded optimism.