- Hannaford recently unveiled digital updates to a store Portland, Maine aimed at offering a more interactive shopping experience. Hannaford wants to determine if the new touchscreens, digital shelves and other tech tools will increase sales and provide a better customer experience. The Portland location was selected because of its large size and proximity to Hannaford headquarters.
- The features are being piloted in the health, beauty and lifestyle section of the Portland location. Some shelves are equipped with sensors that know which products have been picked up, which will then allow a customer to see more detailed product information on a nearby tablet. The newly redesigned section also includes digital displays that show ads for products and larger touchscreens for customers to get more information about health and pharmacy products, health conditions and more.
- As part of the digital concept pilot, Hannaford also hired an in-store nutritionist to provide advice to customers and has added about 1,500 new products with an emphasis on locally-made, natural and organic items.
Last year was all about introducing more interesting, experiential and fresh, food-focused features to grocery stores, but it appears that popcorn bars and DIY meal kits aren’t enough. Customers are moving regularly between online and in-store shopping, so the next logical step is to bring technology to them while they are in a brick-and-mortar location. In 2019, the grocery industry will likely see more retailers deploy technology in stores, such as endless aisle and scan-and-go technology.
Ahold Delhaize announced big plans in November to invest in omnichannel experiences and offer new in-store features at many of its U.S. banners, most notably Stop & Shop, which generates the most sales for Ahold Delhaize in the U.S. but has struggled with growth of late. The retailer says changes in stores will roll out over the next five years. Ahold Delhaize also launched Peapod Digital Media Labs Media Partnerships in November, which is connecting brands with customers both in-store and online through digital media campaigns.
Although this concept store in Portland is testing technology on a relatively small scale, the global retailer is clearly aware of the need to redefine the shopper experience and integrate technology into its physical locations as more customers seek new experiences on and offline. It will be interesting to see if these changes do in fact move the needle. Shoppers today want more information at their fingertips, and equipping stores with touchscreens, sensors and technology that can help them learn more about products or recommend complementary purchases should be a useful shopping aid.
Utilizing the health and beauty department to test technology and improve health and wellness offerings is an interesting approach to Hannaford's pilot project, and it fits with the retailers' ongoing commitment to health and well-being in response to consumer demand.
A few other retailers have started to experiment with in-store technology. In Dallas, Sam’s Club Now is piloting mobile checkout, digital shelf labels and artificial intelligence elements around the store. A Kroger store in the Columbus area is testing out digital shelf displays and in-store videos. And of course, Amazon Go technology has been much-buzzed about and will continue to expand in the coming months.
It’s still early to gauge the success of digital concepts in stores and how customers respond to them. No doubt there will be a bit of a learning curve for some shoppers, while others will gladly embrace the tools – but regardless of customer sentiment, expect to see more tech and digital tools making their way to store aisles, shelves and checkout lanes in 2019.