Towards Touchless Shopping: The Smart Supermarket Boom is Imminent

The connections are getting more digital than ever. The enhanced worldwide standards, economic conditions, disposable incomes, increasing population, and technological advancements, have provided consumers with the luxury to choose from the plethora of options available. The rapidly changing lifestyles restrict time allowance when it comes to activities like shopping for groceries. The year 2020 will be marked in history as the one where we strived to avoid physical contact to stay safe from the pandemic of COVID-19. In such a scenario, Smart Supermarkets and touchless shopping have gained tremendous traction, supplementing a great way to incorporate some essential hygiene and distance requirements.

Touchless Shopping: What does it entail?

The uncertainties regarding the impact of the Coronavirus on health, jobs, and economy, have shown shifting trends in consumer behavior. The shoppers across the globe are trying to refrain from touching in the stores, and opting for contactless transactions. The studies also show that the virus can survive for many days on hard surfaces and 24 hours on cardboard. Therefore, many enterprises have already begun accommodating contactless payments, delivery, and pickup. Retailers are welcoming the new consumer trend and are putting in efforts for an adequate response to such needs.

The touchless technologies range from contactless payment services to the futuristic sidewalk robots and delivery drones. The general population is enthusiastic about these, since they facilitate social distancing. The trend of contactless technologies was anticipated, with the retail world facing huge challenges during the Coronavirus outbreak. Online retailers and grocery stores are swarming with new shoppers. Contactless technologies are going to be the part of the equation, with state and federal governments evaluating the repercussions once the economy is reopened.

Smart Supermarket: The Mechanism

The consumer demands and preferences are undergoing radical changes. The predisposition for quick and efficient solutions has led to the establishment of ‘smart’ entities. The unswerving expansion of technologies has ensured the advent of the smart supermarket to the list of ‘smart’ technologies. They demand broad transparency and personalization with regard to grocery, so they can make informed choices that supplement health goals, dietary needs, etc.

There is little to no doubt that groundbreaking technologies and innovations will radically change the shopping experience. Few examples of these include the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), drones, 3D printing, blockchain technology, etc.

Robotics are already utilized for assisting customers, serving meals, scanning aisles for misplaced, and expired products. All these can be achieved at a faster pace. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., is introducing shelf-scanning robots in more than 50 US locations.

Automation will be an instrumental element of the smart supermarket in the future, which will aid in reduced costs and enable staff to prioritize work that would enhance the shopping experience. Data-driven inventory management allows automatic tracking of in-store stock levels. AI and Machine Learning have proved their mettle in recommending products and promotional decisions. The key IoT technologies that would benefit the supermarket shelf technology are Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs), Weight Sensors, Video Cameras, Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) tags, etc.

Shifting trends also bring new challenges. The smart supermarket needs to cater to the upcoming trends like smaller households, the aging population, omnichannel mindset, the digital revolution, customization, convenience, etc. In the case of the retail industry, considerable changes have been witnessed. There has been a channel change from offline to online and omnichannel, along with partnerships & acquisitions, urban formats, growing micro brands, etc.