Grocers have a new opportunity to provide customers what they hunger for. It’s one thing to know what customers buy, but do you know what they value? Fundamental needs have not changed—people need to eat. But how often they eat, where they eat and what they want to eat is evolving fast. Many grocers aren’t equipped to understand how to satisfy customers’ unique and ever-changing appetites.

It is a grocer’s fundamental purpose to satisfy customer needs across all meal occasions for the family—that’s 27 meal occasions and 10 snacking occasions per week on average. These needs change every day. Customers want certain foods, but they also expect a variety of options and services, such as meal kits, pre-chopped foods, lockers or click and collect. Grocers must evolve from being the most convenient place to stock the kitchen to being the constant partner that provides the right nourishment in peoples’ lives. Grocers are offering some options, however, no one is bringing it all together.

"The food marketplace is going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 50."

– SOURCE: Future of Food, FMI + Accenture Study 2018

Grocers can build on the data they have about purchase patterns, basket and demographics and add lifestyle and psychographic information. By providing the food customers need at the moment they need it, grocers will capture greater share of stomach.

Channels and touchpoints are growing

Data is the means to customer insights—and grocers have an all-you-can-eat buffet of it. So why are some just snacking, using data to deliver offers or to plan inventory rather than using it to capitalize on meal opportunities? To be one step ahead of customers, grocers must bring together data about purchase patterns, history, basket, lifestyle and demographics to know what customers want, how they want to experience food and when.

Make insight your main ingredient

Imagine taking all the complexity out of food planning and consumption—curating all meals for the week. Data can do it. What if a platform could connect data from fitness apps, food-tracking apps, calendars, personal Pinterest boards, Instagram, Yelp reviews, online recipe boxes, YouTube and more? These rich insights combined offer a holistic picture of how customers are spending and behaving within your business, and even outside the food category. Grocers can then get smarter about what to offer and when.

Meet individual tastes

The past was about personalizing offers. The future is about personalizing every bite—and becoming highly predictive about it. Having a data-driven composite of a customer enables grocers to shape assortment and move customers in a more profitable direction. For instance, leading them from generic to private label brands. Grocers must build on the massive amount of data available, which will become even more ubiquitous and accessible.

Spark up the cart

Very few people like grocery shopping. It’s work. Grocers can enhance the experience by delivering more value for the effort—digitally and in-store. Cross-merchandise meals so that shoppers don’t have to go to three different stores to get the ingredients they need. Add way-finding to store apps to help users navigate store aisles to complete their shopping list at speed. Use analytics to improve assortment planning and space utilization, freeing up real estate in the physical store. Not every grocer can elevate shopping experiences alone. This is when ecosystem partnerships come into play.

Supercharge the supermarket

Food is part of everyday life. So why aren’t the providers of food—grocers—part of customers’ everyday lives? The opportunity is there. It’s a matter of taking bold steps to seize it.

Digitize operations to power insights

Grocers must get more predictive. To unlock insights, grocers should modernize end-to-end operations from the supply chain to field operations to IT. For instance, a digital supply chain offers visibility so grocers save costs and reduce food waste by minimizing unnecessary inventory. Optimized inventory makes it easier for customers to get what they want (fast). It also allows you to pivot quickly when trends change.

Bag traditional workforce models

The largest workforce is in the store, and the second largest is in distribution centers. Automating tasks can free up workers to focus on delivering differentiated experiences—or working in new capacities. Automation can also free up savings that can be reinvested into improving store experiences or in retraining staff. Use analytics to identify skills gaps. Continuously reskill the workforce to keep skills relevant, and partner with the ecosystem when reskilling isn’t enough. Do everything to ready the workforce to deliver differentiated experiences.

Dangle the carrot

Employees matter. Yet many grocers manage their workforce by making sure staff is compliant—not necessarily motived or incented to go above and beyond. Workers feel they are under the lens, being monitored and held accountable for completing checklists to perfection. With our current state of low unemployment and high retail turnover, grocers need to do more to attract, retain and motivate their staff.

Be your own test kitchen

Be bold and innovative to keep ideas fresh at all times. Dedicate a space to innovation where concepts can be tested, tossed aside or implemented (you’ll have the space once you optimize inventory). Adopt a fail fast mindset so that “bad” ideas are scrapped quickly without regret, and “good” ideas aren’t cast aside just because of a bad quarter. Foster a startup mentality so that everyone on the team is eager to create the next innovation. Encourage contributions from across the business and accelerate the best ideas.

Invite others to the table

You might identify capability gaps to fill—and that’s OK. As mentioned earlier, the ecosystem can contribute to fill in gaps in the workforce or in capabilities. However, partner carefully and strategically. Be sure that your business has a unique role in the ecosystem and can deliver what others cannot.

​Jill Standish

Senior Managing Director – Global Retail Consulting Practice


Matt Jeffers

Accenture Managing Director – Strategy


Steven Pinder

Managing Director – Strategy

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