​Five Emerging Trends Supermarket Retailers Should Keep on their Radars

by Andrew Hoeft | Oct 1, 2016 12:00:00 AM

In an ever-changing world of consumer trends and habits, supermarkets have had to adjust to shifting demands and new consumer interests in order to rise to the top. With increased competition between supermarkets and high expectations from consumers, being aware of these emerging trends can give retailers a boost in the market.

1. Transparency and authenticity

Consumers have unparalleled access to information surrounding products and are using this information to leverage consumer expectations. We are in an era where transparency is key. Consumers crave authenticity from their retailers, particularly authenticity as it relates to the expectation of items being fresh. With a push for fresh products and the appeal of farm-to-table narratives, retailers must improve their source reporting to give consumers what they want. With improved technology, retailers have more data available than ever before in regards to the origins, packaging, shipping, and delivery lives of their products. Consumers need information they can trust and they want that information presented in an engaging format that is both readable and accessible. They are looking to retailers to provide the proof.

2. Convenience, flexibility, and convergence

A fast-pace world demands a fast-paced, hassle-free retail experience. Consumers are looking to retailers to merge their demands for new experiences and to create new formats that integrate these experiences into one-stop shops. In order to meet these varied needs, retailers must be prepared to scale their operations to fit changing trends in format, technology, and equipment–a flexible infrastructure is key. Convenient stores are beginning to provide services similar to restaurants, grocery stores are beginning to look like restaurants, and restaurants are beginning to serve refrigerated items like those of the grocery store. As store concepts converge, maintaining a consistent brand identity will be crucial. Being open to change is the first step to remaining ahead of the converging retail game.

3. Changes in regulations

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), refrigerant regulation changes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and changes to the nutrition facts labels by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are all emerging this year.

FSMA will contribute to the the assurance of food integrity and safety, as well as aid in the reduction of product waste. By collecting and utilizing data at all points of the food chain–from packaging, delivery, to shelving–gathering accurate information surrounding food integrity will be made easier through FSMA. This move will keep grocers in the know, and keep consumers informed on the authenticity of their products. Farm-to-table freshness is in, and this act will uphold trust in this story.

Regulations from the EPA address refrigerants and energy efficiency through the implementation of specifically-designed equipment meant to replace previous systems.Retailers must invest in new approved and tested refrigerants in order to meet the new guidelines.

Staying ahead of the industry will therefore require retailers to stay up-to-date on changing regulations and their effects over the next few years.

4. Updating and maintaining a workforce

As technology and processes evolve, the skills required for the workforce are also changing. It’s been increasingly difficult to maintain a skilled workforce in the face of fast-paced change and aging technical employees without a new generation to step in.

Retailers can take steps to streamline their operational tasks, so as to create a more supportive environment for the current workforce. Employing user-centered and user-friendly designs, intuitive technology, and simplified operational processes will go a long way in securing the future of the workforce. Allowing associates to focus on the human-aspect of the business will not only shift the focus from operational concerns to customer engagement, but also increase employee satisfaction and efficacy.

5. Picking a direction to grow

Current trends in consumer habits demand large-scale, diverse infrastructure and small format niche markets. What we are seeing is a reduction in the number of new retail businesses, and an increase in the number of retailers changing their formats. Grocers are either opting for larger operations by way of consolidating with smaller chains or they are opting for a more specialized approach to the services they offer as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Both of these trends require traditional supermarkets to rethink their approaches to services provided and consumer engagement tactics in order to compete in the heavily-driven online markets and alternative approaches to grocery delivery methods.

An evaluation of priorities is clearly needed to secure a direction for the future. Supermarkets must be flexible in meeting consumer demands for authenticity, convenience, and integrated retail experiences. Moving with the trends and incorporating technology at all stages will make moving forward easier and make competing in the market more feasible.

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