The razor-thin margins of the supermarket industry are a longstanding cause for innovation, creativity, and efficiency. From coupons to giving out free samples in the aisle, grocers are experts at finding new ways to engage and retain customers.
It’s no surprise then, that grocery retailers are on the forefront of automation in the store. From self-checkout and deli ordering kiosks to floor-cleaning robots and smart shelves, automation is revolutionizing the way we shop for groceries. In this blog post, we will explore the multiple facets of grocery store automation and how they are reshaping the future of retail.
Self-checkout comes in all shapes and sizes
Self-service kiosks have quickly become a staple in modern grocery stores. They allow shoppers to scan and pay for their items independently, reducing lines and helping grocers offset labor challenges.
As it evolves, self-checkout technology has grown to include a variety of form factors suited for stores of all kinds. From bulky, belted checkout machines to sleek, minimal kiosks, grocers can choose to deploy one or even two types of self-checkout kiosks to reduce lines and provide customers with great convenience.
Deli ordering: tap, order, and pick up when it’s convenient
The days of waiting in long lines at the deli counter are gradually fading away with the introduction of a new type of grocery automation: self-ordering at the deli. Top grocery retailers now offer touchscreen kiosks or mobile apps that enable customers to place their deli orders digitally. From selecting the desired cut of meat to specifying the thickness, these automated systems allow for precise customization.
Grocers can put deli order kiosks at the deli counter, where shoppers can skip the line and put their order in while they finish up other shopping. Or, they can place kiosks at the front of the store, saving shoppers an extra trip to the deli counter.
Deli automation not only saves time for customers but also can increase cart sizes by showing personalized offers and current promotions. The best part? This technology is confined to the deli counter – bakery, sandwich shops, coffee stations, and more can all benefit from automated self-ordering.
Modern price checkers have big aspirations (with the same small footprint)
In-aisle price checkers save grocers time and resources on individually pricing items (which will then have to be re-priced when they go on sale). However, beyond fulfilling regulatory requirements and showing prices, price checking kiosks have typically been a missed opportunity.
That is changing with smart product discovery kiosks that go far beyond showing prices. With modern price checkers, shoppers can:
- See rich product information, including nutrition, allergy information, and more
- Find recommended pairings and recipes
- View current promotions via digital advertising
These features bring automation and personalization into a long-stagnant feature of the in-aisle experience.
The robot in the dairy aisle
Robots have ventured beyond science fiction and are finding a practical application in supermarkets. These helpful automatons perform various tasks, such as taking inventory and notifying employees of shelves that need to be restocked, cleaning store aisles, and even providing customer assistance. Equipped with advanced sensors and artificial intelligence, robots can efficiently navigate through crowded spaces while avoiding obstacles.
While this technology is still early, with the help of AI and shrinking price tags, in-aisle robots could be the norm in the coming years in the same way that order picking robots have become an integral part of the modern warehouse.
Smart shelves, smarter inventory management
Smart shelves are transforming the way grocery stores manage their inventory. These shelves are equipped with sensors that monitor product levels in real-time. When an item is removed from the shelf, the sensor detects the change, updating the inventory status in the store’s system and alerting staff of the need to restock the shelf.
This technology streamlines the inventory management process, reducing the likelihood of out-of-stock situations and minimizing the need for manual stock checks. With accurate data at their disposal, store managers can optimize their supply chain, improve stock placements, and ensure that popular items are always available for customers.
Is the grocery store of the future checkout-free?
“Grab and go” or checkout-free stores represent the pinnacle of grocery store automation, offering a truly futuristic shopping experience. Customers can walk in, grab the items they need, and leave without having to deal with traditional, or even self-checkout checkout procedures. This feat is achieved through a combination of advanced technologies, including computer vision, RFID tags, and smart shelves. As shoppers pick up products, the system automatically detects the items and charges their account accordingly.
This technology, however, relies on users having an app already on their phone. For the majority of shoppers, it will be easier to quickly scan their items at checkout for quick trips to the store.
Checkout free stores also face challenges for larger trips to the supermarket, where shoppers will still need some form of checkout in order to bag their items. But, when it does work, this experience can be the fastest and simplest way to shop in-store.
Grocery store automation is here, and it’s already reshaping the retail landscape, providing an array of benefits for both shoppers and retailers. However, while automation provides numerous advantages, maintaining a balance between efficient technology and user-friendly, welcoming interactions is crucial. To achieve this balance, grocery store automation will have to be rolled out in a way that still meets the needs and preferences of the average shopper.
Aila is at the forefront of grocery automation with smart deli ordering, price checking, and self-checkout. Get our free grocery brochure to learn how these solutions can be developed, deployed, and scaled with ease in your stores:
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