The Great Retail Explosion of 2017

Technology Opportunities

Diana Sheenan, a director on the grocery channel retail team at Kantar Retail, says retailers will need to work at finding the right balance of technology and in-person service to maximize the consumer experience. “If people want that quick, fast, convenient trip, they’ll go online to buy groceries. Then if they want a little bit more, they’ll go to the store because it’s truly different.”

In fact, Whole Foods could become a testing ground for a range of technologies Amazon is developing, such as the self-checkout Amazon has been experimenting with — reportedly with little success — at its Amazon Go store in Seattle.

“I can see them using Whole Foods stores as a way to test new ideas in grocery,” says Sheehan. “I think there are going to be changes for both Whole Foods and Amazon that ultimately lead to further innovation in grocery. We don’t know yet until they start testing some of these things in stores what might stick and what might not.”

Bill Bishop, chief architect at Barrington, IL-based Brick Meets Click says there may be opportunities for technology innovators to improve self-scanning systems, particularly when it comes to produce. Although some retailers have been hesitant to embrace self-scan systems because of the perceived potential for theft, consumers who have learned to use the devices enjoy them, he says.

The self-scan systems pose challenges for produce, however, because of the random weight of many of the products. “As a shopper, there is a fair amount of more work that needs to be done when buying random weight versus fixed weight products. Somebody’s got to simplify that in terms of the interface between the random weight scale, scanner and POS system.”