Hot global retail tech trends impacting grocery

Here is IGD's five hot trends expected to impact retail in the coming years, shaping the global food and grocery industry. 

1. Physical gets digital

As online shopping continues to grow and the world becomes increasingly digitalised, we expect to see more physical stores embracing new digital technologies to ensure they remain relevant and competitive. Currently, physical stores do have the advantage when it comes to satisfying shoppers instantly. We expect to see stores make it easier for shoppers to locate products in-store or find more product information.

Retailers will innovate with technology to aid the shopping trip, particularly around improving stock management and enabling a quicker and smoother shopping trip, especially at checkout. We have already seen Amazon open Amazon Go, where shoppers can ‘Just Walk Out’ and be automatically charged without queuing

By using technology in new and innovative ways, retailers will improve their ability to effectively communicate with consumers and make shopping easier.

2. Convenience is critical

We are seeing a huge shift in shopper expectations when it comes to getting what they want, when they want. Receiving their goods in the most convenient way possible is increasingly important. But to meet the needs of different shoppers, retailers will need to take a more flexible approach to their stores’ strategies by adapting their ranges and offers by location.

We expect food-to-go and food-for-later concepts will continue to evolve, and retailers are stepping up their offers, both in-store and online, to help shoppers live more convenient lives.

But we also see delivery as a key battleground for retailers. As retailers strive to become even more convenient they will start experimenting with solutions that meet changing shopper expectations. Last summer, Sainsbury’s launched an app called Chop Chop, which allows users in parts of London to order goods from their local store and have them delivered to their home within one hour. The goods are delivered by bicycle via a third-party distributor.

3. Fresh perspective

Health and wellness will continue to be important for retailers and shoppers, so we expect increased investment from the industry in these areas.

To help shoppers and consumers live healthier lifestyles, we will see retailers expand their private label ranges, create designated zones in-store, develop fresh-focused formats and offer more tailored, added-value services online.

Ocado has even introduced a ‘calorie saver’ feature on its website. As a shopper nears the checkout stage of their shop they are offered lower calorie alternative products, while Finland’s S Group cut the price of its domestic vegetable lines to encourage shoppers to eat more healthily.

'Better-for-you', 'clean eating' and 'free-from' private label brands will continue to be among the fastest growing, and therefore a key area of focus for retailers.

4. Instant ordering technology

We live in an increasingly ‘on-demand’ world where consumers expect an easy and more convenient shopping experience. One-click and voice ordering are helping to answer this need.

We saw Amazon launch its Dash Button and Alexa in Europe during 2016. This has resulted in other companies trying to introduce instant (re)ordering systems, as well as click and voice ordering. Samsung recently partnered with Australian retailer Woolworths to link the Woolworths retail app with its smart fridge, which can automatically reorder food by monitoring food levels in the fridge and connecting to a shopping list

Companies utilising one-click and voice ordering can ‘lock’ shoppers in and create loyalty. While, for brands, by becoming the ‘brand of choice’ they have the potential to eliminate competition.

The ‘Internet of Things’ is likely to help make these devices more common, but ultimately it could make them redundant, as automated reordering technologies surpass one-click and voice ordering.

5. Pushing boundaries

Retailers and online marketplaces are expanding their reach by agreeing on trading deals and we expect to see more of these developments in the year ahead through partnerships and innovation.

Partnering is a low-risk and cost-effective opportunity to increase a retailer’s global appeal while gaining a good understanding of the local market. Walmart has launched a Walmart Global store on JD Worldwide,’s cross-border platform, promoting cross-border trade with non-competitive partners.

We also expect marketplaces to enhance the customer user experience by pioneering and testing some of the latest tech innovations, such as virtual reality (VR).

During its Single’s Day sales event, Alibaba experimented with VR devices to enable shoppers to walk around a virtual Macy’s store in New York and buy products, despite the retailer not having a physical store in China.

Next steps and more insights

Retailers and manufacturers are having to rethink their existing ways of working and business models to keep up with the increasing number of disruptive operators in the market. This is prompting waves of innovation worldwide. It offers a unique opportunity for companies to borrow from the best of these ideas and create a new winning formula.

No longer can retailers just look to their geographically nearest competitor to benchmark themselves against. They need to have their eyes on the world to ensure they are staying relevant and up-to-date.