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Study: Shoppers keen for element of control over automated grocery

Automated grocery shopping replenishment, where commodities are automatically delivered to a customer’s home before or as they run out of that item, would be embraced by consumers – but they still want some element of control.

That was one of the key findings from Oracle’s latest annual research into shopper habits, expectations and requirements, which indicated that consumers are open to automation when composing weekly grocery shopping lists. But they don’t want items arriving on their doorstep without their final say-so.

Some 48% of shoppers think online automatic replenishment would be important to their experience in the future, but 33% think it would be creepy for supermarkets to ship grocery items based on purchase, social and environmental data.

The research showed that 40% would be impressed if supermarkets used technology to suggest a shopping list without automatically charging them for those items.

Tesco and Ocado are two grocery retailers in the UK that are experimenting with this type of technology, with the former a keen user of IFTTT [If This Then That] – a platform that allows tech-savvy shoppers to set up automated online shopping rules.

Tesco has experimented with rules such as ‘If I hit my Fitbit target then add a cake to my online shopping basket’. Essentially, the grocer’s account holders can connect to hundreds of services to help automate certain aspects of online shopping.

Jeff Warren, VP of solution management at Oracle Retail, says that this type of interaction could be really powerful as more data sets related to consumers are shared and combined, and as the internet of things evolution gains momentum.

He commented: “We’re going to get to the stage where the inputs from smart devices in the store and home are connected with buying behaviour and customer profile, and expose that visibility on services from the likes of Apple and Google which allow the consumer to interact with the physical and virtual world.

“And it will make the process seamless and easy. Doing that means auto replenishment becomes a lot less scary because now it’s like a butler serving you versus being intrusive.”

Oracle’s survey of 15,000 global consumers, titled Retail in 4D: Understanding Consumer Behaviour in an Age of Relativity, also found that flexible return options, personalised offers and competitive pricing are essential to consumers across retail.

In terms of other future-gazing technology, 48% of consumers want to use virtual reality at home to navigate a personalised in-store experience and receive home delivery, while 39% think robot assistance would be creepy – a sentiment that spanned all age groups.

Warren’s view on launching new technology when return on investment and success factors cannot easily be predicted is to move fast and get rapid consumer feedback by putting it out in the real world.

“With the cloud and the speed at which projects can move, from the point of starting the project or initial pilot to the go-live date, things that used to be measured in months are now measured in weeks,” he said.

“Don’t let your organisation inertia make it take months. Allow it to take weeks and allow it to be wrong, but be willing to correct and adapt. You have a strategy, you roll it out and then you listen to your customers – but do that with speed and haste because those that are conservative in that model are falling further and further behind.”