t's easy to think that technology exists in a bubble that doesn't affect something as ageless as the store-customer dynamic. Few shoppers are thinking about cloud-based databases and algorithms as they're doing the squeeze test on a red plum. However, the right technology driven food brokers can enhance the shopping experience even if the products being sold are as far from the technology sphere as possible. Yes, tech-smart grocery brokers can use technology to actually increase the "tangibility factor" in grocery stores. Here's a look at four ways tech-savvy food brokers help retailers of all sizes meet the on-demand expectations of today's customers.
Empty shelves are bad for business. One of the most important ways that technology enhances the in-store shopping experience is by creating seamless stocking to ensure that customers are never met with bare shelves. While a lot has been made about shortages, all retailers know that empty shelves aren't necessarily caused by shortages. They are instead caused by poor data that prevents retailers from aligning replenishment practices with real-time demand. In addition to keeping track of inventory, grocery-centric technologies can use data points to detect purchasing patterns to alleviate shelf voids based on weekly, monthly, and seasonal trends. Next, the food broker employing the technology can then work with a store manager to discuss potential changes in ordering frequency or volume when incongruence is detected because customer demand and shelf volume are mismatched.
Stores miss out on foot traffic when they aren't up to speed with manufacturer promotions. When brands roll out promotions, they often provide stores with displays and signage that serve as free marketing tools. When store managers aren't on the ball with communication about promotions for whatever reason, it's easy for promotions to come and go without notice. Tech-savvy food brokers ensure that no promotion slips by because they use technology to plan in-store promotions for all of the stores in their territories. Retailers enjoy notifications about promotions, automatic signage delivery, and reminders about when promotions are set to expire.
Tech-savvy food brokers can offer better communication and customer service that ultimately gets passed down to the retail customer shopping in a store. In the past, grocery and retail store owners dreaded the thought of reaching out to brand representatives whenever they had questions or concerns because they were likely to get caught in a loop of emails and voicemails without ever actually getting a prompt answer to a time-sensitive question. Even getting a food rep on the phone wasn't always helpful because they needed to dig for information to be able to answer questions. That often meant waiting to get back to the office from a store visit.
"A 2021 NielsenIQ survey showed that when confronted with empty shelves, 20% of U.S. consumers postponed their purchase, 10% of consumers purchased the item elsewhere, and 16% of consumers shifted to an online source, leading to retailers losing 46% of possible sales," according to NielsenIQ.
Tech-savvy food brokers don't operate that way. They instead use cloud-based data systems to pull reports in real time to provide retailers with answers about product availability, recalls, delays, promotions, performance, and more. They also communicate through email and messaging to provide quick, accurate answers regardless of where they're working from on any given day.
Grocers and retailers aren't in it to simply let products waste away on shelves. They also don't necessarily have the infrastructure to make high-level, insight-driven decisions that will reduce unsold inventory. Tech-savvy food brokers can provide data-driven insights into how everything from specific products to niche product categories are performing. What's more, they can give retailers the edge by informing them of up-and-coming categories that customers are looking for when shopping at stores. Being the "first and only" store in town to get an up-and-coming product in stock can be a big deal for a store's foot traffic.
It's clear that the future of C-stores is digitization. However, that doesn't necessarily mean building a store that looks like "the store of the future." It can also mean building a store that performs like the store of the future without necessarily making any infrastructure changes to the layout at all. Tech-savvy food vendors provide insights for creating a tech-driven, seamless shopping experience that customers don't even realize has been touched by technology from every angle. Customers simply get the experience of shopping in a store stocked with the items they want at locally competitive rates. Tech makes the tangible more tangible for today's shoppers.
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Kerrie creates web content in a number of venues. He specializes in researching business and technology affairs and putting pen to paper.