GlobeSt.com: How is in-store technology changing to address the needs of customers?
Prebanda: In addition to efficiencies in the customer POS checkout experience, we also see an opportunity for consumers to have access to more information, on the fly, within their grocer experience. There are already technologies readily available on mobile devices, when used in combination with cameras and product SKU’s, to gather health, product comparatives, pricing and availability information. We are seeing some stores begin to offer more connectivity and engage their customers in more data-driven decision making. Technology is changing everything about how we live, work, play and shop. The grocer industry is adapting to these technologies and providing customers with tremendous potential for a more efficient experience. At the end of the day, humans are social animals. Even with technological advancements, there will always be a need for social engagement, and the grocery store has and will always be one of those places.
GlobeSt.com: How will other grocers need to respond to the Amazon/Whole Foods deal to remain competitive?
Prebanda: They will have to adapt and evolve from a technology standpoint, but more importantly, a focus on a heightened customer experience. In larger formats, we have seen greater organic offerings, cheese markets and fresh rolled sushi. While these programs have added to customer experience, we see a large change in some of the smaller specialty markets. In these formats, experience plays an even more important role. We are seeing a much deeper focus on curated, artisanal food offerings, as well as in-store dining. From organic juice cleanses to fresh-made organic pizzas – customers who choose to shop in-store want a more unique experience.
GlobeSt.com: How will the physical design of grocery stores change with the inclusion of ecommerce platforms?
Prebanda: Like we’ve discussed, we believe that there can be a balance between commodity-based ecommerce and in-store customer experiences. Stores will strive to keep customers coming back and staying involved with their brands. Through providing a more unique offering, and a more efficient customer experience overall, stores will keep customers coming back. We do anticipate the overall format of stores to become more condensed, as a result of commodity purchases online. That will leave stores to focus the majority of their design intentionality on non-commodity based goods like meats, fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as ready-food offerings.
Additionally, designing for these more unique offerings can include a variety of indoor and outdoor specialty spaces, such as plazas, parklets and outdoor patios. In sum, we see the physical design of stores focusing more intentionality on customer efficiency and experience.