How personalisation could influence every aspect of the future supermarket

Kantar has released a report with its vision for the way people will shop and the preparations and investments retailers will need to make.

16 May 2019
image credit: Getty Images

Personalisation is the name of the game if supermarkets want to be competitive in the future. That, at least, is the view of Kanter Worldpanel.

As part of a new report, the market insight company predicts in-store technology that will tap into physical devices embedded in the human body to deliver customised information.

Personal microchip implants are an idea that has been floated by Sainsbury’s as well, though the retailer sees them as predominantly recording people’s health data and alerting supermarkets to the food they need delivered.

Kantar’s vision is of a shopper (in its example female) who navigates the aisles accompanied by targeted messages based on purchase history and product preferences:

“Much of this information is seamlessly transmitted to her physically embedded SmartSystem which long ago replaced many of the functions of her external phone,” it noted. “Because the SmartSystem is part of her physical body, it allows her to hear content without the use of speakers or earbuds. Other shoppers wandering around the store are using older, handheld systems, but she is an early adopter.”

Forget just displays with price, the information delivered about products will be a lot more sophisticated, with details on ingredients, nutrition, origins and sourcing, alongside peer reviews of the product. From time to time, shopper queries will connect to centralised store information systems run by an artificial intelligence agent who will manage a brief conversation, the report adds.

Technology will also improve the interaction through AI. Standing in the meat department might generate a conversation with a TV chef’s disembodied voice, discussing different options for dinner along with considerations for side courses. Alternatively, shoppers could be able to engage a known brand spokesperson in the aisle.

Shopping for staples will also be a thing of the past as regular replenishment of everyday items will be automatic.

Next level in-store monitoring

Big Brother will be watching, if the Kantar report is anything to go by, with forecasts that the facial and emotional reactions to new offerings will be noted and collected as part of the store monitoring process.

Robots will be whizzing around the store, advising shoppers in the produce section on the ripeness of the melons and providing recommendations for wine. These bots will also stock shelves, unload trucks, scan shelves and reorder products.

But this tech invasion will not just come from the retailer side. In customer homes, virtual or robotic shopping ‘assistants’ will aid in searches, interactions, and connecting to media and multiple-mode communications. Grocers should anticipate accommodating and enabling these assistants when engaging with future shoppers, said the report.

The store manager will also be walking the floor using a device to check perishables, including when fresh produce is about to go off, monitoring the chilled range for uneven cooling, as well as leakage from cases, along with deli hygiene at the back counter to verify adherence to cleaning processes.

Future 3D printing of new food ingredients will also open the door to increasingly customised flavours and textures not currently known, it said.

According to Kantar, the entire store will be, essentially, a concierge service, drawing on personal preferences at all stages of the shopping experience.

Even as the shopper drives home and recalls something non-urgent they forgot to purchase, they can simply tell the car, which will pass it along to the house, where it will be added to their next delivery order.


The store layout

  • In 2011, 49% of shoppers reported using the centre store and perimeter equally, but by 2018 that had dropped to 40%. Nearly four in 10 shoppers to conventional grocery stores today shop the perimeter exclusively.
  • In its current state, the seemingly endless proliferation of items available across categories has crowded the space and made item selection difficult, sometimes beyond the capacity of most shoppers to navigate, said Kantar. While producing enormous financial incentives for retailers, having endless choice and full aisles of comparable products are no longer a positive aspect for shoppers overall.
  • Instead, personalisation will come into it. For example, an embedded screen in a specialty cheese case could consult a customer’s likes, while the deli case might remember a preference for smoked turkey and suggest another item with a strong affinity.

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