The grocery store of today has been greatly modernized from the grocery store of twenty-five years ago. The breadth of products, private label, specialty departments and the atmosphere are very different. However, unlike non-grocery retail—where today is drastically different than 25 years ago—the process of grocery shopping today is still stuck in the past. Most non-grocery shopping today begins online and 20% is completed online, while the majority of today’s grocery shopping does not begin with an online search and only 3% is actually done online.

In the last several weeks, however, COVID-19 has changed the game for grocery shopping. Today. online grocery orders are most often picked from store shelves by surrogate shoppers and either picked up in store (BOPIS) or delivered to home (BODTH). The problem is that surrogate shoppers follow the same process as traditional shoppers, walking through the aisles to pick the groceries needed for each order. Depending on the size of the store and the number of items sold, the maximum percentage of the total business that will fit in the aisle of the store is between 6% and 10%.

The success of BODTH in very large cities and BOPIS everywhere else in these COVID-19 times is tripling, going from 3% to 9% of the total. The problem is that once customers experience BOPIS and/or BODTH, they most likely will not return to doing their own shopping and thus COVID-19 will change the world of grocery forever. The grocery store of the future will be more experimental, more fun and more entertaining, and will deploy a variety of automated material handling systems and robotic solutions to manage the new day-to-day operations without disrupting the customer experience. I believe COVID-19 will have a major impact on grocery stores going forward, and all grocers must respond to this new reality of shopping and realize it is a whole new ball game.

This is part of our new blog series on the impacts of COVID-19. Be sure to check back daily for each installment. Learn more about the impacts in the related articles below or visit our newsroom to stay up to date on our latest news.

About the Author
Jim Tompkins
Jim Tompkins