The Future of Self-Service in Grocery Stores

Oct 2, 2020 12:08:27 PM | 3 minute read

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed entire industries to change rapidly to adhere to new public health guidelines. While demand for food and other essentials will always exist, grocery stores are not immune to this change and have been forced to rethink store layouts to ensure the health of their customers.

So, what will it take to keep grocers agile, efficient and profitable both in the near term and the future?

Balancing a Shifting Landscape and Growing Competition

Grocers have always been faced with a lot of competition, but the nature of that competition has evolved since the start of 2020. Small stores are becoming less popular as customers are being driven to larger grocery facilities for safer, socially distanced shopping.

Over the past few years, grocery stores have made large investments in self-service stations to evoke more of a classical open-air market atmosphere designed to elevate their brand and introduce new products. Due to COVID-19, stores must now steer away from hands-on, high-touch surfaces. This includes self-serve bars that have become a new sanitation risk. Similarly, their investments in self-checkout areas also need to be re-evaluated to ensure their viability in a COVID-19 world where customers are reluctant to touch anything in public spaces.

Grocery stores are now forced to figure out what to do with these spaces and how to reconfigure them, as well as with a need to create strategies that meet elevated consumer needs. For example, even the now-expected level of cleanliness all stores should adhere to comes with challenges, such as visible sanitization and transparency that require increased staff, time and resources. Capacity limits also need to be enforced in a way that feels seamless, and foot traffic pattern modification to help promote safety precautions and distancing take careful planning.

Facility management plays a big role in planning and making these adaptations – all of which have a downstream impact on store traffic volumes and ultimately, consumer spending.

Answering the Call with Facility Management

Logistics and distribution of a large variety of products are becoming critical, as grocery stores are struggling to make sure they have the products that are going to truly sell and ensure the store isn’t sunk by tight margins.

Facility management can step up to fill that role, supporting the success of these supply chain and merchandising efforts by executing a comprehensive plan to optimize the store layout.

Whether it's brand identity, floor space, distribution or personnel, the industry is going to be very different as the pandemic progresses, and grocery stores need to adhere to ever-changing safety protocols. Self-serve products, like bakery cases, salad and hot food bars, are moving to prepackaged solutions and ready-to-eat meals. The way grocery stores maintain and deliver products has been impacted by COVID-19 and will ultimately undergo a total transformation.

At the start of COVID, there was a huge reduction in grocery traffic. A well-stocked store is something that everyone needs, but consumers are now being picky about who they're choosing, because if they're not seeing a clean, safe environment when they're in the store, they're not coming back.

Self-Service and the Transformation of Customer Service

Grocery stores are transforming their customer service, and stores are being redesigned completely to adhere to safety regulations. All the money invested in self-service has been, at least temporarily, wasted, from self-checkout to racking and distribution of baked products or dry goods.

Grocers have made drastic changes in the post pandemic world, because self-service, at least for the near term, is no longer an option.

The space used for these self-serve stations is not being redistributed with shelf stable products. Consumers are not shopping every three days with a small hand basket. Shoppers are coming in less to reduce potential COVID exposure and are using large carts. Having sanitized carts available is now a regular part of grocery store operations.

Store operators and facility managers have to work in conjunction to make sure these new adaptations are smoothly put into place in all stores across the country. Strong leadership ensures that the grocery industry will navigate these new regulations, and cross functional teams that can adapt to ever-changing commercial environments will succeed. COVID-19 is only amplifying the need for strategic road mapping in order to protect revenue and allow the grocery industry to flourish.

How Vixxo Supports Grocery Stores During the Pandemic

Grocery stores are now faced with navigating new government regulations and customer cleanliness expectations. With rapidly changing market dynamics, having a partner like Vixxo will help ensure zero equipment downtime and guarantee clean & contactless facilities. Our record of real-time innovation in integrated facilities management with rapid response service teams will allow you to meet and exceed your promises.

Beyond our expertise in equipment, and more recently since the pandemic began, we’ve supported our customers’ COVID-19 remediation needs.

You can learn more about Vixxo’s solutions for grocery stores here.