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For a traditionally low-margin industry such as grocery, digital technology can drive operational efficiencies that reduce costs, says Dave Conroy of FiServ.

3 ways grocers can unlock new value in a digitally driven world

Connecting digital and physical shopping has become essential to grocery retailers’ future success

Dave Conroy is a board member of the National Grocers Association and is senior vice president of Grocery Solutions at Fiserv, a global provider of payments and financial services technology solutions. The views expressed here are those of the author.


There has been a dramatic shift in how consumers expect to interact with their grocer, including how they pay for their purchases. Consumer demand for omnichannel experiences and advanced digital commerce solutions, including curbside pickup, online ordering with delivery, scan-and-go and touchless payment options, has propelled the proliferation of these capabilities and continued to drive growth for the industry. Online grocery sales grew 54% in 2020 to reach $96 billion.

As grocers continue to transform how they engage with their customers, delivering a true omnichannel experience that seamlessly connects digital and physical shopping has become essential to future success. Here are three innovative strategies grocers are using to deliver new value using omnichannel commerce, and how those tactics enhance their customers’ shopping experience.

1. Reimagining Omnichannel Buying Experiences

Customers want convenience when purchasing in-store and online. As omnichannel commerce options grow in popularity among consumers, the checkout experience is no longer tied to a single transaction point — it is woven through the entire customer interaction. Curbside pickup, online ordering, QR codes and mobile apps can all integrate or facilitate payments in a seamless way that enhances the overall customer experience.

For example, one of our grocery clients wanted to offer customers the option to complete an entire transaction digitally, even while they were browsing the aisles in store. An integration of commerce capabilities into the grocer’s proprietary mobile application provided their customers the option to pay via a QR code, accrue loyalty points, redeem coupons and promotions, browse online and interact with the grocer.   

Another example of enhancing omnichannel experiences is through geolocation. We helped a national grocery chain implement hyperlocal geolocation for order placement to create a better holistic shopping experience. Customers can search for items online, then learn which local store has that item in stock — a specific flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, for example — instead of driving to the neighborhood store only to find that Cherry Garcia is out of stock. In addition, this discovery process can let the customer know if curbside pickup is an option at that specific location.

Providing customers with the information they need, via any channel, helps keep them engaged and coming back for more. 

2. Connecting Digital and Physical

Grocers have spent years adding services designed to make the grocery store a destination at which consumers can do much more than pick up bread and milk. This includes enhancements like pharmacies, kiosks to manage banking or pay bills, and more immersive experiences such as wine tasting or cooking classes.

As pandemic-associated restrictions recede, grocers should consider their strategy for rebuilding loyalty with the in-store shopper, taking into account the digital-first mindset of the post-pandemic consumer.

For instance, grocers can use their digital engagement channels to understand who their customers are, what they are buying and target specific audiences with personalized experiences. Consider the shopper who regularly purchases red wine and hard cheeses through a grocery app. By understanding what the customer likes to buy, and where they are located, the grocer can invite that customer to a wine-and-cheese pairing class in their neighborhood market, and offer a discount on their favorite bottle of vino if they attend.

3. Operational Efficiencies through Payments

For a traditionally low-margin industry such as grocery, digital technology can drive operational efficiencies that reduce costs. Consider the example we already discussed, such as a grocer driving digital payment volume in-store through their mobile app. By connecting their own mobile wallet for in-store payments, that grocer can increase the volume of ACH payments, thereby lowering acceptance costs compared to credit-card transactions. In addition, driving commerce through an owned digital channel will limit costs associated with third-party integrations. Many technical aspects of payments security, such as tokenization, also can be addressed at lower costs when utilizing a holistic omnichannel commerce offering such as Carat from Fiserv.

By maximizing their omnichannel commerce strategies, grocers can thrive in the digital technology era, advancing operational efficiency, improving loyalty and increasing profits. For grocers who want to stay ahead of the competition and increase revenue, omnichannel commerce is a cornerstone to building consistent experiences that create happy customers.

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