Consumers’ perceptions of what it means to buy groceries have changed radically since the COVID-19 pandemic first began.
Even though grocery spending might be at all-time high — does that mean that grocery stores are busier than ever? The answer isn’t that simple.
Here’s what we do know. Now that the pandemic is no longer an unfamiliar factor, we’re starting to see new grocery store trends emerge that reflect the pandemic’s influence and dictate how grocery stores must adjust for the future in a post-pandemic world.
While it’s been a while since we saw people panic buying toilet paper, several new grocery store trends have emerged, many of which are worth exploring.
Each of the following trends should be considered by anyone working in the grocery store industry.
Read on to learn more about these trends, as well as why adapting them is essential for grocery stores looking to cater to consumers’ new expectations and food buying requirements.
1. Consumers Demand for Cleanliness and Safety
Even as vaccines and boosters become increasingly available, it’s unlikely that consumers will forget what they’ve learned about cleanliness and safety. This can be problematic for stores that relax their sanitization and cleaning schedules. Any stores that come across as being unsafe will likely experience reduced foot traffic as customers try other stores that provide a safer experience.
For example, 2021 saw a drastic drop in flu cases. Why? Because the majority of people were wearing masks, social distancing, sanitizing their hands, and practicing better overall hygiene. Likewise, many companies were using enhanced cleaning procedures, such as sanitizing carts, surfaces, and other high-traffic areas.
What can grocery stores do? It’s time to focus on assuring consumers that your store is doing everything possible to ensure their safety. Visible indicators that the store is being regularly cleaned and sanitized will go far in providing consumers with the sense of safety that they’re after.
Embracing a standardized cleaning process with easy to use digital checklists is one way to achieve this. The goal is to ensure your employees are familiar with cleaning procedures and have the right tools to track and complete these additional tasks.
2. Labor Shortages Should Be Expected
The grocery industry was no stranger to The Great Resignation that we are still feeling today. What we do know is clear: employees are more aware of how valuable they are to companies, and they are more willing to prioritize their health and safety than ever before.
This trend means labor shortages are affecting grocery stores around the world, too. How can grocery stores adapt to not having enough people, and not training new hires quickly enough?
While attracting and hiring the right people is the main challenge, the speed at which new hires are trained is an important factor that makes the situation more difficult. There’s one way that grocery stores can speed up this process: digitize training, health & safety, and other onboarding procedures.
Every piece of training material, every documented policy, and every SOP should be digitized to ensure the information is readily available for new employees. Additionally, grocery stores can digitize partner onboarding, KPI tracking, supplier audits, and record-keeping to reduce the need for employees to painstakingly track each of these categories. All you need is the right tools in the hands of your employees and you’ll train new hires faster while requiring less manpower to manage operations.
3. Consumers Seek Innovative Products
The pandemic catalyzed change in ways we could have never imagined. Suddenly, the entire world was told to stay home and minimize trips to only the essentials.
While COVID-19 restrictions have loosened up in most areas of the world, consumers have entirely new expectations of the products they buy. For example, there’s a renewed interest in healthy food since many consumers became increasingly aware of their unhealthy eating habits, as well as the costs of these habits.
This created an opportunity for innovation that is still in motion. The clearest example of such innovation is the massive increase in meal kits and other products that make preparing a meal easier. As things have started returning closer to normal, grocery stores are in direct competition with restaurants for providing an easy meal option. Stocking or creating meal kit options that are available for pickup, or even delivery, will go far in staying one step ahead of restaurants.
4. Consumers Are Spending More Time at Home
Another interesting trend is that more people are cooking for themselves at home — more than ever before. We’ve seen this trend developing now for nearly two years.
This means less dependence on dining out and a greater need for quality food from grocery stores. Even when the pandemic winds down, research has found that 92% of families will continue eating at home as often as during the pandemic.
This might create problems for restaurants, but it’s an excellent opportunity for grocery stores. However, it should be noted that “cooking fatigue” is going to set in. How can grocery stores plan for this? Some possibilities are:
- Offer curbside pickup for orders of all sizes (most grocery stores have adapted to this, thankfully)
- Partner with a food delivery company to deliver prepared food from the deli
- Create meal kits that simplify the cooking process
Grocery stores that plan ahead for when consumers are sick of cooking will be able to retain those customers, rather than seeing them return to takeout.
It’s Time to Create New Procedures to Capitalize on These Trends
It’s no secret the grocery store industry is experiencing rapid change due to the pandemic. But behind each of these trends is a hidden opportunity for forward-thinking grocery stores ready to embrace transformative change.
Whether that manifests through a commitment to cleanliness and driving new health and safety policies that keep the store clean, providing touchless grocery orders and pickups, or embracing shifting consumer eating habits — there’s no shortage of opportunities available.
Are you looking to embrace the future of the grocery industry? See how monitorQA’s mobile inspection software can empower your teams to stay ahead of these trends as you work to achieve operational excellence and build consumer trust.