Is the era of supermarkets coming to an end?
Priya Wadhwa
10x Industry

Is the era of supermarkets coming to an end?

People are starting letting go of their desire to touch and feel fruits and vegetables before purchase.

Giant supermarkets used to be exciting trips back in the day. What’s new, which exotic fruit or condiment will I find today — that used to be my thinking. But today, supermarket trips are nothing short of “Where will I find this item now?”

The thousands of options, tens of aisles, and supermarket layouts designed to keep you in them, shopping for things you do not need, have made the experience unpopular with many millennials and Gen Zs.

It made me wonder how supermarkets are going to evolve in the coming decade. Following are some of the most probable possibilities.

E-commerce replacing physical stores

We can already see this in practice. Online delivery platforms are gaining traction. Even traditional supermarkets have launched their own delivery services to capture the growing market segment.

While consumer behavioural change takes time, it is changing at a quick pace. People already prefer buying items with longer shelf life online. The hesitation comes in reference to fresh produce; a major chunk of the current consumer market still prefers to see what fruits and vegetables they are buying. They want to knock on watermelons and smell the mangoes before they purchase.

However, the experience of receiving fresh and good quality produce has seen many changing their shopping patterns.

Moreover, supermarkets already have central warehouses. Their expenses on personnel and upkeep of the supermarket spaces drive up prices. E-commerce can make the purchase experience much smoother, faster, more efficient and cost-effective. No more reaching an aisle only to know the product you’re looking for is out of stock.

Drive through pick-ups

This is the next level of supermarket evolution. As last-mile delivery costs remain high, and people need the freedom to get the products at the time of their convenience, it will be very interesting to see e-commerce integrating with supermarkets to offer drive-through pick up service.

Imagine leaving from work, quickly adding things you need to the cart and simply picking them up on your way home instead of having to wait for delivery.

The technology to enable this already exists. It’s simply a matter of application. But the major hurdle to seeing this being implemented is the current infrastructure, as supermarkets are usually within large malls, or on harder to reach streets and ground floor of buildings whereby cars cannot simply drive through.

Shops sans checkout counters

Think Amazon Go or Portugal's Sensei. Small shops that people pick up ready-to-eat foods as well as other groceries and hygiene products that they need immediately. These shops do not have people manning check-out counters, making them a 24/7 possibility.

We are already seeing them popping up and being tested. They use artificial intelligence to track what someone has picked up and directly bill them when they walk out of the shop.

Supermarkets in their current form need to evolve. The consumer demand for better and faster shopping experience is increasing. We are already seeing these solutions being implemented in varying degrees. It’s a matter of time before we see giant physical supermarkets become a thing of the past. Is your business driving this change, supporting it or prepared for it?