In a rapidly changing and highly competitive industry, grocers are always striving for continuous improvement and looking for the best ways to meet new challenges. In 2016, the pressure is on to differentiate, go small and control costs. Additionally, grocers can look to advanced technology to help improve in-store efficiency while mitigating security risks.
Let’s take a look at some of the key challenges for grocers, and explore how technology can help.
Continued Differentiation: Additional Services Are Key
With little room to further reduce prices, growing pressure from online grocery options and increased competition from specialty food markets, many grocery stores are wondering how they can stay relevant. One answer is to differentiate themselves through additional services — which will keep stores front-and-center in the minds of shoppers.
Just as some stores are hiring trained chefs, sommeliers or even registered dieticians1, savvy grocers have also bolstered the customer experience by deploying additional front-of-store services. Grocers can differentiate themselves from the competition with self-service coin counting services. Machines that feature excellent uptime, fast and accurate performance and consumer-friendly, easy-to-use interfaces can be used to retain current customers, draw in new ones and increase the frequency of return visits.
Better Utilization Of Front-Of-Store: Even In A Smaller Footprint
There’s no ignoring the fact that grocery stores are getting smaller: the average grocery store size started shrinking from about 45,000 square feet three years ago, after decades of increasing year after year.² Even grocery “giants” like Walmart, Lunds and Kroger are going small — with some prototyping stores that are just 7,500 square feet.²
In smaller footprint stores especially, effective utilization of all available floor space is critical — and that includes the front-of-store. Small-footprint self-service coin redemption machines provide grocers with an opportunity to turn underutilized front-of-store space into a revenue source, without taking up valuable floor space.
Controlling Supplier Costs: Opportunities With Dual Sourcing
There is also growing interest in dual sourcing in the grocery industry, which offers the opportunity to test new partners in a reduced-risk environment. For example, grocers certainly don’t offer just one type of meat product, and testing lets grocers identify the products that sell the most and offer more of them.
The same is true for front-of-store services. There are alternative suppliers for coin counting services that provide flexibility and various procurement programs that can help grocers earn more profits, depending on the program selected. Dual-sourcing allows grocers to select the right mix of suppliers to deliver maximum return on investment.
Combat Rising Costs: Technology is Critical
According to the Food Marketing Institute, labor — including employee wages and benefits – accounts for the largest portion of food industry operating expenses. Because of this, it’s important for grocers to focus on evaluating technology solutions that increase productivity and minimize the variable of rising employment costs.
Savvy grocers realize that investing in single devices with the ability to perform multiple functions can result in reduced overhead spending. This includes currency and check processing solutions that count cash and scan checks on the same device. These devices also streamline the deposit process, eliminating back-office inefficiencies and errors and enabling customer service personnel to complete tasks faster – which can also eliminate costly overtime.
Replace Inefficient Processes: Consider The Cash Office
The razor-thin margins grocers operate on will continue to be a challenge this year, making it critical to improve efficiency and increase productivity in all parts of the grocery store. Advanced technology such as automated cash drawer processing systems that count down and balance cash drawers, rebuild float amounts and set up tills create new opportunities for grocers to make better use of time spent in the cash office.
Incorporating such technologies eliminates many of the inefficiencies associated with running a grocery or retail business. Any opportunity to save time comes as a major advantage for grocers and employees; streamlining the deposit process can free up a significant amount of time in the daily schedule to focus on other important initiatives.
Mitigate Potential Security Risks: Protect Against Counterfeits
While high-profile data breaches have dominated recent retail security headlines, grocers cannot ignore the security risks posed by counterfeit bills. Despite multiple bill redesigns, advances in sophisticated low-cost digital printing have made it easier than ever to produce counterfeit bills. And reports note that as much as $88.1 million in counterfeit currency was confiscated in recent years.
Grocers can safeguard against costly losses and fines associated with counterfeit bills by investing in currency handling systems that incorporate advanced counterfeit detection technologies. And even more important to grocers is the ability to pull out counterfeits before they are returned to customers by way of giving change. Fines are one issue, but no grocer wants the distress or bad press of being the store that gives out counterfeits after a transaction.
It is important for grocers to proactively implement strategies that provide value to customers, control costs and enhance in-store efficiency, particularly in light of the rapidly changing nature of the industry. And in the face of growing competition and the need to adapt to current trends, grocers can certainly leverage technology to meet their needs and bring additional value to their stores.
1Food Navigator USA, “Resolutions to Eat at Home Might Boost Grocery Sales, Challenges Remain.” January, 2016. http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Resolutions-to-eat-at-home-might-boost-grocery-sales-challenges-remain
²npr.com, “Grocery Stores are Losing You. Here’s How they Plan to Win You Back”, March 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/30/395774725/grocery-stores-are-losing-you-heres-how-they-plan-to-win-you-back
Bob Gibson is Vice President of Branch Operations of Cummins Allison, a leading global provider of coin, currency and check processing technology as well as ATM solutions, based in Mt. Prospect, Ill. Contact him at gibsonB@cumminsallison.com.