Grocers Go for Automation

Supply chain issues continue to be big news for grocers, as they cope with out of stocks that threaten their bottom lines.

Consumer responses to an empty spot on the shelves of their local grocery store fall into three groups. Some shoppers will choose a different brand or a different item. Some will head to a different store to find the thing they wanted to buy. The remaining shoppers will buy nothing in its place. Shopper behavior is fairly evenly divided among these three options. This means that two thirds of the time, being out of stock on an item costs the store a sale.

It’s a problem for shoppers and grocers alike. A recent survey found that consumers say their regular grocery store is out of things on their list half the time. 20% of respondents had already changed their usual store because the one they had traded with had too many out of stocks.

Automation to the rescue

Technology is providing some help. Walmart, after making headlines by ending a stock taking robot contract, is now programming cleaning robots at their Sam’s Club locations to check stock as they clean.

Food Lion has a stock-checking robot, too, but theirs has googly eyes and is a popular feature in customer selfies. Marty the Robot also checks for potentially dangerous spills as it travels the store.

Experts are suggesting having robots pick center-of-store packaged goods for shoppers while they pick their own fresh foods. This is presented as a solution for the labor shortage, but one which could also reduce shopper frustration with out of stocks. Consumers are less willing to accept substitutions in dairy and other fresh foods than with paper goods and other packaged items that feel more like commodities. Saving time for shoppers by letting robots take care of the lower priority choices could help.

Your automation

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