"Online Grocery Shopping Still Rare in U.S.,” was the headline on recent Gallup survey of American’s food shopping behaviors. Gallup’s interpretation of its survey results, that online food shopping is still rare, isn’t true and rare is a poor choice of words. The reality is digital infuses nearly every aspect of the food shopping path to purchase and online retailing is the most disruptive change happening in food retailing since grocery stores became self-service and bar codes were invented.
The word “still,” should be abolished from every retailer’s vocabulary as it is backward looking and typically used to validate the status quo. Meanwhile, those focused on the future are deep into the exploration of autonomous deliveries, robotic fulfillment processes and natural language processing for voice ordering.
Why it matters
Imagine owners of steamships or rail lines describing the rarity of air travel in the early days of aviation and defending how their modes of transport were still dominant. To put things in a retail context, some may remember how Walmart’s initial forays into food were dismissed by traditional grocers when its market share was still small. Blockbuster or RedBox would have said the same thing during the early days of streaming and how it was small. Barnes & Noble and Borders could have said the same thing about book sales in the late 90’s when the majority of products were still purchased in stores. You get the idea.
Digital disruption has come slower to food retailing than any other sector, and yes, the majority of sales do “still” occur in physical stores. However, big changes are afoot and more are to come. It’s why roughly 8,000 people will flock to Las Vegas in mid-September to attend a future-focused event called GroceryShop, which speaks to the pace of change because the event didn’t exist two years ago. The retailers participating, the companies exhibiting and others in attendance focused on the future of food retailing won’t be using the word, “still."