We’ve seen the future, and the theme is ease.
Those are the insights from two futurists at The Hershey Company who dedicate themselves to studying technology and trends in retail, in order to understand how the company and its retail partners can best serve consumers down the line. Brian Kavanagh, Senior Director of Retail Evolution, and Lina Yang, Director of The Hershey Lab, both agree that in the year ahead, frictionless will be imperative to shoppers.
For some, that means purchasing an inspired entire meal—rather than a tedious list of ingredients—at their local grocery store. It means having the option to place a store order online and then drive to the local outlet to pick it up that same day. And it manifests as the ability to seamlessly interact with brands—and even have those brands anticipate needs. Here are three trends that the future-looking Hershey team expects to see more of in 2017 and beyond.
- Consumers will choose meals over ingredients. Shoppers have a remarkable array of options for groceries these days, including online shopping with same-day delivery and meal subscription services. With those choices, shoppers forgo the process of making a list, walking down aisle after endless aisle and shopping for individual ingredients. The more they get away from that chore, says Brian Kavanagh, Senior Director of Retail Evolution, the more likely the are to embrace the alternatives. “We’re seeing the tipping point, we have to focus on meals and not ingredients,” says Kavanagh. Kavanagh expects to see more grocery stores getting away from the drudgery of ingredient shopping, and, instead, presenting shopping as meal inspiration, either through cooking demonstrations or by offering their own meal kits for consumers to grab and go. “It’s going to be a race for the retailers to see who can create the best experience,” he says.
- Click and collect will continue to rise. Brick-and-mortar stores are finding a sweet spot with “click and collect” services, says Kavanagh. Click and collect means a shopper places an order online and then a store employee gathers all of the order, whether it’s groceries, toiletries or other items. The purchases are then bagged and delivered to the shopper’s car when he or she pulls in. “Click and collect grew exponentially fast in 2016, and I think it’s going to be prevalent throughout the marketplace in 2017,” says Kavanagh. Some major retailers, such as Walmart and Kroger, are seeing rapid roll-out rates, says Kavanagh, and that will continue.
- Conversational commerce will help meet consumers’ demands. There’s a new way for brands to connect with users by becoming, literally, a part of their conversations. It’s called conversational commerce, and it allows users to interact with a company or brand via messaging, just as one friend would interact with another. One example: Domino’s Pizza. There’s no need to pick up a phone or even go to Domino’s website to order a pizza anymore. You can simply go to Domino’s Facebook page and order a pie using Messenger. Lina Yang, director of The Hershey Lab, says that conversational commerce is a way that brands can seamlessly enter into consumers’ conversations. She gives this example: “If I’m texting Brian and I say, ‘Hey, do you want to meet at the restaurant at 6?’ Uber might pop up and say, ‘Hey, do you need a ride? Right from my iMessage I can request Uber, I don’t have to go to an Uber app,” she says. “It’s frictionless. It sees what I need when I need it.”
Technology continues to evolve, make shopping and interacting with brands more convenient than ever. If retailers are able to make the shopping experience one that's seamless, they're helping to build consumer loyalty and satisfaction. When that happens, everybody wins.
With these predictions in mind, The Hershey Lab built Medley: the best grocery store chain you’ve never heard of. Its shopping experience is provocative, and built in a world of “what ifs.” Through our Medley blog series, you'll explore the question, "what if Medley were your competitor today?"
To see our 2017 predictions, visit our SlideShare page.