As we continue our battle with COVID-19 in our communities, it's important that people avoid intermingling wherever possible. Although probably not included as a part of a supermarket emergency response plan, grocery stores have a responsibility to get customers quickly in and out of the store.
This article discusses how grocery stores can provide a positive and safe Coronavirus grocery shopping experience for customers.
Streamline the In-store Experience
It's important that customers can move easily through the aisles while being able to keep a proper distance from others.
Clutter-free Traffic Flow
Keep aisles free of product displays so that shoppers don't have to steer around them. Consider using signs or tape on the floor to make aisles one-way only, as Walmart recently initiated.
Easy Access to High-demand Products
Put products that are high in demand – such as toilet paper, cleaning products, and sanitizer – at the front of the store. Where the products are normally located, use prominent signs to let customers know where the products have been temporarily relocated.
Shrink Product Ranges and Specialty ItemsTo prevent customers from lingering in the store and make the most of the healthy employees you have:
- Pare down the product ranges stocked on the shelves.
- Shut down specialty areas where salads, sushi, and sandwiches are made.
Fine-tune Communication and Information
Let customers know – online and with store signage – where to find information on your store's emergency response plan and changes to the Coronavirus grocery shopping experience. This can include changes to store hours, restrictions on the number of product purchases, and so forth.
Technology to Improve the Grocery Shopping Experience
One thing that grocery stores do especially well is adjust to customers' shopping needs. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, stores have been testing different concepts to remove or reduce the checkout line.
Dark Stores or Micro-fulfillment CentersMany shoppers have shifted from an in-store experience to online grocery shopping. Compared to last year at this time, grocery shopping app downloads have increased dramatically:
- Walmart: 218%
- Instacart: 160%
- Shipt: 124%
However, the increasing number of employees shopping in the store aisles to fulfill online orders is causing a negative supermarket experience – congestion in the aisles. Aware of this problem even before COVID-19, some stores have been testing a new concept.
Dark stores or micro-fulfillment centers are stocked like grocery stores but are closed to customer shopping. Employees pack the grocery orders, and customers receive them via pickup or delivery.
An In-store Experience That's Check-out Free
Obviously, self-checkout lets customers to keep a safe distance from each other and employees. Taking this one step further is a concept being tested by Kroger and Amazon Go in Seattle.
With the check-out free supermarket experience, customers use an app on their phone or a special device to scan items as they add them to the cart. Customers also use the phone (or device) to pay for their purchases. If utilizing a checkout device, make sure they are cleaned and disinfected after every use.
Customer Convenience with Minimal ContactDespite the uncertainty of the present times, you can still help customers with their busy and stressful lives. Employees can prep and assemble ready-to-cook meals in a bag that customers just grab-n-go.
To improve on this idea, you can offer these ready-to-cook meals as a carryout service to families who are already there picking up their online grocery store order.
Find out how Ready. Chef. Go! cooking bags quickly transform ready-to-cook meals into ready-to-eat meals – visit our Distributors and Grocers page.
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