A traditional grocery store stands out by offering convenient hours, unique selections and excellent customer service. Other supermarkets go to more extraordinary lengths to make an impression on customers, such as creating unique store displays or incorporating new retail technology.
Supermarkets that combine convenience, low prices and automation keep costs down over time while dynamic displays in a grocery store specialize in interaction. A few stores focus on whimsical and memorable art-type displays that serve as huge advertisements with the entire store space as a canvas.
In South Korea, one grocery store is located on a subway train car so commuters can shop on the way to and from work. Supermarkets such as this exemplify convenience when workers do not have time to purchase food otherwise. The subway car has a meat counter complete with a cash register to take orders. Since customers have little to do on a subway, this allows them to make the most of their commute.
A grocery store in Romania saves on cooling costs by making the entire store out of ice blocks. The popular chain uses 80 metric tons of ice blocks over an area of 1,600 square feet to keep the place cold. Some foods such as wine and frozen meals get stored inside the ice blocks themselves for a unique display.
Retail technology comes in the form of wireless displays, flat-screen advertisements and radio frequency tags. Phillips has created a lighting system that works with a smartphone to direct shoppers to a particular shelf. A mobile app locates the quickest route to find milk, peanut butter and frozen pizza. The app then communicates with an in-store lighting system made of mini LED bulbs that point shoppers in the right direction. The map and lighting system reduce the time a customer spends searches for products.
Digital tags on grocery store shelves are more prominent as this technology becomes more cost effective. Small LED displays on shelves reduce staff time needed to remove old tags, place new ones, check inventory and compare bar codes. Sale prices change automatically when connected to a computer system, and price checks become things of the past.
Vending machines have evolved to include many different types of products. One grocery chain has created a vending machine with necessities such as milk, eggs and bread. Another virtual reality vending kiosk mimics a store shelf by interacting with customers using a touch screen. People can scroll through selections on the screen, tap the drink they want and call up nutrition information before placing an order. After payment, the drink dispenses. Combine this kiosk with smartphone technology, and people can get a drink before reaching the actual vending machine.
A grocery store may not seem like a place for advanced technology. However, the true test of automation and cost savings in retail includes how customers respond to innovations on supermarket shelves. Stores now combine in-store technology with customization and better supply chains to lower costs.
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