2020 was a banner year for grocery e-commerce as grocers swiftly responded to a massive pandemic-induced shift in consumer demand. But throughout the year, many grocers faced significant supply chain disruptions as well as costly (and rising) last-mile consumer expectations for same-day delivery and curbside pickup. It was a perfect storm of challenge and consequence, causing grocery leaders to pull farther ahead and others to fall behind.

So what’s ahead for 2021? Grocers are evaluating digital transformation initiatives to grow their business and attract and retain these new digital customers, including:

  • Identifying and adapting quickly to shifting consumer expectations. US grocery consumer demands are shifting quickly to include more online ordering, increased expectations for same-day fulfillment, and a wider variety of goods (including meal kits). For a snapshot of US grocery consumer expectations, see “The State Of The US Grocery Shopper — COVID-19.”
  • Delivering on the “same-day” promise with automated microfulfillment centers (MFCs). Grocers have been hard-pressed to find last-mile solutions that fulfill the promise of curbside pickup and same-day delivery without eroding already lean margins. Our report “Betting On Bots For Grocery E-Commerce” explores the landscape of automated solutions for local fulfillment. For grocers with sufficient localized order volume, MFCs can provide a scalable solution to inventory control, pick/pack efficiency, and shipping/fulfillment speed.
  • Upgrading their digital touchpoints. Our new “US Grocery: Digital Best Practices” report demonstrates how grocers are evolving their digital experiences to master their merchandising moments, support deep product discovery with search and navigation, and streamline the checkout experience with quick payment methods and fulfillment options.
  • Streamlining the in-store experience. Checkout lines prior to COVID-19 have always been challenging for the consumer. Now with customers’ desire to spend less time in-store, checkout times matter even more. “Grocers And C-Stores: Check Out Cashierless Technology Decision Points And Benefits” provides an overview of emerging cashierless checkout solutions, including scan by customer, smart carts, and no-scan/walk-out technology.

… And there’s more! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the “US Online Grocery Snapshot: Q1 2021” report for data and trends to watch for in online grocery in 2021 (see also the Q1 2020 edition). And you can expect more grocery-focused research from us in the coming months.

Get in touch with me at Forrester to explore strategies and tactics to grow your grocery business and delight the grocery customer in 2021 and beyond.