The pandemic has led to major shifts in Australian spending habits and expectations and the grocery industry in particular has experienced accelerated transformation, seeing ever-increasing demands for improved convenience, reliability and safety.

With the rapid shift to online grocery shopping, consumers have become spoilt for choice and their expectations are only rising.  According to WorldPay from FIS’ 2021 Generation Pay research almost half (45%) of all Australians have been spending more on groceries in the last 12 months than in the previous year, so it is no surprise that consumer demand for a smooth purchase journey is high.

While online grocery shopping has been around in Australia for some time – with Coles and Woolworths leading the way – the pandemic has undoubtedly broadened its appeal. Both IGA and Harris Farm have expanded their online grocery experience, and Australians are also seeing grocery stores expand their offerings beyond the expected range in a bid to help them stand out from the crowd.

As grocery retailers ride the e-commerce wave, they must look at tangible ways to adopt a sustainable omnichannel strategy that caters to evolving consumer habits and expectations, and at the same time employ new technologies that seamlessly connect the online and in-store shopping experience.

Omnichannel is the only way forward

For years, brick-and-mortar grocery stores were using technologies such as self-checkout and “scan-and-go” to reinvent the shopping experience. With the pandemic putting the spotlight on speed and safety, consumers across all generations are now more open to downloading apps and trying out delivery and pickup schemes to minimise interactions and eliminate the need to stand in line.

Research suggests that 89% of Australians are looking to spend the same or more on groceries in the next 12 months, so it is vital that grocery retailers offer a variety of channels to provide for their customers’ ever evolving needs. Woolworths has now expanded its grocery delivery to its partner retailers such as Big W and Pet Culture, to supply a greater variety of shopping options through its easy-to-use website.

Providing customers with a range of options to receive an order is also essential. Consumers have grown to love having the flexibility of being able to have groceries delivered to their door; to have them prepared for click-and-collect or purchased in store if they so wish. These choices are now adopted as the norm.

Such omnichannel approaches are helping grocers reorient to today’s reality. The ability to deliver secure, consistent, and efficient customer experiences seamlessly across an expanding kaleidoscope of touchpoints is a critical benchmark for success.

Closing the gaps with delivery

Moving a business online is not as simple as having a website presence. Businesses need to ensure that they create a seamless customer journey. This means that multiple touchpoints need to match with the right logistics capabilities, including easy payment, reliable shipping/delivery, and have minimal costs and security risks.

This hasn’t always been an easy feat, especially during the early stage of the pandemic where online orders surged in the wake of lockdown measures. Many consumers found it difficult to lock in delivery times for their groceries as stores struggled to meet to sudden rise in orders. Grocery retailers also faced a shortage in resources, from manpower to couriers and supplies, leaving them scrambling to meet the increased delivery demands.

To satisfy the demand for seamless online-offline experiences, grocery retailers must prioritise their logistics and supply chain capabilities. This means choosing the right logistics partners, from the top of the supply chain, all the way through to the consumer’s doorstep. They also need to plan for the influx in shipping requests and pickup schemes such as click-and-collect. In the past year, the popularity of click-and-collect has increased dramatically, particularly among the younger generation with 62% of Gen Y using the ‘click and collect’ option for their purchasing.

Delivery speed is also fast becoming a real differentiator. As the demand for grocery delivery increased, Australia has seen a rise in grocery delivery services offering quick turnarounds on purchases. The likes of Voly and Quicko were born out of the pandemic and promise to deliver goods in as little as 15 minutes. Other delivery providers also jumped on this trend as Uber moved to provide grocery items for delivery from local stores, offering consumers a fast alternative to waiting for online grocery delivery slots.

Smart payments are invisible payments

When it comes to grocery shopping, shoppers are looking for a fast and convenient experience, and the need for speed extends to the payment process. Throughout the pandemic, Australians have cemented their preference for quick, contactless payments as 69% of Australians believe that using contactless makes payment easier and more convenient as found in the Generation Pay research.

While check out times have improved with the introduction of self-service and scan and go, customers are still looking for increased speed at the physical point of sale. Seamless checkout expectations, driven by a new generation of digital services, mean shoppers expect a faster, easier checkout every time. Secure card acceptance, contactless payments, seamless reward integration and acceptance of digital wallets represent a new baseline. For shoppers getting their groceries online, implementing payment features such as one-click payments can help to significantly cut the time it takes for them to make the purchase. Optimising one’s payments strategy to include such “invisible” payment technologies at checkout will be crucial as the merging of online and offline continues.  

The way forward

The grocery shopping experience is driven by consumer expectations for on-demand personalised services and fast and simple payments. Retailers need to rise to the challenge of elevated customer expectations in order to set themselves up for success over the next decade of grocery evolution.

Phil Pomford is general manager for global ecommerce, APAC, WorldPay from FIS.