Grocery Stores Emerging as Market Research and Technology Labs Creates Opportunity

The first modern, self-service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, was opened in Memphis by Tennessee entrepreneur, Clarence Saunders. The year was 1916. In the century since, humanity has experienced a wave of technological innovation exponentially greater, than at any other time in human history.

The grocery industry hasn’t remained untouched by that technology. We’ve seen innovations in food storage, shipping, online merchandising, self-checkout kiosks, and more. Despite all of this, the actual brick-and-mortar grocery experience has remained virtually unchanged. Grocery stores continue to order and stock popular products for customers to select and purchase. That dynamic, however, may be changing, which means big things for the manufacturer, the retailer, and the customer.

Emerging Technology

Much of the recent innovation in retail grocery isn’t exactly predictable. A good example is the Italian grocery chain, Coop, founded by MIT professor Carlo Ratti. Coop is known for their stocking and setup innovations. The shelves are bookstore height, encouraging shoppers to interact with each other across rows.

More exceptional are the long, reflective screens positioned over the produce and sprinkled throughout the store. When shoppers lift produce or other products up to these interactive screens, motion detectors and Microsoft Kinect sensors identify the product and display a vast amount of useful information about it. The product, price, nutritional information, pesticides and fertilizers used in its production, shipping details, even possible allergy risks are available.

Startup Grocery Stores

Due to the tight margins for grocery retailers, the phrase “startup grocery store” isn’t one that’s heard often. However, that’s how a German grocery store, KaDeTe, is being described. Founded by the producers of a niche matcha energy drink, KaDeTe is committed to accepting only artisanal, independent brands. The concept is being hailed as a boon for several industry-concerned populations.

Chief among those interested in this model are customers looking for something new, and eager to participate in a market research experiment. Retail analysts and researchers can gain access to real-life, real-time microcosms of customer selection. This includes insights into the types of products that are successful, the ones that are not, and how to successfully market products. This arrangement could also prove useful for startups and independent food producers, providing them the ability to sell their products and study sales information in a functional environment.

Grocery Brokers

These models and subsequent innovations are undoubtedly going to appeal to and establish opportunity for grocery brokers and their clients. Having access to grocery retailers featuring a medium that can highlight the selling points of clients’ products is an excellent resource for any producers whose responsible ingredients and production are selling points. Anyone trying to break into the grocery retail space is going to have a considerable leg up if the broker they’re contracting with has access to retailers that specialize in innovative emerging brands.