IBM Pushes the Grocery Store Into the Future

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Despite the arrival of big data and cloud capabilities, and continued improvement in self-checkout system efficiency, grocery stores have been slow to change. IBM , however, has ideas on pushing supermarkets forward. 

Bill Gillispie, IBM's retail consulting team leader-grocery, in an interview talks about what the grocery store of the future might look like.

Brian Sozzi: IBM has always struck me as a company that is way out in front of imagining grocery stores of the future. So, in that regard, what does a grocery store of 2020 look like compared to one in 2014?

Gillispie: The grocery store of 2020 is a store that's totally connected, 24/7 to the customer from a mobile perspective to completely simplifying the shopping trip and making it personalized for each individual customer. In the connected grocery store of 2020, a store will recognize the shopper as he or she walks into it. As they move throughout the store, it will give the shopper personalized promotions based on what he or she likes. We will see the physical size of stores start to get smaller, with 10% of sales completed over a mobile channel by 2020.

  • Also, there will be more opportunities for shoppers. For example, if something is out of stock, a shopper can go on their phone, order the item and have it delivered.
  • The shopper will be able to check out of a store using their smartphone or other mobile device.
  • Customers will have the ability to develop a shopping list on his or her mobile phone, tablet or PC with the option to adjust it anywhere, anytime.
  • Once a shopper develops a grocery list, they can "click and collect" via their devices to have items ready in store or have products delivered to their home.

Through this new model, shoppers will have access to thousands of more items than they do in today's stores since they will be able to buy online and won't need to be in the physical stores.

Sozzi: When talking with grocery store partners, what are they seeking to implement at the store level within the next year to improve sales and profits? My sense is that all of this new technology is available to grocery store operators, but due to financial considerations the companies are adopting it slower than expected.

Gillispie: We don't see the grocery stores adopting new technologies at a lower rate than expected because of financial considerations. It's more that no one believed omni-channel experiences would come to grocery stores especially because in the late 1990s stores who were working toward an omni-channel experience were halted by the tech bubble bursting. Right now, we see all grocery stores adopting new technologies quickly because it's working, and because customers really want to use these new technologies.