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The Future of Grocery Retailing

Industry experts share their thoughts

As Progressive Grocer spoke with industry experts about how technology has evolved over the past century, we also asked them to share their thoughts about the business going forward. Here are some of their ideas:

Ron Bonacci, VP of marketing, advertising and public relations at Weis Markets, based in Sunbury, Pa., is betting big on walk-out technology and the power of artificial-intelligence (AI) computer vision. “All grocery stores in America, except for maybe the small mom-and-pop stores, will have 40, 50 or 60 cameras in their stores in the future,” he predicts. “As a customer walks in the store, the technology will recognize them and then scan the items as they select them. The cameras will probably have facial recognition and will be tied to credit systems. It will take care of the customer and their shopping experience.”

Another likely tech-related feature in supermarkets of the near future will be kiosks — or more likely holograms — that can provide shoppers with more information about an item, including how to prepare it, notes Bonacci.

He’s also enthusiastic about how supermarkets can better serve customers’ health-and-wellness needs. “The grocery industry is going to have to evolve and become more involved in consumers’ health and lifestyles,” he asserts. “For instance, if a person is diabetic, the grocer will help direct them to the items that are better for them. The retailer can work with hospitals in their marketing areas to identify newly diagnosed patients who want this type of assistance.

And using algorithms made possible by AI, we’ll be able to help manage their disease state and suggest products that are better for them, which can help sustain their life or build a better quality of life long-term. We may possibly be able to help people get out of some of these disease states.”

Lisa Chai, partner at ROBO Global Ventures, a venture fund that’s part of Dallas-based ROBO Global, is excited about the potential of new technology that can help solve real-world problems in logistics and the supply chain. One example is in picking and packing technology. “We’re looking at robots that can move backwards and even replicate the human hand in their gripping abilities,” notes Chai.

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