Supermarkets are using pandemic-driven changes in shopping behavior to accelerate the shift to e-commerce they have been seeking but have been slow to realize in recent years.
Grocers are now devoting more of their floor space to fulfill digital orders in response to customers’ increased food consumption at home and their growing reliance on online shopping.
Albertsons Cos., the country’s second-largest grocer, is testing the use of dozens of 9-by-12 foot temperature-controlled lockers in select stores in Chicago and California for customers to collect what they buy online. It is also introducing contactless payment in all of its more than 2,200 stores.
“The principle of that is to make things easier for the shopper,” said Vivek Sankaran, chief executive of the Boise, Idaho-based chain. He also said the pandemic has prompted the company to make a fundamental change by prioritizing digital investments.
While many such technology investments were under way in the industry before the health crisis, food retailers are now making bigger and faster bets in hopes of appealing to consumers who want to avoid shopping in person or at least reduce the number of visits. Online grocery sales in August were up about 74% from a year earlier, according to data provider Nielsen.