PwC, New York, released a new experience radar report titled “Front of the Line: How grocers can get ahead for the future.” Based on a survey of more than 1,000 shoppers, the report shares insights about changing consumer segments, what they will want in the future, and what can be done today to keep them happy tomorrow. In particular, the report notes that the grocery industry should adapt and provide targeted shopping experiences tailored to specific consumer needs and changing demographics.

“Grocers can no longer rely on providing a one-size-fits-all customer experience,” said Steven Barr, PwC’s U.S. retail & consumer practice leader, in a statement. “The next wave of millennial consumers is likely to demand individualized attention and a shopping experience that meets their specific wants and needs. We’re helping our clients look closely at their target customer segments on a micro level to effectively tailor the path to purchase for each shopper when they are in and out of the store. Grocers that truly get to know their customers on a store-by-store basis can find success in the future.”

According to PwC, 83 percent of survey respondents prefer to shop at traditional grocery stores. That is unlikely to change in the future; however, customers will likely call for more personal connections with their grocer in the form of targeted coupons and deals, reward programs, and convenient, efficient in-store shopping experiences, the report states.

More than half of the shoppers surveyed complained about long lines and crowded stores. Thus, grocers that provide a smoother in-store experience by taming congestion are likely to earn repeated shopper visits. Furthermore, shoppers will increasingly look to store employees as shopping advisers, whether for additional product information, recipe tips or purchase recommendations, as they will want increased service and assistance with decision making, the report notes.

Although online shopping is seeing exponential growth in the retail industry, the grocery segment has not shown the same levels of engagement. Only 1 percent of survey respondents consider online shopping their primary way of buying groceries, though 92 percent reported having the option to online grocery shop.

“While online channels may not become a common way to buy groceries in the near future, technology will still play a major role in the evolving grocery experience,” said Sabina Saksena, managing director in PwC’s U.S. retail & consumer practice, in a statement. “Shoppers expect information at their fingertips and, according to our survey, more than half of respondents want to integrate their mobile devices into their future grocery experience. Grocers that innovate and build on their digital channels to meet this demand will be most successful.”

PwC’s report offers five tips for grocery retailers to prepare for the future and stay ahead of the curve as demographics shift and consumer needs evolve.

1.    Tailor your brick-and-mortar stores. With urbanization on the rise, grocers need to consider new store locations, formats and layouts to meet consumers where they go. By understanding the needs of those closest to their stores, grocers can customize to meet consumers’ current and future preferences, such as implementing wider aisles, additional parking, easy-to-reach products, and a smoother check-out process.

2.    Personalize your marketing strategies. Stores should act as gatekeepers for consumers, labeling products clearly with their sustainable qualities, allowing for a more intimate connection with the product. Additionally, consumers value community and expect their local grocer to participate in community events, support area businesses, and help preserve the environment through sustainable business practices, all of which can be marketed throughout the store.

3.    Empower your staff. Ongoing staff training, including arming staff with in-depth product and service knowledge, is critical. Employees should be prepared to readily offer customers suggestions aligned to their lifestyles, budgets and health goals. This can differentiate a store as a source of knowledge and build more personal and profitable relationships with shoppers.

4.    Transform your technology. With smartphones on the rise among U.S. adults, grocery retailers should consider in-store information kiosks, in-aisle tablets and mobile applications for customers to readily access the information they need, from ingredients lists to food origins and nutritional facts.

5.    Reinvent your loyalty programs. Shoppers want flexibility and control in how they earn and use their loyalty reward points. Robust loyalty programs can help grocers keep future customers spending in their stores versus a competitor’s. Also, offering customer loyalty points for purchasing promotional items and healthy foods in the store can help push new products at higher price points, increase sales, and boost a store’s reputation as a health-conscious grocer.

For more information and to download an electronic copy of “Front of the line: How grocers can get ahead for the future,” visit