Tips For Retail Success in the On Demand Economy

Make shopping quick, painless and pleasant

Flowers and food on demand - we want it all now
How Retail Can Grow in the On Demand Economy. Susie Wyshak

As the subtitle of Lauren Smiley's The Shut-In Economy, an important article analyzing the "on demand" economy reads: "In the new world of on-demand everything, you’re either pampered, isolated royalty — or you’re a 21st century servant."

The article highlights the latest service, Alfred, which basically connects you with personal assistant / house keeper combos—actually not a new concept to more affluent people with housekeepers or helpers.

It's not just apps that are powering consumer desire for groceries faster and easier. In the coming years, supermarkets will more often be expected to do the shopping and have groceries ready for pickup.

The Future of Food Shopping is Now and Demands Speed

What Smiley's article highlights is the profound change in who may be popping in stores and local service shops: not the consumer you designed your store or service around, but a new type of shopper.

If consumers were in a hurry before, now many food shoppers are being rewarded based on their speed, Instacart's Personal Shoppers exemplifying a new "supermarket shopper."

Instacart promises to become even more prevalent, through a partnership with recipe app Yummly, a recipe search engine that aggregates millions of recipes. The partnership simplifies buying recipe ingredients. Here's now:

  • Yummly users can connect to the Instacart app, purchase all of the ingredients for their selected Yummly recipe, choose the store to shop from and then select a time for the groceries to be delivered.
  • A trained Instacart Personal Shopper collects and buyers the ingredients.
  • The shopper delivers the groceries usually within an hour.

6 Ways Grocery Stores Can Profit From the On Demand Economy

If you thought online shopping created a generation of impatient, unwilling-to-search in-store shoppers, the on demand economy and sharing economy adds another twist.

Here are some ideas of how retailers and local services can adapt an thrive in the on demand economy:

  1. Sort merchandise by sales popularity with a "best sellers" area: Face it, online shoppers simplify make smart buying decisions by sorting by the most popular, top rated products. Who's to say your grocery store shouldn't make in-store shopping just as effortless?

    Consider the Instacart example above a "use case," or scenario, of a typical shopping process. The faster consumers and food delivery personal shoppers can get in and out, the greater the chance you'll be the market of choice.
  2. Tailor services to speed checkout, or loyalty programs for these on-demand services. People may love you on Yelp; imagine the competitive edge if these services and shoppers begin to recommend you as well.
  3. Review most popular recipes and Amazon bestsellers: A little predictive intelligence may prepare you to delight beyond shopper expectations. Stay on top of what's popular with Instacart and other on-demand economy shopping services.
  4. Reflect on the difference between food consumers and Personal Shoppers: Shoppers may walk into the store with a list, then impulse buy or switch brands. Much more reflection goes into an in-store purchase decision with such shoppers than for personal shoppers armed with a shopping list and a mission to get in and out.
  1. Test the online / app shopper customer experience: What is it like to order from your store online and receive groceries? Sign up for delivery services to see what kind of produce the shoppers choose and think about how to improve the customer experience both for shoppers and the purchasers.
  2. Create an app for consumers to scan as they go: While self-checkout registers are questionable (dumped by Costco, added in Wal-Marts and Sam's Club), self-checkout apps may one day become commonplace? Only time will tell, and the pros and cons of speedy service versus security versus jobs are worth considering.
  1. Consider forming a "new tech" insights team or person in your company to keep up on what's new with these apps and delivery services. That fresh-out-of-high-school kid you hired as a bagger could be the one to tip you off as to what's new and needed.

These ideas are the top of the iceberg lettuce in terms of how supermarkets and independent grocers might review your store flow to enable success among food delivery workers.

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Personal Memo To On-Demand Workers

If the Medium article on The Shut In Economy has got you down, compare your life spent talking to people, laughing, serving, connecting and communing with people shut in their offices or apartments, building services to help people connect with and commune with people. (OK yes sometimes getting rich.)

There's a reason people are choosing journeys over jobs—Life is short and fulfillment is grand!