An IOT strategy for grocery retailers


IOT adoption is fast becoming the norm in every area of business. Offering increasingly intelligent and efficient ways to sell, communicate and organise, the IOT-enabled dialogue between a business and its customers through myriad technological devices is becoming richer by the day.

In our previous blog, we explored how IOT is impacting various industries, and highlighted how competition is prompting retailers to meet their customers’ demands through innovative new channels.

One sector that could significantly enhance its customer experience through IOT is grocery – and there are already some forward-thinking grocery retailers exploring smart technologies:


The use of smartphones in-store is growing, leading to greater demand for transparency, convenience and tailored customer service.

Most major supermarket grocers offer apps which let the shopper browse and shop online. Some have taken this into the physical space, offering a secure check-out facility, inspirational recipes, or a guided journey based on a shopping list. The best examples are integrated well with the grocer’s online channel, offering loyalty voucher benefits.

In turn, such apps drive shopper engagement and can dramatically reduce checkout times in-store. They can also be used to harvest data, allowing retailers to target customers with personalised offers as they shop. These analytics enable the measurement of ROI, inventory demand and forecasting, as well as fuelling direct marketing campaigns.

There is much scope for understanding shopper behaviour in greater detail through IOT connectivity. For example The University of Guelph, Ontario, recently introduced a ‘virtual grocery store’ to its campus, in which ‘shoppers’ wear glasses that  track which goods they look at, when, and for how long.

Stock control

Fresh is beginning to dominate grocers’ shelf space, reported The Wall Street Journal this month. The use of IOT technology for managing inventory is well established, but it’s crucial for anyone selling perishable goods.

Connected by IOT principles, technologies such as machine vision, RFID and data analytics enable greater stock visibility for both retailer and customer. RFID platforms alone have a hugely positive impact on inventory accuracy, while out-of-stock scenarios can be reduced significantly with item-level tagging.

A combination of these technologies can be employed to offer customers variable pricing based on a product’s expiry date; a measure which could theoretically recapture a huge amount of money lost from food waste.

This high degree of control means stores are increasingly fulfilling the role of distribution centres, meeting offline demand as well as that of in-store shoppers. Click and collect is commonplace in grocery; Waitrose and Asda, for example, have introduced temperature-controlled lockers for the storage of items ordered online, and customers are alerted via text message or app when their goods are ready to pick up.


Pricing transparency is becoming increasingly important to shoppers, and some grocers are choosing to be as honest as possible at the shelf edge.

Waitrose has trialled digital signage through which it can deliver dynamic pricing, helping the grocer react to competitors’ offers, as well as deliver promotions.

Checking out

Supermarket queues remain one of the customer’s biggest in-store frustrations, and to alleviate this most grocers have introduced processes such as self-service checkouts and handheld scanners.

However, there is much greater scope for innovation in this area. The Amazon Go grocery concept could significantly disrupt existing models; tracking customers and allowing them to check goods out themselves via a network of smartphone app, cameras, sensors and RFID tags.

Amazon’s futuristic model envisages machine learning technologies that respond to individual shoppers’ buying habits, ensuring the shelves are stocked based on the closely-defined probability of sales.

The perfect time for innovation

Ongoing developments in IOT puts the bricks-and-mortar grocery industry in a good place to meet the customer’s demand for convenience and individual value.

Grocery retailers large and small are discovering the benefits of technology that measures stock, pricing and customer engagement, and are turning their findings towards delivering improvements for staff and shoppers.

As well as improving the in-store operation, IOT delivers holistic solutions, allowing grocery retailers to deliver a truly omnichannel service that combines the best of online and offline.

Find out how Grassfish’s Intelligent Store solutions can make IOT work for your grocery business.

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