Key CX Challenges in the Grocery Industry

Food retailers, like grocery brands and mass merchandisers, face a rapidly evolving shopper landscape where digital transformation is a must-do.

young consumer looking at phone standing in grocery store

In a business where razor-thin margins are the norm, food retailers must recognize that their service and programs will be their true differentiator, especially against low-price and e-commerce competitors. With such a high-frequency, high-touch experience as grocery shopping, positive customer experiences that keep shoppers loyal can translate into substantial customer lifetime value.

Let’s dive into some key customer experience trends, what they mean for customer care in the food retail industry, and the technology companies will need to stay competitive.

Your shoppers have higher expectations for digital experiences

Remember when the idea of buying groceries online seemed laughable? Online grocery shopping – for store pick-up, delivery, and shipping – was already gaining traction, and the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated demand. In fact, many in the industry are predicting that the pandemic has permanently shifted customer expectations and behavior towards online shopping.

New shopping models open up new questions and challenges. For example, when a grocery delivery goes wrong, who is expected to resolve it – the store or the delivery service? What if a shopper purchases some groceries in-store, has some delivered same-day, and ships non-perishables? How can brands keep the experience (and the process of getting help) consistent across all these journeys?

The digital experience even goes beyond online purchases. Shopper experiences on brands’ websites, apps, and social networks influence their loyalty, especially when it comes to the programs and features retailers now rely so heavily upon to differentiate from the competition. More and more, shoppers go online to resolve issues with coupons, fuel points, loyalty cards, and so on.

Best-in-class self-service experiences put customer care front and center on the website or mobile app, leveraging chatbots to help shoppers resolve issues quickly, conversationally, and consistently regardless of their channel. If a shopper needs more help, they should be able to connect with a human agent without leaving their original channel and without having to repeat their question.

Grocery companies are struggling to keep up with higher volumes of communication

Consumers are engaging on digital channels in more ways than ever before. According to Statista, the top 10 social and messaging apps now have a combined 670M+ monthly active users. Companies are understandably afraid of missing out on those engagements; however, few teams have the staff and resources to adopt and scale new channels easily.

Customer service chatbots provide a solution to supporting additional channels without increasing headcount. A conversational service experience gives shoppers instant access to answers and allows seamless escalation when needed. They also give brands a scalable way to engage with customers on new channels, during additional hours, in new markets, when there is increased volume in the midst of a crisis, and so on.

In addition to chatbots, there’s another solution retailers should consider for improved scalability: advanced social listening tools. Many companies struggle to handle the sheer volume of activity that comes through their social channels, and it can be especially challenging for customer care professionals to parse out the most actionable, high-priority posts. For example, one leading consumer brand estimated that 97% of their social mentions were noise, leaving only 3% of posts that truly needed their attention. A social management platform can intelligently filter through the flood of incoming posts to surface the relative few that need immediate action, and automatically route the case to the appropriate team. This kind of automation is the only way brands can achieve response time benchmarks on these crucial channels.

New product and program offerings bring with them new challenges

To stand out in a highly competitive market, many food retailers are investing in expanding offerings in-store, like adding complementary services such as banking, coffee shops, or health clinics, selling clothing, furniture, and other goods, and enhancing offerings around fresh and prepared items.

New products and services bring new questions, and it will difficult to handle them without a central knowledge source. Not only can a smart knowledge management tool drive content for shopper digital self-service, it can deliver answers to store associates, agents, and vendors. Depending on their role, the same core information could be tailored to them. For example, a contact center agent might see more in-depth product and promotion information than a shopper searching the website.

Using a centralized solution for knowledge also helps new staff get up to speed more quickly, ensures all team members can quickly find accurate information about new products and services, and supports any efforts to cross-train agents to expand beyond specialized areas.

How Astute helps grocery brands succeed

Staying ahead of the curve in the food retail and grocery space is a tall order, but the right technology tools can make it easier. Here’s how Astute helps food retailers like Kroger, Wegman’s, and Aldi stay competitive:

Instant answers across your online expriences. Astute’s digital self-service chatbot gives your shoppers the experiences they want, enabling them to instantly, conversationally find answers and resolve issues regardless of channel or device – and seamlessly escalate to a human agent with a single click. The bot can quickly be updated with new information about programs and products, even pulling from existing content, to ensure answers are consistent and up-to-date.

Support new shopping and communication channels. Astute’s chatbot can triage routine cases in messaging channels like web chat, ordering/delivery apps, SMS, and Facebook Messenger, and rely on our smart social listening to identify, prioritize, and automatically route urgent social media posts straight to customer care.

One case management tool for all channels & audiences. Contact centers can manage all communication channels through Astute’s agent desktop interface, including voice, email, white mail, social, chat, and SMS. This single case management system is flexible enough for agents to work cases across all their different types of customers – shoppers, vendors, stores – in one central hub.

Knowledge available at everyone’s fingertips. Astute’s knowledge management can source answers from existing documentation, vendor sites, loyalty databases and more to deliver answers back to customers and employees alike – and save you from having to build a knowledgebase from the ground up. For agents, in-context guidance, recommended next steps, and knowledge search are embedded directly within the case screen, helping agents resolve cases quickly and consistently.

Ready to see what our deep grocery expertise and award-winning technology can do for your brand? Request a demo of our solutions.