From Global to Hyperlocal: The Focus on Custom Ultra-Fast RetailBy Germán Peralta | Fri, 12/03/2021 - 09:09
Retail is among the sectors most impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. During the various lockdown periods around the world, the importance of e-commerce rose to previously unseen levels, establishing itself as one of the cornerstones of global economic activity. After becoming a life-saver for many during the difficult months that we had to spend indoors, retail is facing new challenges.
Today, millions of consumers worldwide have access to cheap goods of every sort, shipped directly to their homes from the other side of the globe and catering to an ever-increasing variety of needs and lifestyles. But the pandemic proved that ultra-local retail was still years behind the massive global retail behemoths as people started questioning why they could order electronics and clothing online but not groceries.
Grocery buying is one of the activities that until recently had to be done offline, thus being time consuming, and modern consumers value their time. New generations have become accustomed to instant gratification and have access to every kind of product and service they crave or need at any time. This is why faster options are being developed every day that save consumers’ time. New subscriptions, special bundles and overnight shipping are commonplace, and highly sought-after. Nonetheless, providing a unique, personalized shopping experience is somewhat difficult on a large scale, especially in the grocery delivery arena.
Imagine that there is a certain coffee brand that is unique to your hometown, or even to your neighborhood. It is a staple item in your kitchen and you need it every morning, but since it is a specialty product of your region it may not be widely available at the big retailers. This is one of the main issues with modern retail delivery: there’s a one-size-fits-all scheme where consumers should be satisfied with whatever is available from the big retail chains; users should adapt their own needs and desires to a product catalog that is a result of wholesale negotiations, not the actual needs and customs of the group of users served by a supermarket or a warehouse. Changing this is quite simple, and it only requires that retail companies pay attention to something they already have and that is precious: data.
Data is the new gold. It is through data that we can provide ultra-personalized shopping experiences. It is through data aggregation, predictive behavior modeling and a careful and insightful analysis that brands can deeply understand consumer needs. With the demand from consumers for time savings, it is the turn of retail companies and delivery services to mold their business model to satisfy such demands.
Grocery retail is precisely about that. In Mexico, there are a lot of small grocery stores in most neighborhoods that cater specifically to what consumers at a hyper-local level want and need, their immediate needs and a shopping experience that aims to satisfy the needs and wants that arise at the moment and that need to be fulfilled as soon as possible.
This need for a diverse array of products was addressed way before the global pandemic started, with some convenience store chains opening branches all across the country. These convenience stores started to gain terrain over smaller, family-owned convenience stores since they had a precise variety of goods and services, and any customer could be sure that it didn’t matter which branch they visited, they would find more or less the same items everywhere. But this wasn’t enough: these chains lacked a precise inventory that listened to the needs of consumers since they use the same mass logistics dynamic of a supermarket, and moreover they didn’t provide delivery services.
As previously mentioned, the widespread adoption of e-commerce as a part of consumers’ everyday life included the demand for fast and reliable home delivery, and that’s where the two different retail approaches converged: global-scale expertise and hyper-local demand met each other with an immense business opportunity area and the right mindset to solve the problem.
Hyper-local, hyper-fast grocery delivery must not be satisfied by overworking people, by hastening the workforce on the supply chain or by making people fight each other for a slice of the infamous “gig-economy.” A completely new way of thinking is needed for this kind of business to succeed and thrive.
Nowadays, consumers are more aware of the work conditions of the delivery person who arrives at their door, and they know that a promise of delivery in 10 minutes often involves harsh conditions behind the scenes. I am sure that there is a better way to do this. And I do believe that it is imperative that we all understand what’s at stake in terms of these new consumers’ demands. Providing stable working conditions for the personnel who deliver a hyper-local experience to users is the key to making these models sustainable, and the only thing we need to do is to take advantage of the precious resource that is data. It is there, waiting for us to use it to optimize our operations and fulfill a 15-minute-delivery promise that is sustainable in the long term, on both the human and business sides. It is possible, and it is already being done.