Those of us from a certain generation can certainly relate to the ominous voice over the intercom calling “attention shoppers.” Now, the script has been flipped, and brick-and-mortar grocers need to be the ones paying attention to shoppers to keep up with the new breed of competition.

Welcome to the 21st century retail experience, where tech companies are grocers, more than a dozen home delivery food services compete for your porch and traditional big box retailers re-think store design to accommodate consumers’ expectations of technology and convenience.

As for those brave consumers who still regularly foray down grocery store aisles, they’re no longer relying on one store to meet their needs. Data from Acosta, Jacksonville, Fla., shows that 76% of weekly shoppers visit more than one retailer each week for groceries.

These factors should concern retailers and consumer brands alike, which are now forced to compete for attention in the store as well as across multiple and evolving retail channels. The fact is, many grocery retailers have not updated their store’s technology or taken a close look at the overall shopping experience for decades. This is not going unnoticed. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Phononic, 50% of consumers think grocery stores haven’t yet figured out how to use technology as well as other retailers. Instead, grocery retailers have continued to rely upon in-store promotions and discounts, which don’t give much of a competitive edge over a box of groceries purchased online and conveniently delivered to one’s doorstep. Retailers and consumer brands must understand the needs and expectations of their customers, deliver the value needed to retain and amplify customer loyalty and improve the in-store shopping experience to rival the advantages offered by e-commerce competitors.

To compete in modern retail, merchandisers need to mix up their game plan and look at their antiquated technologies differently—as an opportunity to increase and diversify sales, lower operating costs and do so sustainably. Although it might sound odd at first, refrigeration and freezers are the perfect starting point. Today’s advances in refrigeration can sustainably generate new revenue and marketing opportunities and provide real-time data about product preferences.

Here are three advantages that advanced refrigeration and freezer technology can provide to help grocers not just weather the retail disruption on the horizon, but also thrive.

Solid state refrigeration—increasing sales throughput and lower cost of ownership

Compressors have long been thought of as a necessary evil – sure, they’re noisy, prone to break down and emit high levels of heat, but when it comes to cooling, they get the job done. However, recent breakthroughs in solid state technology have made it possible to realize compressor-free refrigeration. Without the compressor taking up valuable space, these solid state units offer up to 40% more capacity in the same physical footprint, so retailers can avoid out-of-stock items and keep popular items flying off the shelves. Increased space results in more front-facing product, higher sales throughput and less time and resources spent re-stocking, in some cases saving stores more than 25% on distribution costs simply by reducing the number of times each unit must be re-stocked.

These new designs are energy efficient and sustainable, achieving the demanding 2018 Department of Energy specifications, even while refrigerating an extra 40% of storage capacity, enabling long-term savings. Overall, the impact to a business’ bottom line is significant, with improved sales and operations, significantly lower maintenance costs and increased reliability.

“Refrigeration as a service”—product placement flexibility and point-of-sale impulse purchases

Solid state refrigeration also provides new opportunities for installation options that maximize shelf and floor space, realizing unique product placement, promotion and sales opportunities. Refrigerated and frozen foods have long been relegated to the back of the store, but the time has come to say goodbye to any boundaries in design and placement. With solid state technology, refrigerated and frozen units can be placed anywhere, even right on the counter next to the candy, gum and magazines.

By placing food and beverage coolers and even freezers right at the point of sale, retailers can now capitalize on an entirely new revenue source – impulse buys. When polled, 68% of shoppers responded that if a grocery store had new products at checkout, they would be more likely to buy them, and 46% agreed that this should include more refrigerated and/or frozen options. And, imagine shopping and being able to purchase cheese right next to the crackers. When this concept was presented to shoppers, the reaction was positive, with 64% saying that they would likely buy refrigerated and non-refrigerated products shown together with other perishable or related goods.

This concept of “refrigeration as a service” makes it easier for consumers to spend less time shopping, and simply “grab and go.” With the supposed “retail apocalypse” on the horizon, questioning norms and disrupting the status quo will be essential to a positive post-apocalyptic landscape. Using innovative in-store technology like solid state refrigeration and freezers will allow grocers to get creative, drive new impulse buys, increase sales and capture customer interest. It’s time to redefine the grocery experience. 

Measuring actionable data based on consumer behavior

Retailers need to understand that there’s more they should demand from their refrigeration systems, beyond simply keeping product cold. The introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) means refrigerated units can start delivering in-depth data about consumer preferences, shopping habits and the operation of the refrigerator itself to enable preventative maintenance. This data can then be put to good use when making purchasing or inventory decisions and help avoid product spoilage.

With IoT-enabled refrigeration, retailers can determine how many times a unit is opened, the duration of an opening and cross reference that behavior against a suite of brand-building factors. They can glean insights about the amount of time it takes consumers to choose a product, assess whether marketing decals on refrigerated units are effectively driving more sales and see how often consumers open the door without moving any items into their shopping carts. Thinking of refrigeration as a service, as opposed to a simple cabinet, offers actionable data personalized for the store and for the end user.

Gathering a better understanding of consumer behavior, creating product placement flexibility and increasing sales throughput through technology are key opportunities that brick-and-mortar retailers can capitalize on to keep up with the ever-growing competition.