What Do Grocery Stores Look Like in 2021

Along with COVID came new problems – many of which had never been considered before in the mainstream.

Going through such an unprecedented situation on a global scale was a major learning experience for us all. And, with everyone seeking progress and clarity, consumers have never been more open to extreme changes. 

At the top of everyone’s mind is one question: what can we do to upgrade our existing normals to cultivate greater health and safety? Right now, people are looking for solutions. Consumers are hungry for better protocols that streamline everyday processes.

The ground is ripe for introducing new protocols – and they’ll be hitting the grocery scene sooner than expected.

Today’s developments in the grocery industry are largely being shaped by innovative companies. The competition is high, and big brands are investing heavily to offer tangible improvements to upend consumer experiences. In today’s grocery market, raising the bar is the key to winning business.

Commercial real estate professionals need to stay one step ahead to make the most of these revolutions to the grocery sector. Here’s what the future of the grocery space looks like:

Amazon Sets the Standard

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods marked a major event in the grocery industry. Both online and in-store, Amazon is known for playing hardball. For the past year, grocery-based competitors have been fighting to stay up to par with the ‘Whole Foods Effect’.

Right now, Amazon is boasting it’s latest grocery concept. It’s a multi-phase action plan that will spearhead domestic grocery. Here’s what’s coming:

First, Whole Foods is now offering free one-hour pick-up for online orders made through Prime. Second, Amazon Fresh, a cost-efficient grocery chain, is multiplying across the country. Third, the new payment technology coined Amazon One allows shoppers to pay with their palms.

As seen with 2019’s e-commerce battle, when Amazon does something, other brands are forced to follow the trend. Amazon’s latest movements are expected to spread across the grocery scene next year.

The Rise of Instacart

Remote shopping for groceries is one of those COVID habits that won’t be quick to fall away. Many consumers prefer the ease and convenience of services like Instacart, and this preference will be reshaping grocery’s online and in-person experience.

Expect the online shopping platforms to greatly improve, with more accurate inventories and an easier navigation experience. Right now, Instacart team members are collecting groceries alongside in-person shoppers. Looking ahead, expect that process to take place behind the scenes as grocers allot warehouse-like spaces for online order fulfillment.

New Protocols to In-Store Shopping

Social distancing has already become a norm, but experts anticipate the safety protocols to continue expanding. Contactless shopping, widened aisles, and Smart technology will all be deployed by grocery brands to re-invent the in-store shopping experience.

All this considered, 2021 will be a year of immense change for the U.S. grocery scene. Many of these transformations will extend into the physical space of grocery stores. CRE professionals should be ready to leverage the newest grocery trends to strategize their future movements – so don’t take your eyes off of grocery.

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