The recent pandemic has snatched humanity by the Achilles heel and shaken civilization. Subsequent rapid technical adaptations to improve our chances were almost magical in terms of both speed and design. While most of the advanced technologies for food and retail were elements of survival on the go, some of the new technologies are likely to outlive the viral threat.

Many of the technological advances will remain based on popular demand.

“Customers are used to trouble-free omnichannel shopping, which makes it less of a differentiator and more of an anticipation. Demographers who aren’t prone to technologies that might not have switched to online shopping are now doing so on a regular basis, having had to do so as necessary at the start of the pandemic, “said Pete Hollande, director of consulting services. solutions: retail, leasing, telecommunications, Vertex, tax technology and services provider.

But other forces also ensure that the latest technological changes remain in place. At the top of this list are current supply chain issues.

“The digitalisation of the food supply chain is accelerating in part due to the pandemic, in order to mitigate the impact of future supply disruptions. The key opportunities lie in being able to connect the vast amount of data generated during the often-separated stages of food, including production, transportation and purchasing, ”said Brian Hitchcock, vice president of science, policy and training at the Institute of Food Technology and Executive director of Global Food Tracking Center. IN Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a global organization of approximately 12,000 individual members from 95 countries involved in the development of food science.

“Digitalisation of supply chains allows organizations to anticipate disruptions more effectively, respond appropriately and correct in a timely manner. This ensures a more responsive and sustainable supply chain, ”adds Hitchcock.

The Shake Out After Shake Up

The pandemic itself created many challenges, but they were exacerbated by lagging industries that were reluctant to keep up with changes in technology and consumer behavior.

“Leading the pandemic, retail technology has failed to meet evolving customer needs. Brands mistakenly believed that they still controlled the relationship. In fact, the consumer has already taken control of information, expectations, convenience and the ability to engage only in brands that are in line with their lifestyle and values, ”said Michael Lewitz, Chief Business Officer at Reaktor, a global digital consulting firm. big retail sales. brands.

It would usually take retailers and brands more than a decade to adapt, according to Lewitz.

“But with the pandemic as a great accelerator, it all happened in a year or two. Now consumers will commit and open their wallet only to brands that commit under their terms. “Retail technology is crucial to this, and brands are vying to catch up.”

Retail food has been and is in a similar situation.

“During the pandemic, nutrition technology was forced to intensify its game in response to the ever-changing desires and expectations of consumers. While people still want meaningful experiences when they leave home, they give priority to convenience, simplicity and low-contact interactions, ”he says. Scott Finlowglobal CMO of food services at PepsiCo.

“In addition, many catering and retail businesses are affected by labor shortages. As a result, technology-based solutions have emerged that help free up staff time to focus on other priorities – while continuing to drive sales and improve the user experience, ”adds Finlow.

Now that some of the pressure caused by the pandemic is fading, at least for now, the food and retail sectors are left to be shaken by the effects on their industries.

“They are suffering from a bit of a technology hangover after a late night of technology over-acceptance,” said Andrew Robbins, co-founder and CEO of Paytronix Systems, a provider of customer engagement and loyalty programs for restaurants, retail chains and convenience stores. shops.

Improved, but not necessarily new

The pandemic’s response requires food and retail to master the steepest learning curve in modern times.

“The biggest change that has taken place has been the rapid adoption of existing technologies. The restaurants faced an existential threat and had to do everything possible to maintain relationships with customers and meet the needs of consumers. In the process, they found that consumers were willing to try and adopt new technologies at a speed that was much faster than restaurateurs thought possible, “said Robbins.

These businesses that managed to survive learned their lessons well.

“Now restaurants know the direction and insist on a fuller perception of technology,” says Robbins.

But first, many of these same restaurants need to figure out how to make the patchwork systems they assemble work in a more sophisticated environment.

“They’re introducing a bunch of systems that don’t integrate seamlessly, and that’s causing headaches for the staff and restaurant staff. Many restaurateurs are refining their technology solutions and working to simplify their technology stacks to get seamlessly integrated systems, ”adds Robbins.

Now is the time to build something new

“Driven by the pandemic, we saw a huge appetite from our customers for technology-oriented experiences, and within a week of the pandemic we saw a boom in our online traffic that began to reach Black Friday levels – customers flocked to improve their homes as it has become a refuge for them, “he said Nilima SharmaSVP in Technology, E-Commerce, Marketing and Merchandising at Lowe’s.

To build on that success and further cater to consumer demand, Sharma says Lowe’s is working on ways to expand the customer experience in both the store and the digital space. The store app, for example, contains several features that are already popular with customers. Sharma says Lowe’s app now includes:

  • Geographic protection function: The application is geo-insulated, so workers are warned when the customer is on site. This speeds up customer service, as workers can quickly take care of customer needs or deliver their order to their car.
  • In-store assistant: Helps customers find items in the store and explore additional details.
  • In-store shopping: “We see a huge increase in customers buying things online through the app while in the physical store, which is no surprise – the typical Lowe store has approximately 40,000 items, with over two million additional items available online and through our special order sales system, ”says Sharma.

Retailers are similarly building on their technological advances.

“To help facilitate both the growing consumer demand for omnichannel shopping and to meet the challenges in the supply chain that continue to disrupt the global economy, food retailers have also made significant investments in areas such as micro-centers. performance and ghost kitchens to improve order fulfillment, ”said Doug Baker, vice president of industry relations at FMI – Food Industry Associationthe trade association representing foodstuffs and retailers.

“In addition, groceries have dramatically expanded their data analysis and artificial intelligence capabilities to improve supply chain efficiency and product traceability, which will also help reduce food waste,” Baker added.

However, individual restaurants, groceries and retail companies choose to build on their newly discovered technological skills, all of which are in direct contact with customers, which has hitherto been a missing ingredient in most customer relationship programs. Not to mention the customer experience.

“The main issue that needs to emerge from this ongoing pandemic is the trend to expand or connect directly to the consumer through technology,” said Jake Lovelace, CEO of Edgemesh, a provider of headless e-commerce infrastructure for brands. .

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