While a pandemic is still looming at large, our attention is brought to the threatening effect that it has on lives of people and their livelihood, consequently. It has also brought back our attention to the vital role that grocery retailers play in our society. Consumers like us expect that the grocery business would keep the retailers’ health safeguarded. However, what we are kept in the dark about is the uncertain and rickety situation that the retailers continue to strive in as the state of affairs keep showing no signs of improvement. In order to maintain continuity in business, there is an urgent need to ensure that employees and customers are well taken care of and that there are nerve centres set up to manage the work of the organisation on the COVID-19 crisis.

A new survey by Dynfke Kuijpers, Simon Wintels and Naomi Yamakawa shows how across Asia, grocery retails have found the urgent need to reimagine the blueprints of their establishments: they need to reimagine safety, health, the scope of supply chains, the use of technology to enable delivery and value chain, the meaning of value for money and the whole concept of loyalty.

Despite demographic differences, consumers worldwide seem to care more about physical safety at the store and genuinely more inclined to purchase products that are healthy and locally sourced than they did before COVID-19. Hygiene and cleanliness are the major factors that consumers now weigh in on when they choose their grocers. Long gone are the days of choosing grocers on the basis of familiarity or distance from current location. People are worried about personal safety and rightly so, which impacts their choice when it comes to shopping as well.

Consumers are being extra careful and healthy not only in terms of the very act of economic exchange, but also in terms of what they end up buying. More than 3/4th of customers in Asian countries are focusing more on exercising and healthy eating and just generally engaging in activities and diets to boost their immunity.

In most countries, there is a distinctive rise in consumption of products that are considered to be inherently healthy (such as fresh foods, eggs, dairy and water), while, albeit surprisingly, there is a significant drop in the purchase of alcoholic beverages and snacks. Moreover, consumers have started building their trust in local brands as compared to international and foreign brands because of fear of any possible contamination through foreign channels.

While demands of the consumers are shifting constantly, it is clear that retailers have a very important role to play. They need to re-strategise what they are offering and what needs to change so that they can cater to their consumers better and more holistically. They also need to rethink their use of technology and introduce newer methods like self-checkout and cash-free transactions to reduce risks.

image courtesy: The Bangkok Post

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