Retail and Grocery Business Challenges and Trends

Retail and Grocery Businesses Challenges and Trends

With the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers and grocers faced significant business challenges. Now as the world comes back to normal, what challenges and trends are retailers and grocers, in particular, dealing with?

Accelytics' CEO, Ash Jain, sits down with Retail Expert, Jared Dolich, to discuss the challenges and trends that grocers are facing today.

Planning with Unstable Demand

The pandemic caught many retailers and grocers off guard. People were stockpiling food and everyday products, leading to a large issue managing supply and demand. There was a 10% increase in store to store growth in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Now in 2021, the predictions and trends appear to be coming true, which is that the store to store growth will probably fall about 5% or so. We're seeing the planning issues daily. If you go to your local grocery store, you'll see that the toilet paper not only stocked, but falling out into the aisle. Stores followed this 10% trend and are way over over allocated or replenished. That really is the theme and challenge in the grocery industry.

When we consider macroeconomic or the macro consumer behavior trends, it really stems from this this ebb and flow of the demand and supply and what it really takes to have a planning process that is not brittle. Grocers need a more flexible and adaptable planning process that can change and help you to identify trends more appropriately, rather than having this this push and pull of having things super optimized that everything's on autopilot. Unfortunately, these optimized processes especially for grocery, didn't anticipate something like a pandemic, where it would be so impactful to every single store.

Typical Planning Process of Grocers

Grocers are like no different than any other retail channel, whether that's e-commerce, wholesale or standard retail. By and large, retailers tend to lag in the industry when it comes to technology, and there's a good reason for that. Mainly, the problem is that their margins are a tight - we buy low, we sell high. It's a basic model, so we don't really need to overcomplicate it. That has been the theme with retail for a very, very long time. But now what we're finding is, retailers are discovering that we can't just go out into the market and buy a point solution, drop it on premise and just turn it on automatically.

We have to have an IT team, we have to get programmers, we got to have all these different people. That's why they don't want to make investments like that. They want to keep it simple. So whether its a small retailer, or a larger retailer, or a small grocer or just a local farmer's market, they're all facing kind of the same challenges.

4 Trends in Technology of Retailers and Grocers

There's four really big trends when it comes to retail and grocery challenges in regards to technology.

The first one is that grocers are faced with this challenge now that customers are demanding it to be multi-channeled. Whether that's delivery, buying online and pick it up in the store (B-O-P-U-S, which is buy online and pick up in store) or if it's shopping in store. There's also hybrids in each of those, so multichannel is the first big trend.

The second trend that I've been seeing is the experience that they have with those three multichannel experiences. It needs to be seamless. There can be no real distinction between whether a customer wants to buy it online, or whether they want to go in the store and buy it. The grocer should just know that this is the customer and this is what they like. These are their preferences, this is how we make it easy for them. A good example is what CVS is doing. They have a loyalty card that knows who you are, how you buy, what you buy and your buying preferences. This trend continues to grow across the board.

The third one is what I would describe as digital marketing. With so many platforms of promotion today, all of the channels need to come together, whether you're doing coupons, different ads, you've got a YouTube channel or you're doing something on social media. All of these different channels and the way that they're trying to reach their customers needs to be seamless and consolidated, so that they're working together, and not in isolation. There's a component of data science that's involved with that, which needs to be incorporated into the technology solutions.

And then the last one, which is more of an economic trend for grocers, is employee retention. At the moment, we're facing a labor shortage. And it's very difficult, but there's some very interesting technology trends that can actually help alleviate some of those problems.

Considering These Trends

When you think about all of the grocers, the different types and what they are looking at from a technology standpoint, they all have to face these four trends. And they have to consider what solution is actually going to help them with those four trends? Is it going to just be a spreadsheet or is it going to be a bunch of spreadsheets? Is it going to be a mixture of spreadsheets and point solutions on premise, some in the cloud? Who can do it all, right? So that's what a retailer or grocer needs to navigate when it comes to technology.

Interested in learning about how Accelytics and Anaplan can help with these four trends and your retail planning efforts? Email us at

Watch the other Retail Planning Discussions here >

About the Retail Expert, Jared Dolich:

Jared has 30 years of extensive retail and IT experience. He strives to help retail professionals be better at what they do. He combines predictive analytics, business intelligence, planning, business process development, strategy, and IT management, helping retailers all over the world. His love and passion for the retail community inspired him to join Accelytics, a premier Anaplan consultancy with a focus on the retail industry. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Back to all