How Digital Experiences Will Transform the Way We Buy Our Food


The grocery retail experience we all grew up with is vanishing. With governments across the world delivering social distancing edicts and only allowing journeys out of the home strictly for critical needs – food and prescription shopping being two of them – your traditional trip down narrow aisles of food now includes new surprises like tape on shop floors directing traffic to help people stay safe and maintain social distancing.

Groceries go digital

Online ordering systems are failing around the world due to massive spikes in demand. Here in the U.K., finding an online delivery slot is becoming extremely difficult. That phenomenon is occurring globally as well. A recent poll conducted by RBC Capital Markets found that as of March, 55% of Americans polled had ordered groceries online, compared with 36% two years ago. One-third of respondents said the first time they had ever ordered groceries online was in the past 30 days. 

So what can grocers do to counteract these massive challenges and help consumers?

As a former retail and marketing strategy executive, having worked for Sainsburys and Boots, among others, I’ve been racking my brains to think about how we can keep our nation of shoppers safe when they visit our stores, how to reduce the strain on online delivery systems, how to help serve the millions of people who are clinically vulnerable, and if, existing grocery staff need to self-isolate, how you, as a retailer, can onboard new staff quickly, safely, and securely.

The answer from my perspective is a proven technology known as digital identity and access management software (known within the sector as CIAM or IAM). As with most digital capabilities, IT departments can deliver this on premises or in the cloud (via public cloud, private cloud, or a hybrid environment).

Retailers and grocers should look to expand their “click-and-collect” services, which will remove the strain and danger of shopping inside stores by diverting in-store shoppers to collecting their groceries in outside spaces or car parks. 

Now clearly, there are still logistical challenges, temperature and weather being a couple of obvious ones, as well as training the staff to support the service, but it's certainly a possible route that would reduce in-person contact. Imagine driving up to the grocery store, receiving a text message identifying you (or your partner if they have your permission to collect the groceries on your behalf), along with instructions on where to find the store’s preferred pick-up location so that the grocery staff can simply open your trunk to load your goods and off you go.  

Companies like ForgeRock make it easy for retailers to verify the identity of a customer to ensure that the right person gets their online order and to eliminate concerns about fraud.  

We can also expect that companies will see increased turnover as the rate of people being tested positive for COVID-19 grows and/or retailers rapidly hire to meet increased demand. Instacart has announced that it is hiring 300,000 more full-service shoppers due to COVID-19. Walmart, CVS, Amazon and other U.S. employers are hiring more than 800,000 to handle the crush of online shoppers who are asking for delivery service. To help keep operations running smoothly, organizations are going to need a way to onboard new staff quickly. IAM capabilities make it possible to give new employees access to relevant systems  in a matter of minutes versus days securely, while protecting company data. 

Grocers worldwide are being forced to re-examine their current systems and processes. The move to digital occurred almost two decades ago, but the current challenges are driving even greater change, globally and locally. 

If the margins from stores are greater than the online channel – due to shipping charges and handling charges in this current climate – creative new ways of fulfilling orders are desperately needed, and perhaps this is one way technology can help. 

We’re Here to Help 

With modern IAM capabilities, grocers and retailers can easily address the new demands they are facing. Getting started is simple. Contact us to start a conversation, or learn more about how to connect everyone, anywhere.