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Heidi Jungar: Old needs, new forms of service

Heidi Jungar | 09.10.2018

In terms of biology, we people change quite slowly. We still need to eat and sleep and feel safe, loved and able to express ourselves. New trends are born constantly - meaning new ways to satisfy these age-old needs. When creating the food store of the future, we must also try to find new ways to serve needs, ways that are interesting and relevant for our customers. What are the new customer-oriented ways in which food stores of the future can respond to consumer needs?  

Future consumers are hybrid consumers

One of the most powerful drivers for change is the rise of individualism, fed by the general rise in the standard of living as well as by growing consumer expectations spurred by digitalisation and increased transparency. In our 2016 study “The age of the hybrid consumer”, two-thirds of the Finnish consumers who said they had changed their consumption behaviour said they were now making more informed choices regarding food. However, not all of the consumers are making the same choices, as people seek value from different things. Today’s consumers can thus be called hybrid consumers, and predicting customer needs is now more difficult than ever. Hybrid consumers can be rational and irrational, price conscious and quality conscious, thrifty but also a spendthrift and ecological while also hedonistic, all at the same time. One moment they may seek experiences, the next withdraw in search of peace and quiet. The may be ready to purchase new things regardless of price, or buy them used from other consumers.

Towards the food store of the future

At K Group, we have conducted a lot of consumer research over the past few years, with nearly 26,000 Finns. Based on the information obtained, we got 60 of our experts together to envision the food store of the future, identifying five trends shaping the stores. See our vision for the food store of the future here.

Truly customer-oriented multichannel stores are becoming a reality and will lead to the automation of many shopping routines. As a result, stores will become more strongly divided into two sections: the automated section and the section where people come to seek experiences. This enables new functions and services for the stores. It is likely that the line between a store and a restaurant will become increasingly blurred. We believe people will still want to do things by hand. Finnish food culture is quickly becoming more versatile. This is partly thanks to small and local producers, although Finns are also fast adopting global food trends. For example, K-Citymarket in Järvenpää sells nearly 60,000 pieces of self-made sushi each week in a town of 42,000 people! Artisan culture must be cherished to ensure traditions get passed on from one generation to the next. However, artisan culture also develops and takes on new interesting forms. As the popularity of cooking as a hobby grows, we predict the store will take on a more prominent role in helping people hone their cooking skills. In our vision, food stores could offer cooking lessons, thus creating new jobs for the retail sector.

As consumers become increasingly informed and conscientious, sustainable and responsible choices become easier. As the most sustainable trading sector company in the world (The Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World), K Group wants to continue to lead the way in sustainability through tangible actions. All electricity we purchase in Finland is renewable and we are the biggest producer of solar power in the country. An increasing number of K-food stores are offering their customers the chance to charge their electric cars while shopping. Local Finnish products account for 80 % of our selection. We also engage in collaborative efforts, such as the K Fishpaths project that aims to help endangered migratory fish in Finland. Possibilities to take part in circular economy are also growing: a good example of this is the Pirkka ESSI shopping bag made from recycled household plastic.

Tailored shopping trips with digital solutions

As for the growing individualism and modern customer expectations, I believe the most interesting change in food stores will be a shift towards more personal customer experiences, enabled by digital solutions. With the help of artificial intelligence, the K-Ruoka mobile app already offers recommendations on products and recipes based on the purchase history of an individual customer. We are also seeing an evolution in payments with self-service check-outs and scanners increasingly being introduced in stores. In the future, purchases will be identified at collection and paid on the fly.

At K Group, we envision personal trainer-like digital shopping assistants, who will help customers with their choices at the store. The shopping assistant and related solutions will enable a tailored shopping experience for the customer, and we can respond even better to individual needs and potential for convenience and community – thus satisfying old needs with new, individual and inspiring ways.

For example, Matti and his family may have identified a need to reduce sugar in their diet, while Venla would like to increase the share of sustainable brands in her shopping basket. The shopping assistant will use artificial intelligence and personal purchase history to recommend products that help each individual to achieve their targets, thus supporting personal values. This means the assistant will suggest less sugary alternatives for Matti’s family, supported by wellbeing-related services. Venla, in turn, will receive tips from K Group and can participate as an influencer in a community in which consumers, K Group and industry players innovate together for a better tomorrow.

Future food store customers will no longer be simply consumers buying products and services, but rather active influencers. Their actions may strive to improve the wellbeing of their own family, or on a wider scale, to promote societal welfare – depending on individual choice.

Heidi Jungar
Customer Insight Director
K Group grocery trade

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