As time passes, the lifestyle needs and wants of consumers change, and every industry tends to evolve with these changes adhering to what customers expect of it. For years, the Indian food retail landscape was well-entrenched vis a vis e-commerce and digitalization, mostly because many consumers preferred to go out and buy groceries themselves, especially when it came to buying fresh produce, meat, and other perishable food items. All of that, however, changed last year when the entire world went into lockdown, and venturing out to buy essentials became a health risk.
Changes in Consumer Lifestyle
The constantly evolving lifestyle demands of the consumer have always been an essential driver of change across all industries, which was only further accelerated by the Covid-19 outbreak. Even though the situation has relatively improved, people find it difficult to juggle between personal and professional lives as they continue to work from home. With extended work hours in the remote working setup and changes to the 9 to 5 work setup, consumers now prefer to order their groceries and daily essentials online, instead of venturing out and waiting in crowded areas. Consumers do not wish to spend time waiting in queues, thus prompting retailers to adapt with faster checkout counters and cash tills. To address these needs, the food retail landscape experienced rapid digitalization in two central areas - the digitization of payments and the rise of online grocery shopping.
Digitalization Driven by Lifestyle Changes
Although the digitalization of payments in the retail sector was not a new phenomenon brought about by the pandemic, the latter did prove to be a catalyst for the rapid adoption of digitized payments even in remote parts of the country where cash payments were previously the only available option. The adoption of digital payment methods like mobile wallets, QR codes, and digital meal cards allowed for safe, secure, and contactless transactions. These alternatives did not only prove to be safe but were also easy-to-use and affordable, making it easier for small retailers like the local kirana stores to accept and adapt. The use of digital payments meant safer transactions.
While the Indian consumer was already used to omnichannel e-commerce websites that sell multiple categories, with the imposition of lockdowns and Covid restrictions, online grocery shopping became more of a necessity than a choice. With more people looking for groceries online, Indian e-commerce websites have become more integrated and now offer services like same-day and next-day delivery of food products. Even the local supermarkets and kirana stores began offering doorstep delivery, carrying POS machines during deliveries, and accepting payments via wallets, to keep up with the changing times. The market is also witnessing the emergence of a new cohort of digital consumers - people above the age of 50 and 60. Originally, this generation was more inclined towards traditional shopping methods, however, after the pandemic, they are now adapting to e-commerce with the help of Gen-Z (digital natives) and millennials (digital adopters).
New-Age Contactless Payment Modes & the Emergence of IoT
Payment modes like RFID, NFC, or QR Codes are changing the way the world looks at digital payments. RFID is one of the payment methods that has been vastly used in these times of crisis when people are going contactless. Radio Frequency Identification can be clubbed with cards, smartphones, smartwatches, and security tags, making contactless payments a savior in such times. NFC payments offer another method where one can make contactless, highly secure, and encrypted payments. Though digital payments have paved the way to improve the everyday quality of life of consumers, it is imperative that they are aptly deployed to benefit everyone and be inclusive. This is where IoT comes into the picture. Combining the mass reach of digital payments with the power of IoT, the food retail sector can flourish even more in the coming years.
With a diverse and demanding consumer base that is constantly changing, the food retail industry is also rapidly changing and adapting itself to accommodate the needs of consumers. This industry is growing for the better as consumers are now more inclined towards safer, healthier, and more conscious consumption patterns. Importantly, organizations are also keen to provide healthy meals for employees to boost employee wellbeing and experience by leveraging digital employee benefits.