Skip to main content

More than bells and whistles: NIQ’s Hanif Mohamed on tech adoption

There’s a lot to consider when adopting retail technologies
Kristin Laird
Hanif Mohamed
Hanif Mohamed

As quickly as retail technology can help solve pain points, it also has the potential to cause a few headaches. With new advancements hitting the market daily, (and with the promise to transform any business!) finding the solutions that best meet an organization’s objectives can be overwhelming. We asked Hanif Mohamed, senior vice-president retail at NIQ, how grocers can leverage technology to prepare their brick-and-mortar stores for the future, which technology could be the most disruptive to the industry, and more. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

How can grocers use technology to future-proof their physical stores?

While future -proofing may not be entirely possible, retailers can leverage technology to differentiate themselves and meet evolving customer expectations. Self-checkout kiosks, mobile payment options and interactive displays can enhance the overall shopping experience. Personalized recommendations based on purchase history or preferences, digital loyalty programs and virtual assistants can also create a more engaging and convenient shopping environment. In-store digital displays and proximity marketing tools that enable targeted promotions and dynamic pricing strategies can enhance customer engagement, drive impulse purchases and create a more immersive shopping experience.

Of course, having product on the shelf is critical to making a sale so, having advanced inventory management systems lets grocers make data-driven decisions, forecast demand accurately and ensure product availability based on customer demand patterns.

Finally, integrating physical stores with online channels allows for a seamless shopping experience across multiple touchpoints. Click and collect, same-day delivery options and unified customer profiles enhance flexibility for shoppers.

In terms of tech adoption, are grocers as progressive/aggressive as they should be?

Grocers have made significant strides, but there is still room for improvement. Omnichannel integration, for example, is crucial. Retailers must continue to integrate physical stores with online channels to create seamless experiences for customers. This includes implementing click-and-collect services, offering sameday delivery options and ensuring consistent pricing and promotions across all channels. And, maybe most importantly, leveraging data and AI to help anticipate customer needs, optimize inventory levels and tailor marketing strategies.

READ: Grocery leaders share their picks for the hottest retail tech

Which emerging technology could be the most disruptive to the grocery industry?

Self-driving vehicles, robots and drones could revolutionize delivery and the structure of the supply chain, paving the way for more localized distribution centres and automated fulfilment processes. But, adopting technology comes with its set of challenges, including regulatory approval, safety considerations and the need for supporting infrastructure. Grocers will need to overcome these hurdles to stay ahead of the competition and meet customers’ needs.

How can grocers determine when to add a technology or wait for the next big thing?

Retailers often face this dilemma. To make informed decisions, they can consider several factors but, to me, the most important are business objectives, market trends and competitor analysis. They should evaluate the potential return on investment, including cost savings, revenue generation and competitive advantages, compared to the initial investment and ongoing maintenance costs. By evaluating these factors, retailers can make informed decisions to ensure their investments align with their business goals. 

Advertisement - article continues below

In many ways, the four-wall operating model for grocery has remained relatively unchanged over the past few decades. What forces could challenge this?

We have already seen how the rise of e-commerce platforms and digital marketplaces has transformed consumer shopping behaviours. This shift will continue challenging the traditional brick-and-mortar model and requires grocery retailers to invest in digital infrastructure, logistics, and omnichannel strategies to remain competitive. In addition, we are seeing continued digital disruption from non-traditional players, such as tech companies, meal kit providers, food, delivery and online marketplaces, entering the grocery space, posing a competitive threat to traditional grocery retailers. These players often leverage technology, data analytics and innovative business models to disrupt the market and capture market share.

Consumers are probably the most significant force driving change. Millennials, gen Z and ethnically diverse consumers prioritize differently than generations before them. Assortments, dietary restrictions, convenience, sustainability and digital experiences, influence these consumers and retailers need to adapt their offerings and services accordingly. This includes offering online ordering, curbside pickup, delivery options and eco-friendly products to meet evolving consumer demands. These same consumer groups also have increased awareness of health and wellness, which has led to a demand for organic, natural and locally sourced products. Consumers today are expressing their beliefs with their wallets, aligning their personal values with their purchase decisions… Grocery retailers must adapt their product offerings, supply chains, product labels, and marketing strategies to cater to these trends, which may require changes to the traditional operating model. 

When it comes to collecting, storing and analyzing data, how do grocers know if their technology stacks up?

Evolving technology is a game-changer for retailers, and with the speed of changes today, it's almost impossible for them to be at the forefront of every technology available to them. The biggest questions retailers should ask themselves are: are they growing in line with their forecast and maintaining/growing market share, or are they starting to lose out? Are they seeing competitors adopt technologies, gain more market share or overtake them in certain areas?

First and foremost, retailers need to ensure their technology systems collect high-quality data that is accurate, reliable and free from errors or inconsistencies. They can assess data quality by validating data sources, implementing data cleansing processes and conducting regular audits to identify and rectify discrepancies. In addition, the technology needs to be scalable to accommodate growing data volumes and adaptable to changes in business requirements, market dynamics and regulatory landscapes. 

READ: How technology is paving a path for fresher foods and food security

Adopt or wait? How can grocers determine when to add a new technology or wait for the next big thing?

Retailers often face this dilemma. To make informed decisions, they can consider several factors but, to me, the most important are business needs and objectives, market trends and competitor analysis. They should prioritize technologies that address specific challenges, improve operational efficiencies, enhance customer experiences or support growth initiatives.

Conducting a thorough ROI analysis and cost-benefit assessment is crucial before adopting new technology. Retailers should evaluate the potential return on investment, including cost savings, revenue generation and competitive advantages, compared to the initial investment and ongoing maintenance costs.

By carefully evaluating these factors and conducting thorough assessments, retailers can make informed decisions about adopting new technology or waiting for the next big innovation. They can ensure that their technology investments align with their business goals and contribute to long-term success.

If grocery companies wait to adopt artificial intelligence, will they ever catch up?

Adopting AI is critical for any company to remain competitive and drive innovation. Waiting to adopt AI could significantly hinder the company’s ability to catch up with industry trends and technology advancements.

One of the reasons for embracing AI is its ability to provide data-driven insights. AI-powered algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data, including customer behaviour, purchasing patterns and market trends, to extract valuable insights. AI-driven algorithms can analyze customer data to create tailored shopping experiences, recommend relevant products and optimize pricing strategies. Delaying adoption may result in a less personalized customer experience, reducing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Early adopters of AI gain a competitive advantage by leveraging advanced analytics, predictive modeling and AI-driven decision support systems. They can innovate and differentiate their offerings faster than competitors who delay AI adoption, potentially leading to market leadership and increased market share.

From third-party marketplaces to retail media networks, how much attention should be paid to non-product sales?

These initiatives allow retailers to expand their income sources beyond traditional product sales, which helps mitigate the risks associated with fluctuating product demand, seasonal variations and competitive pressures. Also, non-product sales often come with higher profit margins than product sales. 

These initiatives also enhance customer engagement by providing value-added services such as curated content, personalized recommendations and targeted promotions. Such offerings not only drive revenue, but also strengthen customer relationships and loyalty. Aligned with this, non-product sales platforms generate valuable data on customer behaviour, preferences and purchasing patterns, which retailers can leverage for targeted marketing campaigns, customer segmentation, and optimizing product offerings, thereby enhancing revenue opportunities.

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s May 2024 issue.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds