Supermarket design and innovation inside Hema and Loblaws, the rise of the in-store app

The supermarket sector has been somewhat static over the past ten years, with little of the groundbreaking innovation in Europe since the beginning of the 2000s.

This is certainly the case in the UK, the big supermarkets seem to be permanently stuck in a price war, with precious little interest in improving the in-store experience of their formats.

So it is very refreshing to see Alibaba rapidly expanding its new online-offline retail store, Hema throughout China. 

Hema brings convenience to new heights by offering in-store picking for online purchases, with delivery in 30 minutes for customers within a three-kilometre radius of the store as well as a cashless in-store payment system via Alipay. 
That’s right no cash transactions instore!

Why is Hema innovative?

Integrated retail store and fulfilment centre – streamlined operations while maintaining, and improving, the overall customer experience within the supermarket.

Redefining convenience and the term “one-stop” shop. Not only can customers buy fresh produce and seafood, but they can also dine-in at the store and have their meals cooked after shopping is complete. This concept brings customers back into the store repeatedly, creating stickiness in customer loyalty.

Active customer engagement and mobile integration with the shopping experience. Customers can use their mobile devices and scan the items they want to buy when they are in-store. Via the mobile apps, the store can provide recommendations and suggestions to the customer to guide selection among other similar options. Each of these selections can be placed in the virtual shopping cart and e-payment and delivery of their groceries to a consumer’s home within 30 minutes can be arranged.

It is also very refreshing to see another brand, Loblaws in Canada, injecting some passion into traditional supermarket design with what we think is a vibrant Hypermarket concept. The Loblaws’ concept store is in stark contrast to UK grocery retailing, branding, communication and store design which has lacked the sought of creative design and expression evident at Loblaws.

Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens is a truly sophisticated hypermarket creation.

What stands out from the interior merchandising of the store is the focus on fresh food and freshly prepared food theatre.

You will discover a specialist Tea Emporium, a full-size artisan Ace Bakery and 14 instore chefs producing the freshest and best of East and Western cuisine, with a wood-fired pizza oven and sushi kitchen to eat-in or takeaway.

There’s an amazing 18ft wall of cheese and tons of eating points. There’s even a cookery school. Simply, a mouth-watering awesome design concept.

Shoppers in need of refreshment can order fresh-squeezed kale juice from the dedicated juice bar, 
a cup of tea from The Tea Emporium, or an Italian espresso from the standalone Lavazza coffee bar.

Maple Leaf Gardens general statistics:
1. 85,000 square feet
2. A grand wall of cheese with 450-plus varieties of local and international cheeses from which you can select
3. 100-plus organic produce items from local farmers
4. Sushi bar where in-house chefs craft sushi rolls to order
5. Tea Emporium outlet
6. In-store stone oven for on-site bread baking
7. A delicatessen contains a typical array of products as well as a dry-aged beef wall, where customers can age a steak before taking it home
8. Self-serve seafood counter

So it's a great grocery store, one that's being touted as a place to find lots of locally sourced products.

Convenience, inspiration, value for money are three distinct value propositions for grocery retailers to embrace.

For retailers to hold their own against aggressive competitors, grocers must build a distinctive offer that emphasises one or more of the three value propositions that have resonated with today’s consumers and Loblaws
goes some way to achieve this outcome.

Ultra-convenience is partly about having store locations that are easy to get to, such as in a local high street with parking facilities or in a residential neighbourhood. But location is only one aspect of convenience. Retailers should strive to make every part of the shopping experience more convenient, while maintaining standards of quality, far above typical convenience-store standards. A grocery store’s assortment might include ready-to-go items, freshly prepared foods instore, meal kits solutions, bakery, delicatessen and loose fruits and vegetables for shoppers looking for meal solutions. It might also provide self-service options, express checkouts, home delivery and other in-store services, such as dry cleaning or click and collect. This brings me to my final point on ultra-convenience retail, the technology for cashless instore payment systems via the store app has arrived.

ur internal process of renewal, allows us to continually benchmark and write about the best in class branding and design in many market sectors across the globe. The images in this article have been taken from the web and are attributed to other brand consultants.

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