Technology is integral to growing a successful grocery store. It can uplevel your customer experience with tools that support marketing, omnichannel — like online ordering and curbside pickup — and offering coupons and loyalty programs. It also helps you handle key tasks like effectively keeping up with your inventory — even with high turnover, multiple sales channels, and perishable goods.
The backbone of your grocery store: inventory management software
At the core of every grocery store is inventory management software, which can help manage stock in real-time, keep track of sales, and automate the reordering process.
The barcode (or SKU number) can be scanned as items come into a store to add them to inventory and again at the register to complete the checkout process and remove them from inventory. At a grocery store, this happens hundreds of times each day on thousands of items. These ins and outs of inventory can happen simultaneously at checkout and at the receiving dock. Inventory management software keeps track of total inventory and can generate reports for reordering and how products moved through sales channels.
In grocery stores with online shopping and pickup or delivery, the online system is often connected to the same inventory management software to help provide accurate availability of items for purchase.
For many grocery stores, the process looks a lot like this:
- Products are ordered and purchased from a vendor or distributor.
- When products arrive, the quantities are compared against the original order, or purchase order. They are marked “received” and scanned into inventory quantities at the store.
- Items are removed from inventory when they are sold at checkout.
- Items are removed from inventory when they expire, are damaged, or when used for samples.
- The system — or a team member — creates a report to see remaining inventory and determine when, and if, a reorder is necessary.
Many grocers rely on scales for inventory. With items such as produce or cheese, inventory is based on weight rather than units. Receiving these items at a bulk weight, and then pricing accurately by the small weight units will keep quantities correct and reordering easy. Grocery stores that have a scale integrated with the POS system that conveys the weight and price to be added to the cart are able to keep inventory accurate.
Square for Retail has purchase orders and profit margins built into the point-of-sale system. It also includes the use of scales and weights, an in-demand feature for grocery store inventory management.
Solid inventory management software keeps track of inflows, sales, inventory going out, inventory remaining, and sufficient inventory, all in a centralized place to help prevent over- or understocking and keep the store running smoothly.
This is all part of a bigger revenue picture. The better a store manages inventory, the more profitable it can be when dealing with reductions in loss of products or perishables or having expired or out-of-date inventory.
Marketing your grocery store
The consumer experience of grocery shopping has changed: Many shoppers start online, whether they are checking inventory, starting a grocery order in a virtual cart, looking for store directions, or checking your social media feeds for special offers or discounts.
Search engine optimization is essential to ensuring your customers can easily find you online. SEO helps your customers find your website at the right time — when they’re looking for what you sell on a search engine or map app. Optimizing your website and product listings can help ensure that the content is indexed by search engines — making it clear what you do and highlighting the products you sell.
When thinking about SEO, Google is top of mind since it accounts for close to 90% of the global search engine market. As the largest, most used search engine, most businesses are looking to rank there.
There are other Google tools that you can use to help your grocery store:
A Google Business Profile allows you to create an online profile with a location, phone number, business hours, photos, and, maybe most importantly, customer reviews. To maximize the quality and impact of reviews, Google recommends creating and verifying your online profile first. Then you can encourage shoppers to leave reviews, and you can even respond to feedback.
Google Local Product Listings creates a feed from Square directly to search. Having an active local inventory feed can help power organic search. This boosts SEO and helps shoppers find what they are looking for since product listings feed into multiple Google apps, including Google Shopping, Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Google Images — apps shoppers use every day.
Other marketing avenues, such as email and social media, can also be strong drivers of traffic and revenue. Use Square Marketing to highlight your online store or inventory in social media posts or email campaigns. The tool allows you to expand your reach with personalized messaging as well as automated campaigns that can be sent via email or text message. It’s just one more way to interact with your shoppers at a time that works for them.
Marketing tactics work most effectively for a grocery — or any — business when deployed as part of a larger plan. Think about how you can target existing, new, and former customers; consider what geographic reach your location has; try to upsell items or grocery services (such as delivery); and create incentives for customers to keep coming back.
Marketing matters for a key reason in the grocery business: With low margins, it is important to help drive additional revenue streams. The marketing tactics above can help make it easier for loyal customers to interact, engage, and shop at your store as well as help new customers make the switch to your business.
One of the biggest revenue gains for many grocery stores is in the form of omnichannel retail. By providing in-person and online shopping experience options, your store can potentially grow its customer base.
There are three primary methods of omnichannel retail that are proven to have a significant revenue impact:
- Curbside grocery pickup. The convenience factor of curbside pickup can encourage more frequent ordering and help the bottom line with minimum order requirements or fees for small orders.
- Online ordering with in-store pickup. Here’s the beauty of this option, known as buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS): Customers can do the bulk of their primary shopping online and still come into the store for pickup and buy additional items. Oftentimes, these additional purchases are higher-margin items, such as food picked up from the deli or snacks grabbed from the checkout displays.
- Loyalty programs, including points, promos, and coupons. Customer loyalty is expected in the grocery business. Square Loyalty allows customers to accrue points and help you generate reports on the best customers to entice them with additional offers.
Actionable tips to add revenue
It’s easier than you think to get started with using more technology in your grocery business. Square for Retail includes many of the features that can help your business — and revenue — grow, from inventory management to checkout.
Here are some other ideas to help supercharge your grocery store sales effort with technology and marketing:
- Add items from the store to ready-made gift baskets that you can sell online for shipping or pickup orders. You can start with your own baskets, and if this is a popular option, expand to more custom gift baskets.
- Allow customers to call in orders for pickup or local delivery as an expansion of your omnichannel retail plan. Some of your customers might feel more comfortable with a phone option versus online ordering.
- Target online shoppers with some of your best-selling options that are available only for online or local delivery. Select items that you know you have in high inventory and that seldom go out of stock, or items that are easy to deliver, to make entry in this space a little less daunting for your team.
- Host a cooking class or food or beverage tasting that showcases new products in-store. You can work with a vendor on a shared brand promotion or even use Square Marketing to reach out to past customers (based on their purchases) to generate additional interest.
- Sell prepared food for pickup. Your deli can become a one-stop shop for quick meals, too!
- If your state allows, consider partnering with a local brewery or winery for a pop-up sale. Bring in the brewmaster or vintner to talk about the product and help get customers excited about it.
- Some stores are also beginning to venture outside of traditional areas of grocery sales to develop new revenue streams. Fortunately for businesses with Square tools, many options are easy and relatively inexpensive to implement. You already have the technology in place, they don’t require additional staff, and there’s no worry about confusion with online purchases in-store. Try out these strategies:
- Sell tickets for events online. Upsell items that can be added to ticket purchases (such as specialty ingredients or cooking utensils) to reduce waiting in line after the event.
- Allow staff to create phone orders in your point-of-sale system instead of writing down the order on paper. This can help eliminate errors, allow for efficient card payments on the phone, or allow customers to pay at pickup.
- Don’t forget that any offsite or pop-up sales can be rung up in the free Square for Retail POS app. Once prices are established and inventory is set, you can check out from anywhere in one seamless system that keeps numbers on track. You can even barcode scan with the iPhone camera app.
Actionable tips to reduce loss
Use purchase orders and stock-receiving processes to make sure your item quantities are correct. This small step can make online selling easier. Purchase ordering can help in three key ways:
- Calculate sell-through percentage so that you can compare what you receive from a vendor against actual sales of inventory.
- Automatically generate a new purchase order online for quick inventory management of popular items or those that you need to restock frequently,
- Import purchase orders from another file, such as a CSV or Excel doc, right into the Square Dashboard.
Do frequent inventory cycle counts on popular items or those you’ve just featured in your marketing so you know when to order more. Technology is excellent, but you know there is spillage and other losses at the store. Counts can help ensure that your inventory is always on target.
Intuitive and powerful technology is integral to ensuring smooth selling at the register (and online) and increasing revenue for grocery stores. Create and manage a great customer experience no matter where your shoppers are to help encourage loyalty and grow your customer base.