ZAANDAM, THE NETHERLANDS – The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated change in strategies and technologies used in the food retail sector, Farhan Siddiqi, chief digital officer of Ahold Delhaize, recently noted during the online The Next Web Checkout Couch Conference. 

Instead of dealing with loss of business like many other business channels amid the pandemic, grocery retailers have had to figure out how to meet a spiking demand across all channels. Siddiqi pointed out that across Ahold Delhaize retail banners, online traffic was up 500%. 

“Even three months ago, people predicted that eCommerce penetration would taper off in the high teens in the next five to seven years, causing retailers to question investing in this channel,” he said. “But now, all the scenario models have changed –appetite and openness to online shopping have transformed – it’s quite inspiring.” 

Siddiqi said that the biggest barrier to online shopping has been that customers don’t always trust others to pick their products. In response Ahold Delhaize is looking at algorithms to help the store better communicate with customers as their orders are being filled. The company is also looking at implementing geofencing and advanced payment systems to make online shopping even more contactless. 

Not only are customers becoming more open to digital innovation through online shopping, they’re also looking for digital innovation to help make a safer shopping experience in the store, Siddiqi noted. The trend toward contactless shopping instore is on the rise, with a 50% bump in self-checkout transactions across Ahold Delhaize banners. 

The company is looking to implement new ideas such as guide paths in the stores, cleaning robots, scheduled shopping and how to be more transparent with customers about how many people are in a store in a more systematic way.  

“Convenience and value will continue to be the two most important value propositions, with hygiene and health emerging as a third,” Siddiqi said.