Retail success in 2024 will rely on being proactive. Leaders will need to identify and move on winning strategies in areas such as health and wellness, new technologies, customer experiences and value initiatives.
Here are five key strategies for them to consider in the new year.
1. Identifying Unique Health Initiatives: There has never been a better time for food and drug retailers to experiment with new and promising health initiatives that can differentiate their businesses and benefit customers. A case in point is food as medicine programs. Kroger is a retail leader in this area, and its healthcare division, Kroger Health, recently announced a collaboration to offer medically tailored meals. This will be the first time Kroger Health is offering evidence-based, registered dietitian-approved meals that will offer nutrition intervention for people who are living with various health conditions.
2. Choosing Investments in Emerging Technology: Food and drug retailers will need to pick their spots on which aspects of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies can most lift their businesses. AI applications are already being used at retail in areas ranging from operations to customer service. In the past year, generative AI has been a hot topic in the news. Walmart and Amazon are well-positioned for highly positive financial impacts from AI, machine learning and generative AI through 2029, according to a new Retail AI Readiness Index from analyst firm IHL Group. Other well-positioned retailers include CVS, Costco, Kroger and Target, according to IHL.
3. Navigating New Economic Hurdles: The good news is that inflation has been easing. The bad news is that many consumers have been feeling increasingly challenged by months and years of cumulative economic pressures. Retailers need to recognize the impact on shoppers and emphasize core value strategies to navigate this period. Kroger’s Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO, recently outlined how the retailer will be following this play book. “As consumer spending tightens, we are focused on providing customers with exceptional value,” he said. “By maintaining our long-term commitment to lower prices, personalized promotions and rewards, we are growing households and increasing loyalty, positioning Kroger for sustainable future growth.”
4. Embracing Experiential Spaces: The e-commerce era hasn’t reduced the need for unique in-store experiences. Far from it. Food and drug retailers can showcase signature aspects of their businesses and communities at a time when shoppers are looking for unique experiences. A new grocery store, called FreshTake, is set to open in Augusta, Ga., in the summer of 2024 with an array of shopping and leisure activities. This store is situated in the same town that hosts the annual Masters professional golf tournament and will include a five-hole putting green. That approach isn’t for every retailer, but it may inspire other out-of-the-box ideas.
5. Building on Momentum for Giving: The holiday period is always packed with an unmatched array of retailer charitable programs to support communities and causes. This past year it seemed retailers outperformed on these efforts, including programs from CVS Health Foundation, Rite Aid and Meijer. There are opportunities for all retailers to keep this going throughout the year, but also to relay many stories about how efforts in areas ranging from food insecurity to mental health are making a difference. Robust storytelling will drive momentum for future efforts. It’s hard to predict precisely which retailers will ace the strategies outlined here. But it’s safe to say it will be those that figure out how to best address these broad trends and needs for their own customer bases.