AI in grocery – a help or hindrance to consumers?

27 February 2024

Market insights One Picture UK AI

Grocery has always been a fast moving industry, with innovation at the forefront of both the products that are available, and how we shop for them.

Think Amazon Fresh, for example, with their Just Walk Out technology that was set to revolutionise how we shop. Think fast delivery services from growing brands such as Getir and JustEat, which allow you to click and receive your shopping, on your doorstep, within the hour. Things really have never been quite this convenient, and we’ve got technology to thank for that. 

However, we have seen some consumer push back to the growing use of technology in stores, with many missing the human element of shopping. In fact, we’ve witnessed a whole chain of supermarkets in the North planning to remove all self-serve tills as a result of customer feedback. We’ve also seen the growing popularity of the ‘longer’ queues in supermarkets in the Netherlands, for example, to meet shopper demands for more, not less, human interaction (these have been hugely successful and are being rolled out across more stores). This is important, especially as a massive 80% of us are still doing our food shopping in store to some extent (UK grocery shopping channels 2022 | Statista).

So, how are advancements in technology and, specifically, AI, likely to help customers in the grocery sector? It’s clear that AI will bring many benefits to the retailers themselves – including more efficient shelf-stocking, range management, and supply chain visibility. But will this be at the expense of customer experience? Is there a risk of going too far, and alienating shoppers who seemingly crave the human experience? It’s certainly a fine balance to strike.  

But, we believe that AI can offer real benefits to customers…  

Increased personalisation

This is not a new trend, of course, and we’ve all benefitted from personalisation within grocery to some extent – whether it’s deals on our favourite products, or the promotion of new products that fit our needs and preferences. But AI will continue to learn about individuals’ behaviours so we can expect customised deals to become even more relevant over time, making choices easier, quicker and more likely to meet our needs.   

Optimised navigation 

In-store layouts are key to creating a positive shopping experience. There is nothing more frustrating than having to search for a product and it not being where you, as a shopper, would expect it to be. AI will help retailers better map the in-store journey that shoppers actually go on, as well as the combinations of products that they buy, and will therefore be able to improve store designs. Think more intuitive layouts and adjacencies, products exactly where you’d expect them to be…no more going back on yourself and having to find a colleague to ask where the miso is! An improved customer experience overall.   

Improved innovation 

Finally, we’ll see the use of AI in the creation of new products, ranges and recipe inspiration. The likes of Waitrose, for example, have already employed AI in shaping specific ranges to tap into emerging trends. AI will scrape detail on social accounts, restaurant menus and emerging brands to tap into the latest flavour combinations, dishes, and cuisines. They’ll know what we want, before we even know it exists. 


So, whilst supermarket chains are likely to employ AI for their own commercial benefits, we do expect that customer experience will improve in a number of ways. As long as they don’t remove all humans, that is!