A22 is divided into three main sections: FMCG aisles, an open market known as ‘the promenade’ and a dark store section. The latter means that customers can opt to purchase online ahead of arrival, take purchases home or have them delivered, pay by mobile, online or at booths. It turns the traditional supermarket format on its head, allocating minimal space to aisles.
The reasoning behind this is to enable customers to spend a maximum of 15 minutes shopping for goods.
“The customer, quickly freed from mission shopping, has time to walk around a store that remains human-sized while being rich in discovery and pleasure,” according to Accenture.
Products booted off shelves
This speedy shopping experience is made possible by bringing the e-commerce experience in-store, replacing traditional aisles with a digital alternative. Customers make their product selections using QR codes on walls of images that group fresh, frozen and ambient products together, which are packed up in just 10 minutes in the dark store.
Damien Veilleroy, managing director and retail industry lead at Accenture, told Inside Retail that the balance between digital categories and those with products physically available on shelves will be critical.
“It is important to identify the products that consumers are happy to buy digitally. The intention is to remove the pain points of the current shopping experience to create space for the consumer to explore more pleasurable aspects of the shopping,” he said.
Veilleroy says consumer education is an essential part of the concept and that customer support roles will assist with this.
“By removing the repetitive, labour-intensive tasks such as replenishing shelves, stacking boxes and manning checkouts, retail staff can be deployed to customer support roles. This could even include a dedicated lounge where customer support staff can sit with older customers to help them use the new technology and assist them with shopping.”
But could such a format hinder the discovery of new and emerging FMCG brands? According to Veilleroy, online grocery is already challenging brands in this way.
“The approach is not new for retailers and FMCG brands as they already have to compete for digital space on a retailer’s website,” he said.
“The digital format of the A22 model will provide more visibility and also brands have the opportunity to augment their exposure with in-store events where physical products will be displayed.”
The largest portion of floor space is dedicated to the dark store, an automated order preparation area responsible for packing up online orders and those made in-store. The pick-and-pack process takes 10-15 minutes and staff communicate directly with customers.
“One of the objectives of the new store model is to redeploy staff from the store to the sales floor where they can be involved in customer support activities. Further, as the dark store is semi-automated, it does not require as many staff,” Veilleroy said.
Fresh food playground
The concept has been designed to encourage free movement and discovery, and at the heart of this is ‘the promenade’ – an open space offering everything from fresh food displays and cooking classes to branded corners, artisan stores and bulk shopping.
“The promenade is the store’s space for discovery and pleasure shopping. Like a playground that becomes available to the store, the promenade is a space that can be customized, adapted locally and designed to evolve throughout the year,” according to Accenture.
The thinking behind this section is to encourage customers to spend more time in the store.
“By reducing the space allocated to commodities and FMCG products, retailers have more space to introduce new services that enhance the shopping experience and give consumers a reason to stay longer,” Veilleroy said.
Dr Jason Pallant, a consumer behaviour expert at Swinburne University of Technology, said the competition in online grocery means bricks-and-mortar retailers need to go big on experience.
“With click-and-collect, home delivery, and meal kits, it is becoming easy to complete the functional part of shopping outside of a store. So physical environments becoming more about the experience makes a lot of sense,” Pallant told Inside Retail.
“That can encourage consumers to actually visit a store, and then spend more time there. Food retailers have a real opportunity there by connecting their products to live experiences like cafes or other food operators.”
He believes supermarkets have an opportunity to become places for consumers to spend significant time.
“We all need to eat and buy groceries so connecting those needs in an experiential space focused on food and dining fits well. The key is linking the concepts, such as a café that uses produce from the supermarket so that consumers can eat something and then know where to buy the ingredients.”