Virtually every industry had to adapt quickly when the pandemic struck in early 2020. As “essential” service providers, grocery stores were permitted to remain open with health and safety protocols in place. With 2022 appearing on the horizon, COVID-19, despite the variants, is showing signs of waning. While grocery stores may not be compelled to enforce these protocols post-pandemic, smart, future-minded companies will refine their service processes, specifically when it comes to product pickup and delivery.
“It was tough to navigate the traditional grocery landscape in the early days of COVID, and the spectre of long lines and empty shelves is still fresh in people’s minds,” said Goodfood President and COO Neil Cuggy. “Nimble organizations have adapted, others are right now adapting – directing more and more energy and resources to their delivery and pickup services. By ramping up their operational capabilities, ecommerce grocery operators have softened the spike in online grocery demand from Canadians seeking to weather the pandemic storm.”
A true understanding of what has happened – and is still happening – in the Canadian grocery sector comes from acknowledging the link between anxiety and habits, or more specifically how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered Canadians’ shopping habits.
The year 2020 was one of historic upheaval and change for Canadians. The KPMG surveys Me, my life, my wallet and Consumers and the new reality provide a clear view of consumers’ evolving needs and behaviours as the pandemic runs its course. Among the key themes revealed in these studies:
- Canadians have been saving more since the pandemic began than before, and are focusing more of their spend on essential items such as groceries.
- Canadians want to protect their data. They will feel safe and will be more apt to embrace digital channels when assured of transparency, security, and value.
- Canadians have gone digital and are shopping online via apps and websites.
- Canadians are civic-minded, and are looking to engage with businesses that have integrity and a proven track record of providing top-quality service.
It is a challenging time for grocers, between having to comply with whatever health regulations come along and providing customers with strong assurances on multiple levels, said Cuggy. For companies like Goodfood, there is now also the enormous challenge of smartly managing rapid growth at a time of unprecedented change.
Goodfood and Microsoft
From onboarding to communication to resource and inventory management, Goodfood’s infrastructure was a blank slate. “We really made an effort to deeply understand our needs, and who could best help us,” said Cuggy. “It didn’t take long for us to land on Microsoft’s doorstep. Happily, we made the right choice. Their suite of tools has enabled us to deploy quickly and seamlessly without any disruption to our growth.”
Microsoft Dynamics 365 – which scales with companies and provides intelligence to optimize operations – and Microsoft Azure tools allowed Goodfood to wrap the necessary infrastructure around its expanding operations. The online grocer continues to collaborate with Microsoft on innovative projects in areas like AI for demand planning and custom internal communication.
From Microsoft’s POV
At first glance, a computer software company has very little in common with a grocer. But Microsoft Canada’s General Manager of Business Applications Sherief Ibrahim said there is a strong link – at the tech level. “Today’s smart businesses are embracing change, and are looking confidently to technology that will help them turn seemingly insurmountable challenges into opportunities to grow and differentiate. This is precisely where we come in.”
In today’s innovation economy, with retailers being driven to increase revenue and reimagine their business in the face of constant disruption, every company is a tech company and every job a tech job. The pandemic has given companies like Goodfood an opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation by scaling their businesses to keep up with consumer demand. “Goodfood was seeking a trusted tech provider to take their supply chain processes and operations to the next level,” said Ibrahim. “In the end they went with our Dynamics 365 and Azure cloud computing solutions as keys to that growth. By choosing to implement our solutions, Goodfood gained access to our global network of industry expertise and resources as well as a thriving ecosystem to continue driving its growth and innovation going forward.”
Microsoft has also derived benefit from the partnership. Said Ibrahim: “We see in every customer a learning opportunity. Any questions we help one business to answer could potentially – and often does – help another business solve a major challenge. Our strength comes not out of knowing everything but out of our commitment to learning.”