As the grocery retail sector continues to take stock of the impact felt by the Covid-19 pandemic, Peter Mansfield, Group Sales and Marketing Director at Trakm8, the UK’s leading vehicle technology specialist, takes a future focused look at what the next decade holds in store for retailers, and how the era of home delivery may well be here to stay.
A record-breaking year
“From self check-out tills to drone delivery trials, the grocery retail sector has always been at the vanguard of embracing new technology. That adaptability has been pushed further than ever before this year, as the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic created a fundamental shift in how – and where – customers shopped.
“We all remember the headlines of empty shelves and shoppers struggling to get delivery slots, as record numbers logged on to take advantage of retailers’ online grocery provision. And the stats speak for themselves. Sainsbury’s saw an 87% increase in online traffic in the sixteen weeks to June, while Tesco saw a 90% jump in enquiries in May alone.
“It’s a trend that shows no sign of abating. The 2020s have long been identified as the years in which the ratio of in-store and online shopping tips in the digital direction, but few could have predicted the balance shifting so early in the decade.
“Looking ahead, we expect to see the grocery e-commerce grow exponentially over the next 10 years – a trend that won’t just affect what our high street looks like, but also the fleet requirements for supermarkets.
The future of fleet
“After all, doesn’t more deliveries equate to more vehicles to make those deliveries? Will we see supermarkets ratcheting up the size of their fleets to meet this increase in demand? Not necessarily.
“Conversely, we may see retailers streamline their fleets, but invest in telematics and vehicle technology that helps them maximise their assets. As with today, the fleet manager of the future’s primary focus will be on ensuring maximum return on investment for their vehicles. As such, I expect to see retailers nationwide invest in future-proofing their fleets over the next few years
“This will include the use of route management software, which use data rich insights to provide the most economic route for drivers – ultimately enabling them to make more deliveries on their routes – or diagnostic platforms which provide real-time vehicle health checks, enabling fleet managers to ensure their assets are running as smoothly as possible and, critically, eliminate costly downtime.
“Indeed, new and emerging technology will certainly play a vital role in the evolution of the grocery retail fleet sector across the coming decade. With Tesco recently announcing the trial of ‘delivery drones’ and Ocado developing driverless trucks, how we get our groceries could look very different in 10 year’s time.
“While driverless or drone delivery may still be some way off, we do know one thing for sure about how supermarket fleets of 2030 will look – they will comprise more electric or alternatively-fuelled vehicles.
“As part of the Government’s Road to Zero strategy, first published in 2018, 40% of new van sales must be ultra-low emission by 2030 – a lofty ambition and one that, if realised, will have a significant impact on the mix of a retailer’s delivery fleet.
“Investing in electric or alternatively-fuelled vehicles will already be on the agenda of most retail fleet managers, and it’s only going to get nearer the top as the decade progresses.
“Alongside the government’s Road to Zero targets, the roll-out of ‘ultra-low emission’ zones in cities including London, Birmingham and Manchester, will necessitate at least partial electrification of supermarket fleets by the end of the decade.
“That’s why, at Trakm8, we are encouraging retailers to invest in the infrastructure they need now, including on-site charging posts, to ensure they’re well placed to meet these challenges further down the line.
“At the start of this year, few, if any, industry observers would have predicted the massive growth in grocery e-commerce across Spring and Summer. But the Covid-19 pandemic has merely accelerated a change that was already coming down the track. Even as restrictions on movement are lifted, and the country settles into the ‘new normal’, its unlikely we’ll see shoppers abandon their newfound zeal for online shopping.
“And while the change of pace has been rapid, so too has been the response from retailers. That’s why I can’t think of a sector better placed to face the challenges of the coming decade, nor more ably positioned to grasp the opportunities that lie ahead, too.”
Trakm8 is the recognised leader in technology solutions for fleet management, insurance telematics, optimisation and dashboard camera systems. Trakm8’s cutting edge technology offerings are adaptable for fleets of all sizes; providing intelligent, game-changing insights that can improve fleet efficiency and reduce risk across fleet operations.