Grocery shopping is something most of us do every week or so. Although the purpose of grocery stores has stayed constant — to help people stock up on essentials — grocery store technology frequently gets updated. Self-checkout stations are familiar sights at many stores, for example.

What might we expect from grocery stores in a few decades or sooner? Here are some possibilities.

They might offer content related to recent Amazon activity

Sources say Amazon is extending its reach in the grocery sector, complementing the more than a dozen Amazon Go convenience stores. Those allow people to check out without encountering cashiers and have a company bill a card that’s on file in an app.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the brand already signed more than a dozen leases in Los Angeles for future grocery stores, and Philadelphia and Chicago may get some of Amazon’s first grocery stores, too. Details are scarce, other than it appears the brand will sell prepared food along with the usual grocery items.

Considering that retailers perpetually want to provide relevant offers to customers, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where you download an Amazon app that provides incentives related to things you’ve looked at on Amazon. For example, if you’ve recently browsed for a book containing 50 vegetarian recipes, the app might encourage you to check out a sale on fresh produce while grocery shopping.

They may let you pay with facial recognition

Facial recognition is frequently part of smartphone security, and it could become more widely used at grocery stores, too. Foodymart is a Toronto-based grocery chain that wants to launch facial recognition for payment by the first quarter of 2020.

Customers can submit 3D scans of their faces, which then get linked to their payment accounts. The system assesses whether an image on file matches what shows up when a person gazes at a screen while checking out.

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This payment method is already mainstream in China, but some people don’t like the idea of it coming to Canada. The concerns center on data privacy and the need to have frameworks implemented that make security paramount if or when people start using this kind of payment technology in more places.

They might rely heavily on cloud technology

Kroger and Microsoft recently teamed up to experiment with cloud-based technologies in grocery stores. The collaboration resulted in the opening of two test stores featuring tech ranging from sensors to “digital shelves.” The shelves update to show the most recent information and help people find items on shopping lists stored in apps by showing personalized icons above the right products.

Microsoft also wants to use artificial intelligence (AI) at the test stores to predict shopper characteristics. It will rely on the information for improved ad tailoring. Devices on the ceiling check for out-of-stock items, while temperature sensors automatically sound if the stuff in a refrigerated case gets too warm.

Cloud-dependent technologies like these could eventually appear in more stores. Depending on the results that Microsoft and Kroger achieve, other brands could feel compelled to invest in high-tech store additions.

They may cater to click-and-collect customers

Future grocery stores might be more suitable for people who choose their items online and pick them up later. Research indicates that in the U.S., more than half of shoppers already use click-and-collect services.

While accommodating to that shift, brands may revamp their physical premises to make it easier for fulfillment staff members to grab the items that customers order. You might also commonly see dedicated areas of parking lots for click-and-collect customers, similar to how fast-food restaurants usually have purpose-built lanes and drive-up windows.

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They might not be customer-facing places to go

Building on the earlier point that more grocery stores may get updated to better serve click-and-collect customers, there’s a chance that brick-and-mortar stores may become few and far between. Companies like Shipt and Instacart specialize in same-day deliveries from local stores. In one recent example, Winn-Dixie is using both of them to roll out grocery services to customers in Louisiana.

The brand launched the grocery delivery option to customers elsewhere in 2018. It’s apparently paying off since Winn-Dixie is expanding the service via its partners.

Research from Bain & Co and Google predicts online grocery shopping rates to triple or more over the next decade. It clarifies there’s still a lot of work to do to convince customers to change, however.

One positive finding from the research was that 63% of the people who had shopped online for groceries three times said that they saved time by doing it. However, the percentage was only 42% among first-time online shoppers. Moreover, people are creatures of habit. Some may not be open to the idea of their grocery shopping happening through the internet, especially if they’re not tech-savvy.

Despite these challenges, it may eventually prove harder to locate businesses where people can shop for groceries by picking them off shelves. Instead of getting in their cars and driving somewhere, they might start shopping through mouse clicks and keyboard strokes, especially as weekly ads and circulars make the move online with sites like launching.

Evolution will happen

It’s difficult to predict precisely how grocery stores of the future will change, but the things covered here seem likely to occur. No matter what, grocery brands will evolve due to knowing that failure to do so may mean going out of business.

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