The retail sector is rapidly evolving with billions of middle-class tech-savvy consumers expecting whole new ways of shopping, a kiwifruit industry conference has been told.
Doug Stephens, a consumer futurist and founder of the company Retail Prophet, told the conference in Mt Maunganui there are 'mega trends' occurring within the retail sector.
Mr Stephens said what consumers expected and what retailers needed to provide were rapidly changing, and that was not a threat to conventional retailers - but a challenge and an opportunity.
"We're seeing the stagnation of developed economies, we're seeing the explosion of emerging economies. We have an emerging middle class of about 5.5 billion people now in Asia, South Asia, India, China that is becoming a global force in terms of its buying power," he said.
"In developed nations, we're seeing also massive demographic changes in terms of the ageing of our populations and the rise of this new, younger and far more connected consumer, so retailers are having to adjust to that.
"And then, of course, there is just the pervasiveness of technology. Each of us is now walking around literally with a super-computer in the palm of our hand and that is guiding a lot of behaviour and informing a lot of our consumption now."
Mr Stephens said while tech-savvy consumers could now access huge amounts of information about products they are purchasing online, that is not always the case in retail outlets. Retailers and industries like the kiwifruit sector need to respond to this.
"We were talking about the idea that there's a story to tell about this product - where it comes from, who grows it and potentially even about the very piece of fruit that someone just purchased - that that actually came from a very particular spot somewhere and we can tell a story about that.
"All that's very doable if we just expand our thinking a little bit and look at the potential that technology has to unveil that for us."
Food retailing in France
Another speaker at the conference was Chris White - the managing director of the fresh produce media company Market Intelligence. Mr White spoke about how rapidly retail is evolving and how supermarkets and other retailers are starting to offer their customers more.
"I was in France just recently looking at changes there in food retailing and this is something I showed to the 600 delegates here in Tauranga.
"What's really surprising is that many French consumers nowadays do quite a bit of their shopping for the dry groceries - the detergent and toilet paper and all those other kind of really boring things - they do them online and also for quite a lot of their fresh food.
"This fresh food and their dry groceries are delivered ... to a distribution centre. And I turn up in my car, I scan the receipt that I've downloaded from the internet into a reader and a guy walks out from the coldstore and puts into the back of my car the groceries that I've ordered.
"There are now 3000 or more of these Drive Stores in France. But interestingly, what's happening is that there are new stores which are essentially almost like farmers' markets, but are very professionally done and are very slick operation often next to these Drive Stores.
"So I can go and pick up the boring stuff and then go and have a shop round these really beautiful and very interesting stores for all the fresh foods - the fresh fruits and vegetables, the kiwifruit, but also the fresh fish, the fresh cheese, the fresh meat and that becomes part of my shopping experience.
"That's quite a different proposition to the one that I've been used to and we've all been used to for many years. So it's a big time of change for the way supermarkets are operating."