Speed and convenience are the key words for busy mums.

Speed and convenience are the key words for busy mums.

The prospect of change in our industry is exhilarating and grocery should be better at reinventing itself than any other – we are closer to our consumers and have insight far greater than many others.

We connect with millions of people every day and have an opportunity to help them manage the rapid changes going on in their world. Equally, there isn’t a more competitive industry out there, which means we are all racing to get to the future faster.

That intense competition, while sometimes a challenge, is hugely healthy. It means none of us can sit back and enjoy the ride. You’re either on the jet, or you’re not.

When we think of the future, and a digitally networked world, we talk a lot, quite rightly, about customers, connecting with them and winning their trust. Engagement is key, but we must also look at all sides of the challenge facing us, and consider how technology can enable all aspects of the retail grocery model.

How can we as traditional bricks -and-mortar businesses continue to harness technology to make shopping more convenient for our customers, make our operations more efficient for our shareholders and unlock new opportunities to sell more products?

Technology is driving the retail sector forward, but it isn’t easy to harness its power. The hardest trick is keeping the core business going and relevant, simultaneously inventing the future and then running both in parallel without adding too much cost or losing focus.

Technology is the key to unlocking the future. It will enable us to be better – for our customers, shareholders and colleagues. As business leaders we must never be afraid of the future. Bill Gates said business will change more in the next 10 years than in the last 50.

I’m sure he’s right – I think for us it will be even more rapid. Grocery retailing may be unrecognisable in the next five years.

We are going to have to be more agile and blend practicality with imagination. How are we making shopping more convenient for our customers, and operations more efficient for our shareholders? How are we unlocking new opportunities to sell more products? We must start where we should always focus – with our customers, our Asda mums.

The rapid adoption of smartphones has unleashed a new generation of mobile mums who no longer think in terms of shopping online or off-line.

At the tap of a screen, they can compare prices, download reviews, access recipes and shop on the go.

When you listen carefully their chief concern is not how they shop, but how they can cross items off their never-ending list of things to do in limited time – those core chores, the daily and weekly tasks that have to be done to keep the household ticking over while, for many, still going out to work.

That means they want to shop when it is convenient for them, not for us, and on their terms, not ours. Just as we can’t dictate when a mobile mum shops, we can’t dictate how. The only part we can play is by making it as quick and as easy as possible.

Speed and convenience are the keywords today’s mums are searching for, and mobile devices are making all of this possible.

Technology has put the customer in total control, and so it is incumbent on us to harness the tools they have to make shopping with us easier and more convenient.

  • Judith McKenna is chief operating officer of Asda. Taken from a speech given at last week’s IGD Convention.