Online ordering as the future of grocery?

by Nicole Klimek

You’ve probably considered whether or not you should implement an online ordering program at your store. One by one, grocers are picking up on the trend and going virtual. Exciting, right? And yes, utterly frightening! Costco, Maxi’s and Loblaws all have online ordering and that means at least one thing for independent stores – we need to work even harder to get out customers, keep them and make sure their experience is the best they’ve ever had. Ok. . so how do we do that?


Know your shopper

The online shopper is more strategic and rational than your in-store shopper. Don’t believe me? Think about it; when you take the emotion and the experiences you have with your senses out of grocery shopping, what else do you have to use for your choices? Your logic and your strategy for shopping. In a virtual environment, want does not overpower need as much as in a physical store. The smell and sight of fresh baked good no longer becomes the reason for buying them. Something else needs to stand in the way of your customer and the shopping cart in an online retail environment.


Capture the impulse

With impulse shopping nearly impossible, it can be tough to capture those sales. So how do you get them? Add-ons! You need to figure out a way to get your shoppers to add-on items in to their cart. . .think cross merchandising for the virtual community of shoppers. Buying a pot roast and potatoes? Hey! You might need some aluminum foil or olive oil! Getting shampoo and body wash? You may need conditioner and a scrub brush! If you can capture that impulse and desire, you’ll capture the sales.


Make it easy

Thinking about the work it will take to research, get familiar with and then implement an online ordering platform can make some store owners rather sick! It’s tough to know what to look for and what your platform needs to be successful. Because if we’re honest, you’re really opening another location of your store and the access, process and experience needs to be top notch. You need to make it easy to find, easy to shop, price competitive, fun, and most of all – memorable! Customers need to want to shop at your new store and the experience better be as good as your physical store.


The Customer Experience

This is what it’s all about – online or in the store – so you’d better make it the best experience you can. You get one shot at this, so don’t think you’ll be able to ‘build up’ to it. We don’t have all the metrics yet for online grocery shopping so you can’t afford to try things out and take many risks. So what do we know we need?

1.      An easy to use platform, like Alice or ShopFoodEx ( I like Alice a lot, it’s appealing and fun)

2.     Beautiful, crisp graphics and images. Think merchandising in the digital form

3.     Decent prices

4.     Ease of payment

5.     Seamless cart to kitchen delivery system

6.     Ways to show off your brand so the customer knows they’re shopping at your store


Getting those groceries

The last thing is one of the most important when it comes to both the customer experience and your sales volume. How do customers get their groceries? Some stores opt for delivery. Some stores opt for curbside pickup and some stores who are smaller go with in store pickup with windows of hours they operate the online ordering program. This is not the way to grow but it’s a good place to start. You eventually will need to have a faster, more seamless process for your customers – they are ordering online, after all, to skip the store.

For those of us who think this is scary and don’t want to try it, I encourage you to think about it some more. This is the future of grocery and you can’t avoid it forever!