Don't panic! The grocery store is still open
Home delivery is a vital part of any grocery e-commerce operation. During the pandemic, there was an unprecedented surge as online shopping soared. By some estimates, consumers in Europe almost doubled their online grocery spend in 2020 compared to the previous year. This new demand was challenging for grocers, but it also presented an incredible opportunity to attract and retain new customers and refine their e-commerce operations. Grocers that already had a certain level of digital maturity faired much better than those that didn’t, but due to the sudden spike in demand caused by the pandemic, the spotlight was very much on home delivery. Stories of customers struggling to get a delivery spot for weeks in advance were making the headlines, so the immediate priority for grocery retailers was to find ways to fulfill home delivery orders as quickly and as competently as possible. Of course, things did calm down after the initial panic, and having fast-tracked their delivery operations most grocers were able to adjust to the new normal. But should they be resting on their laurels now that they have home delivery services in place? Is their e-commerce journey complete?
It’s true that an unprecedented number of consumers enjoyed the convenience of home delivery throughout the pandemic, and for many of them the habit has stuck. However, retaining online customers long-term is not quite so simple. A recent survey from McKinsey revealed that while customers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom all enjoyed a dramatic surge in online shopping, a significant number of them saw it as “temporary solution” to the problems posed by the pandemic, and would like to go back to a blended approach that combined online shopping with in-store visits.
This is what most grocery retailers are missing in 2021. Due to the pandemic, the industry has become hyper-focused on home delivery, but e-commerce can add a great deal more to the customer experience outside of home delivery - not only online, but in-store too.
Enhancing the customer experience with e-commerce technology
Online shopping, click and collect and home deliveries are always going to be vital to your grocery business, but they’re not going to completely replace in-store shopping any time soon. Grocery shopping is far more nuanced and complex than other forms of retail. Weekly grocery baskets are complex things, often made up of a combination of fresh foods, frozen goods, dry store items and even homeware and other products.
Some customers, for instance, might like to have their weekly shop delivered to their home but buy their fresh fruit and vegetables in-store so they can inspect the quality for themselves. Others might like to order larger or heavier items online so that they do not need to worry about getting them home, but still want to visit the store for everything else. There are people that rely on an online store for the ‘big shop’ every fortnight, but still make more regular in-store visits for the odd item as they need it, like a forgotten ingredient or a bottle of wine. Then there are people that like to add things to their online grocery list whenever they come to mind throughout the week and want to access an online store in a more on-the-move, on-demand fashion. Shoppers have varied needs, and e-commerce offers the opportunity to cater for them all so that grocery shopping can easily fit around busy lifestyles and changing habits. However your customers prefer to do their shopping, e-commerce is an important way to tell them that the shop is always open and that your grocery business is dedicated to making things as convenient for customers as possible.
Let’s take augmenting the in-store experience as a primary example of this. This aspect of e-commerce has nothing to do with home delivery, but can transform your customers’ experience of shopping with you nonetheless. An endless aisle, for instance, is a terminal within your store that allows customers to add items to their basket that are either too big to display on shelves or need to be shipped from another location. Not only does this enhance the convenience for shoppers, it offers the retailer the opportunity to expand its product range, make more effective use of in-store space, and offer greater levels of customer service and seamlessly joining the dots between in-store and online.
A multi-channel approach
E-commerce also refers to embracing a multi-channel approach that can consist of mobile apps, websites and even voice commands that allow customers to add things to a dynamic shopping list via their smart speaker. Your business will have the ability to better anticipate customers’ needs as it gathers more and more data through all of these touchpoints. This could lead to vital upselling opportunities such as presenting a customer with a personalized list of recommended products after they log-in, or a list of suggestions at check-out. It’s effectively product placement, but data-driven and in digital form, and it carries endless potential in building up your relationships with your customers and getting them to try your products.
E-commerce is about so much more than simply allowing customers to buy online and then have shopping delivered to their door in record time. Instead, think of e-commerce as a way to perfect a blended multi-channel approach that enhances the customer experience and opens many new opportunities for growth and diversification.
To learn more about Emporix and our range of e-commerce solutions and expertise, get in touch today.