When eCommerce began was mostly a tool for large retailers looking to supplement their in-store experience. In the following years, not only did eCommerce take off, it upended the shopping experience and became the default for many consumers. Grocery stayed on the sidelines for a while, but third-party on-demand delivery services tapped into the consumer demand for convenient online shopping and delivery, and retailers took notice.
Now, eCommerce is a must-have—and it must be a standout experience. GrocerKey’s CEO and Co-founder, Jeremy Neren, recently spoke with Dawn Valandingham, SPINS Senior VP of Retail, about eCommerce’s evolution into an essential part of a successful grocery retailer’s strategy, especially during the COVID era.
Shoppers Expect a Convenient, Comprehensive eCommerce Experience
In today’s digital age of on-demand services and mobile mindset, the years since GrocerKey’s launch might as well be a lifetime ago.
“Retailers are starting to flip their mindset from ‘We need to be doing something’ to ‘We need to be doing something well. And we need to own it,’” Neren says. The delivery services helped usher in the grocery online experience, but that leaves retailers unable of controlling the experience for their customers and providing the details they’ve come to expect from the in-store experience. That can only come from creating their own eCommerce presence.
Launched in 2014, GrocerKey helps retailers establish their own online presence an eCommerce platform. The entire front-end experience is branded by the retailer so that shoppers have a seamless experience with a grocery they trust. The GrocerKey team works closely with retailers to help them formulate their own eCommerce solution so their business goals align from the home shopper to the brick-and-mortar customer.
The ROI of a Strong eCommerce Strategy
Working predominantly with independent and regional grocers, Neren and his team see firsthand how a strategically rolled out eCommerce experience yields financial results. Neren points out that eCommerce has a technical component, but it’s not the heart of the experience. GrocerKey works with retailers to answer the essential questions: What is the operating model? How is the process of handling product attribution? What is the business strategy? How will eCommerce help build baskets? What are the tangible benefits of this investment?
This comprehensive approach to their retailers is critical to win those competitive eCommerce dollars. Today’s shoppers are spreading their purchases across several online retailers, and that includes many of the biggest retailers in the world who are spending heavily on digital experiences and setting the standard for what online shopping looks like. Independent and regional grocers might not have the deepest pockets but they can offer the same best-in-class customer experience. Retailers can easily see the results of their eCommerce investment when done right.
“Across our platform, we’ve seen retailers achieve about $140 average basket size. In a typical store you’re going to see something in the range of $30,” Neren says. “So we really obsess over all of the details within the digital user experience that contribute to making it a convenient experience so customers ultimately buy more from the retailers that we serve.”
Attributes and Good Data Matter to eCommerce
COVID’s effect on shopping behavior made retailers realize they needed to look beyond just having any digital presence to having a great one. Home shoppers still needed their groceries but for safety reasons they didn’t venture into the stores where picking up a product to read the label was easy. For many shoppers, that wasn’t just a loss of convenience; it was an unplanned health risk.
Looking at calories counts is optional for a lot of people trying to eat right, but a close look at allergens and other dietary restrictions are critical for many shoppers with health issues. That’s even more serious during a pandemic, when wellness is top of mind.
GrocerKey has partnered with SPINS to include comprehensive shopper-centric attributes that list details of a product that go beyond ingredients and label claims, such as diets. An online shopper can’t walk down the aisles but they can still filter by or search for attributes that align with their dietary needs. That means GrocerKey’s retailers are offering their shoppers thorough and accurate information they rely on.
Retailers Can’t Afford to Wait Any Longer
If Neren can give one piece of advice to retailers, it’s that they can’t wait another day to jump into the eCommerce space. Digital shopping habits are formed quickly, which means that the every new online shopper is likely to stick with the retailers they grow comfortable with. Every time someone starts tossing items in their online basket with a competitor is one more customer you risk never winning back.
“You simply have to take action,” Neren says. “If you wait for perfection, the opportunity is going to pass you by.”
After all, the eCommerce experience isn’t static. You can iterate and improve as time goes on, and adapt to your shoppers’ needs. You don’t want to wait so long that your competitor is the retailer that customers grow comfortable with.