Online Food Shopping Trend Continues to Grow

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that three sizable supermarket chains are enhancing their e-commerce offerings.

Albertsons is offering an introductory special in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for a program that involves a strategic partnership with Tom Thumb.  Shoppers will receive $10 off and free delivery for the first order placed online or via a Tom Thumb delivery app, with orders arriving at households within one-hour delivery windows.

Supervalu also announced that the company has been testing three e-commerce providers at its retail banners in separate markets, and that home delivery and click-and-collect options will be available by the end of the year in 25% of retail stores, which is about 50 stores.

Harris Teeter also announced plans to expand its e-commerce offerings through grocery delivery service Shipt to the Charlotte, N.C. metro area.

Charlotte customers who sign up for an annual membership with Shipt prior to the launch on Oct. 26 will receive $25 off their first order. According to the article, Shipt membership costs $99 per year for unlimited deliveries; delivery is free on all orders over $35.

It seems the trend toward online shopping is continuing to grow. While the vast majority of grocery shopping still takes place in stores, industry experts predict this pattern may change during the next decades.

Data provided by Statista indicate that this year approximately five-percent of U.S. consumers prefer shopping for groceries online. The total U.S. online grocery sales amounted to about 7 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 and are expected to rise to 18 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.

Driving Supermarket Shopping Experience: Aisle 411

You may be familiar with Aisle411, an indoor mapping, navigation and analytics tool which, according to the company web site, enables retailers to “get the most out of your mobile apps and physical venues… easily access data to make informed decisions, interact with guests and associates, and better plan your floor layout.”

The concept seems to have enjoyed some traction, as Supervalu, Schnucks and Walgreens (yes, Walgreens sells groceries!) are among the list of  featured customers on Aisle 411’s website.

The key premise is about improving the shopping experience and enticing shoppers to come into the store.

In a related video published in 2014, it is also suggested that the use of this mapping tool can increase basket size, and create a “whole new way to experience shopping in a store!”

Another example of how the customer experience is driving innovation and supermarket retail decision-making for engaging customers; and also how many supermarkets are preparing themselves to compete against some of the bigger or giant on-line sales organizations.


Investment in Online Shopping Continues, But…

Total funds raised for grocery delivery startups have exceeded $1 billion so far this year, according to research firm CB Insights.

But while American consumers are buying groceries online, they haven’t changed their food-buying habits as quickly as they have for other types of merchandise, according to US government statistics which show that consumers still prefer to stop into the supermarket to evaluate and buy fresh food , and many more continue to make weekly shopping excursions.

In addition, buying groceries online is convenient, but it still requires the same kind of meal planning of a regular shopping trip, and, according to a recent article published on, it often means shelling out a hefty fee for delivery.

In fact, delivery costs associated with online food shopping vary quite a bit and, surprisingly, online shopping giant Amazon is among the priciest options!

It will be interesting to see if online food shopping volume will spike over the holidays, especially if overall shopping volume goes-up again this year as many are predicting.

Is This the Future for Supermarkets?

robotsWhile several of our posts have discussed the emerging trend toward on-line grocery shopping options, a recent SupermarketNews article might be giving us an interesting glimpse into the future!

According to the article, self-driving robots capable of delivering groceries or restaurant meals are now being used in several European countries, and are also being tested in Washington, D.C.

Starship Technologies, an Estonian technology company established in 2014 by the co-founders of Skype, have developed the robots, which as you can see above resemble six-wheeled buggies.  Apparently these robots are capable of delivering up to 20 pounds of food, packages and goods to consumers within a short radius of their point of origin.

“They’re cost efficient, particularly for the kinds of small deliveries food retailers often find the most expensive,” said Henry Harris-Burland, Starship’s marketing and communications manager.

According to the article, the technology could cut costs to pennies per delivery, and allow for the delivery of even a single item to be profitable. Customers can place their orders on-line or through a mobile app, and a robot is dispatched to deliver in as soon as 15 minutes.

While this might all seem a bit futuristic, it strikes me as another step toward trying to cater to consumers’ demand for convenience, and toward providing a better, more customized shopping experience.


Supermarket Shopping Experience Reinforced at “Supermarket Sense”

Continuing the “supermarket shopping experience” discussion from our previous post, a recustomerservicecent SupermarketNews article reported that it was aslso the theme at  Supermarket Sense, a food retail training conference that recently wrapped up just outside Atlanta.

“In today’s competitive environment, supermarkets can’t just sell food… they have to sell an experience,” the article said.

Sessions on saving the center store, reinventing the perimeter, tapping restaurant trends to drive supermarket sales and designing and merchandising delightful in-store spaces reflected grocers’ need to remain competitive amid unprecedented industry change.

Two data points offer a view of the challenges:

  • Online grocery sales in the U.S. grew 11% annually from 2011-2016, according to IBISWorld’s market research report. It’s now a $12 billion-a-year business.
  • Meanwhile, supermarket trip frequency decreased by 19 trips a year, on average, during that same period, according to global research firm Nielsen.

The solution, industry experts say, is engaging supermarket customers with an in-store experience that beats shopping online — or anywhere else!

Read the full article…

Supermarkets Enhance the Shopping Experience via Partnering

SupermarketNews recently reported that Publix Super Markets will be testing Starbucks cafes in select stores in an effort to enhance its shopping experience.

According to the article, the Lakeland, Fla.-based retailer said that stores in Tampa and Winter Park, Fla., and in Winston-Salem, N.C., will be adding Starbucks cafes shortly.

Of course co-located branded coffee stations have been common in supermarkets for more than a decade. Other “strategic partnerships” or co-location partnerships geared toward providing shoppers with added convenience include Citizens in-store branch banks at many of our local Hannaford Supermarkets, numerous Dunkin’ Donuts stores within convenience stores, and in-store Rite-Aid pharmacies at many Shaw’s Supermarkets.

All of which represent the continuing trend on the part of supermarket chains to put additional focus on customer service and the shopping experience as they strive to maintain competitive positions.

Possibly you might like to share additional examples?

Instacart Expands North from Boston: Helping the Elderly…

Instacart is expanding to 17 new ZIP codes in Massachusetts according to a recent Boston Globe article.

The San Francisco-based company, which allows users to order groceries online for delivery in as little as an hour, said this trend toward online shopping can help “aging residents navigate the necessities of hometown living.”

The article went on to say Instacart currently has 7,000 active users in the Boston region, and hopes to more than double that number in the next year. The company also has about 100 employees and some 300 delivery contractors in the Boston area, with plans to hire up to 50 more contractors for the new expansion.

Customers can opt to pay $5.99 per delivery or frequent shoppers can pay $150 per year to waive all delivery fees.

Read the full article…


Supermarket Customer Experience & Expired Products

frozenA recent article referenced a challenge faced by supermarkets as they strive to attract and retain customers by providing a positive shopping experience and outstanding service.

The issue-at-hand is product expiration.

At the corporate level, author   says, “expired product costs generally remain hidden. As a result of date management execution challenges, expired products end up in the hands of customers or on the back of the shelf rather than on the P&L.”

Krawczyk goes on to suggest that the true cost of customer satisfaction, or dissatisfaction in this case remains unseen as well, and cites research from Date Check Pro, the industry’s leading expiration date management software, which indicates the average supermarket has over 1,500 expired items on the shelf within the center store alone!

The article also suggests that while product expiration issues are a preventable problem,  they plague many supermarkets because of:

  • People management – are the right people spot-checking and re-stocking?
  • Setting the wrong priorities – more urgent perational demands result sacrificing the important task of effective spot checking and restocking
  • Trends toward offering a wider selection of products

Given the competitive nature of the industry and the opportunity to positively impact the shopping experience, it would seem that supermarket chains would be best-served by proactively improving these processes on a continuous basis.

Supermarket Events: An Innovative Way to Engage Customers!

Given the increase of online food shopping and the growing ability to buy groceries in non-supermarket stores, such as Walmart, it’s no surprise that the average number of “weekly stock-up” trips to the supermarket has declined.

However, data indicates people still prefer to go into a supermarket to buy certain items.

So the key for supermarket chains is to generate traffic by giving shoppers more good reasons to come into their stores.

According to a recent Progressive Shopper article, one of the best ways to connect with those shoppers more effectively is through the use of themed events.

“Gather a number of products that are complementary in some way and support a common theme, with the goal of driving increased shopper awareness, engagement and purchase behavior,” author Jeff Weidauer explains.

Weidauer goes on to suggest that most retailers are fairly-well experienced at putting on themed, in-store promotions, such as back-to-school, major holidays, Frozen Food Month, etc., and so on.

As the trend continues, the “themes” can be quite diverse.

For example, a recent SupermarketNews article reported the Marine Stewardship Council will teach New England consumers about sustainable seafood at events at Big Y and Whole Foods Market stores this month, the non-profit organization announced.

The events are part of a new campaign called “Good Catch!” MSC research has found that 58% of New England seafood consumers buy fresh fish at a seafood counter, compared with 40% of national consumers. At the same time, consumer awareness about sustainable offerings from regional seafood sellers is low. The Good Catch! campaign hopes to bridge that gap.

This more strategic use of events is also aligned with present-day marketing best practices. As noted in a recent Huffington Post article, retailers must “…build everything around the customer’s experience… they must understand the purchase journey.”

From a marketing perspective, it makes good sense to create ways of making a trip to the supermarket more value-added and more fun!

Events seem to be an excellent way of accomplishing both.



Can Great Customer Service Reduce Shrink?

We all know about shrink… the loss of product inventory.

But a recent article published on offered some interesting perspective for supermarkets on how they might reduce shrink.

As you most likely are aware, shrink falls into two categories—operation management issues and theft. When shrink occurs in a supermarket, it differs from the retailers based on grocery items expiring. Supermarket shrinkage is usually higher than all retailers.

The article went on to cite a 2012 shrink study by The Retail Control Group, which indicated:

  • Operational factors contributed to around 2/3 of all retail shrink
  • Shoplifting accounted for 36 percent of all theft-related shrinkage
  • Cashiers account for 31 percent of theft and general employees another 25 percent
  • Vendor theft accounts for the remaining 8 percent of theft-related shrink


The article offered a few thoughts on reducing shrink.

  • Correcting ordering and receiving processes while maintaining an integrity driven inventory count, can help minimize losses from inventory problems
  • Minimizing damaged products by handling products carefully will add to the reduction of losses
  • The best ways to minimize theft is though great customer service, and by conducting thorough background checks when hiring employees
  • Train and compensate appropriately while maintaining positive working conditions (engagement!) to reduce internal theft by employees

For additional perspective on shrink and other common challenges faced by supermarkets, you might like to review this free whitepaper, “Supermarket Challenges & Opportunities” on our website.