The 5 Gotchas of Grocery eCommerce
And How to Fix Them
The frenetic pace of eCommerce growth in the grocery industry over the past couple of years has been truly unprecedented. Industry data shows that online grocery shopping doubled as a result of the pandemic, and is forecast to double again by 2025.
In the mad scramble to get online quickly, many independent grocers lacked the time and resources needed to carefully screen different eCommerce solutions and vendors, and instead implemented what was most expedient at the time. As a result, some are now working with a system that doesn’t meet their needs, hides their brand, frustrates shoppers, and will fail to grow with them in the near future as technology continues to advance.
Whether you are wrestling with a less-than-adequate installed system, or are looking to take the initial eCommerce plunge, these 5 key factors are crucial foundational points to the success of an online shopping solution for independent grocery retailers now and in the future.
If ignored, any one of these factors can become a ‘gotcha’ that dramatically impacts your ability to provide a successful and profitable online shopping experience.
Gotcha #1 - Brand
For an independent grocer, brand is everything. A shopper’s experience in your store, with your people, your special offers, events and myriad other interactions become the brand or image they come to love and trust for their grocery shopping experience.
For that reason, when you move online, your brand - in this case your logo, colors and other touches that make your store recognizable and familiar - are crucial to be constantly in front of the shopper, reminding them and reassuring them they are interacting with their trusted local store.
The Gotcha: Many eCommerce vendors sell you a system that hides your brand behind their branding, which is always front and center. For example, with one prominent system, a shopper first sees the vendor branding on the app or site, and then must click and enter numbers in boxes to find your store, which is buried several layers down. This is not a good initial interaction for your trusted shopper.
The Fix: Make sure your app and web site feature your store branding, not your vendor’s. You may hear terms such as ‘store branded’ or ‘white labeled’ to describe this setup. The important point is that you want shoppers to see and interact with your branding throughout the shopping experience, not your eCommerce vendor or partner. If your vendor can’t provide this feature, find one who can.
Gotcha #2 - Mobile
It’s estimated that today 90% of online grocery shopping is done from a mobile device, and that percentage continues to grow each year. This means it’s more crucial than ever to provide shoppers with a seamless online experience, whether they’re in front of a computer or on a mobile device on the run.
The Gotcha: While many eCommerce vendors provide a nice desktop web experience, they lack a mobile app, or provide a mobile solution that is clunky and difficult for shoppers to navigate from their mobile device.
Warning! Some vendors will claim they have a mobile app when in reality shoppers are merely accessing the standard website from their phones. This is a very different experience than a dedicated mobile app, and shoppers will notice the difference!
The Fix. Be sure your vendor provides an updated, store branded true mobile app that is simple, intuitive and seamlessly delivers a brand experience that complements the desktop.
Gotcha #3 - Shopper Engagement
Once your online shopping solution is in place, the next step is to get a growing number of your in-store shoppers to start buying online. That requires making them aware of this great new opportunity, and educating and encouraging them to use it.
There are many ways to accomplish this: in-store signage, bag stuffers, checkout stand-ups, etc. However, if the objective is to get shoppers to use your digital service, one of the best ways to engage them is on the digital channels they already use: social media, email and texting.
The Gotcha: This is challenging because mounting an effective digital marketing campaign to engage and retain online shoppers is no simple feat. And most eCommerce vendors leave you completely on your own to figure it out and implement it.
The Fix. Work with a vendor who provides an integrated digital Shopper Engagement system. The best solutions, such as ShopHero Prism, deliver a complete package of social media posting, email marketing and text messaging, all executed behind the scenes without the need for input or management by the store. The service is integrated with your other systems for monitoring and data analysis, and the cost is a fraction of what you’d pay an outside agency or freelancer for a similar level of service.
Gotcha #4 - Low Friction
The metaphor of friction is used to describe the interaction a shopper has with your online shopping solution. A low friction experience means the system was understandable and simple to use, shoppers quickly found what they were looking for, and were able to complete the purchase without delays or detours.
For many online shoppers, particularly early in their online experience, there are points of confusion or lack of technical skills that create large amounts of friction and cause frustration or even abandonment of their attempt to shop online with you. Something as simple as a forgotten password can cause users to bail.
The Gotcha. The majority of eCommerce vendors don’t even venture into this space. They sell you the technology, but all the calls from frustrated customers trying to figure out the new app or looking for their lost password or checking the status of their online order go straight to your main phone number and tie up your employees with questions they may not even be technically qualified to answer.
The Fix. The best eCommerce solutions include a shopper support element as part of the online technology system. Vendors like ShopHero provide 24/7/363 telephone, email and chat support to assist shoppers with frustrating friction points that may deter them from shopping online, or could tarnish the store’s reputation. This frees up store labor to focus on other important tasks and puts the resolution to the problem in the hands of people more qualified to respond to technical questions.
Gotcha #5 - Endless Aisle & Beyond
Technology in general, but particularly in the grocery space, is advancing at a dizzying pace. The big challenge is not only picking great technology today, but future-proofing your business for changes that are already coming down the pike.
The Gotcha. Some eCommerce vendors do a great job of delivering today’s technology, but aren’t keeping pace with major new developments on the horizon. Working with them, you could find yourself boxed in at some point as new technologies replace today’s standard fare.
For independents, this is especially important in order to stay on par with bigger, better funded competitors.
Key technologies to keep an eye on are the so-called ‘endless aisle’ and doorstep, quick delivery trends. Endless aisle refers to technology that will allow a smaller independent store to offer thousands of items not physically stocked in their store, but that the shopper could order through their online app, and have delivered to their doorstep. It’s all seamless, and from the shopper’s vantage point, it all came from their local, trusted grocery store. Doorstep delivery is also a technology independents will need to follow in order to remain competitive.
The Fix. Talk to your vendor about their vision of the future, what technologies they are developing, and how they intend to address these important new trends that are rapidly moving forward. Endless aisle type capability, made available to smaller independent retailers, could be a game changer that will keep them on par with large national retailers. Having ready access to this type of technology could be key to your long-term survival and prosperity.