April 26, 2023

Three Surprising Ways This Grocer Uses eCommerce to Strengthen Community Reach

Like many independent grocers, Wild Berries Market in Arcata, CA recognized early on the crucial importance of connecting with and supporting their local community — first for the good of the people they serve, but also for the long-term health of the business. 

“When we first opened the store, we wanted to create a vibe of friendly, proactive customer care and outreach to our community,” said Aaron Gottschalk, General Manager for Wild Berries Marketplace. “The vibe developed, but that was well before the days of eCommerce.”  

What they didn’t expect was the central role the addition of eCommerce would play in building and maintaining that community vibe. As eCommerce became a mainstream part of the business model, Wild Berries discovered three important ways it helped bolster their community connection:

1.Help ensure more community members get the grocery items they need and want

Wild Berries discovered that eCommerce was an easy way to expand their ability to reach and service a broad range of customer food shopping needs and desires. Importantly, with ShopHero, the entire process was within their control to ensure consistent, high quality service. 

“We adore and love the shoppers who  buy Snickers bars and Coca-Cola, or buy organic juice — whatever they want to buy,” said Gottschalk. “We and our community are very grateful to ShopHero for helping facilitate us getting people what they want to buy.”

Providing that service requires commitment and vision for how it can positively impact the community.

“We really were committed, knowing we could have a significant impact on our community, and really help our community, by offering online shopping,” Gottschalk continued. “ It’s not going to stop, because there are always community members who need what online shopping offers.”

2. Improve overall service level to the community - Both in-store and online.

This was probably the most surprising — and welcomed — outcome of ramping up eCommerce in the store. Initial focus on implementing a quality online shopping experience highlighted a number of in-store processes that needed attention and improvement, but had been overlooked in the overall rush of daily business. 

“The way we operated our online shopping network through ShopHero made us improve our in-store operation,” said Gottschalk. “ We had elevated our online service level — the way we bagged the orders, the way we responded to customer issues and requests, etc. So we had to elevate our in-store processes along side of that because we had basically started falling short in our store compared to how we were serving our community through the online shopping portal.”

3. Provide Employment Opportunities and Leadership Experience With technology-based Operations Systems.

A well-run online shopping system provides additional employment opportunities for local community members, and gives them experience with technology-based operations systems that make an important addition to career advancement. Additionally, managing the eCommerce side of the business offers opportunities for additional leadership training and experience. 

“We have a full-time berry picker here every day fulfilling the online orders - sometimes more during busy periods,” said Gottschalk. “We’re not a corporation as far as how we manage our team members — we’re all in this together.” 

“I train every new berry picker that we have to make sure we shop perfectly for every order,” said Nayeli Henriquez, Online Shopping Manager for Wild Berries Marketplace. “ The best part is that you get to use your own people, which means berry pickers get the same benefits as everyone else.”

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