What does 2015 hold for grocery stores and online shoppers?

Order Management

When most people think about grocery shopping, the first thing that comes to mind is heading to the local store to buy the goods they need. While many shoppers have opened up to online shopping for most of their needs, grocery shopping still seems to be firmly rooted in the realm of brick-and-mortar. It does makes sense – after all, when people buy goods online, they know it will take a couple of days for those products to arrive, so purchasing groceries online may seem like a weird way to make those purchases.

However, 2015 may be the year this changes. With more people shopping online for the sheer convenience of it, it only makes sense for people to begin grocery shopping digitally as well. Just as merchants such as Amazon have improved warehouse and order fulfillment operations to allow for same-day delivery, grocers can use similar technology to deliver food and other consumables to customers’ door step in a timely manner.

Early movers look to bring online grocery shopping to customers

Some retail and grocery brands are already heavily involved with the trend. Supermarket News reported that Amazon is building a massive infrastructure that will open up same-day delivery for grocery sellers such as AmazonFresh. Established grocery store brands have also joined the fray, with Kroger acquiring online supplement and organic grocery product seller Vitacost and the increased usage of the Peapod delivery service among other brands.

Additionally, Supermarket News noted the rise of subscription services for consumable goods. Many brands have gotten involved with monthly services that automatically ship products to customers periodically. For instance, people can get razor blades sent to their door monthly or subscribe to services such as NatureBox, which sends healthy snacks to people every month.

Shoppers are realizing how convenient it can be to buy groceries online, particularly with grocers that offer other perks, such as being able to save orders to make future purchases much easier.

While these examples are generally not time-sensitive – NatureBox’s snacks and CPG items such as razor blades are nonperishable so it doesn’t matter if they take a few days to ship – they are changing the way people think about buying groceries and other items. Shoppers are realizing how convenient it can be to buy groceries online, particularly with grocers that offer other perks, such as being able to save orders to make future purchases much easier.

Grocery: A key opportunity in the online space

Because so many people buy groceries locally, they often do not have that many options – they just go to the closest store. However, if grocery stores are willing to deliver products to customers, they may be able to extend their reach simply because people don’t have a preference for stores. One report from the Food Marketing Institute found that nearly one in 10 shoppers could not name the primary grocery stores they visit, and that only 12 to 15 percent of customers are loyal to a single retailer, suggesting there may be opportunities for merchants if they can take the convenience of location out of the picture.

However, in order to capitalize on these opportunities, grocery stores must make the the right investments. Realistically, improving online grocery shopping is not much different than any other retail category – it requires order management and fulfillment solutions that allow grocers to process orders quickly and identify which locations are optimal to fulfill the orders from. Inventory management and picking tools could be used to help grocery store employees put together orders quickly and effectively.

Grocers could even move to offer the same in-store pickup option that so many of their retail counterparts have implemented in recent years.

Grocers could even move to offer the same in-store pickup option that so many of their retail counterparts have implemented in recent years. This allows people to beat the lines, and stores could even sanction curbside pickup of groceries for maximum convenience. Once again, though, order fulfillment is pivotal – people don’t want to be waiting outside because orders take longer to fulfill than normal. Unlike retail purchases that may typically only be a few items, grocery purchases may have dozens of items, which complicates the issue.

Grocery shopping online is still the wild, wild west in many ways, but if there is one certainty, it is that peoples’ opinions about shopping online are changing. Grocery stores may want to make moves to capitalize on this trend by making the right investments in retail technology that will help them fill orders quickly and deliver them to customers.

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