This article was originally published on GroceryHeadquarters.com on Jan 11, 2017.

Online grocery shopping is growing—fast. According to our annual Grocery eCommerce Forecast Report, in 2017 the number of U.S. shoppers who buy groceries online will grow by more than 60%.

As behemoths like Amazon and Walmart.com continue to advance their digital grocery offerings, regional supermarkets are making strides in the e-commerce game to compete, launching delivery and/or click-and-collect solutions for their shoppers.

We thought this would be a good moment to pause, reflect and take stock of our biggest learnings about what is working best in e-grocery. Here are the top three lessons we have learned to help you succeed with launching a modern, unified digital customer experience:

1) The user experience must be your number one priority.

Buying groceries online is still new for most shoppers, so grocers need to focus on making a shopper’s first online experience as easy as possible, and make the user feel like it is saving them time.

First impressions matter, and hesitant shoppers need to be convinced of the benefits of shopping online within the very first few minutes of trying it; 35 percent of consumers choose convenience as their biggest reason for grocery shopping online.

That is why you need to prioritize the shopper experience when building your e-commerce site. Unnecessary clicks, confusing navigation and cluttered user experiences are sure to drive first time users away; according to our recent whitepaper, titled Ten Principles for a Seamless Shopper Exerience, 68% of shoppers would switch grocers for a better digital experience.

2) Constantly evolve your digital experience.

Digital technology is always evolving, and seemingly doing so at an accelerating pace. New technologies are always in the news and being rapidly embraced by all types of businesses in order to compete for the modern consumer’s mindshare.

This only helps to quicken the pace at which these technologies are adopted, and the consumer has become accustomed to this form of iterative, frequent change. Given this litany of digital experiences that today’s modern shopper can choose from to entertain themselves, the bar for what they expect is extremely high and continues to rise.

With Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, it’s clear that their plans to own the grocery market category are being brought to life. Although its still early days, Amazon’s Whole Foods strategy will likely focus heavily on omni-commerce by leveraging and strengthening their existing Prime offerings.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, first-mover advantage is critical. Given that Amazon and Walmart will almost always win on price and logistics, it is critical that brick-and-mortar grocers lock in their existing loyal shoppers through a high-quality digital experience before these shoppers stray—and never return.  

Yet getting that initial shopper interest is not enough. Your digital experience must not be treated as a one-off project, but as an investment that is continuously improved upon. Those bigger players are not going to stop innovating, and neither should you.

Take advantage of user feedback and website analytics to learn what capabilities your customers are using or wish they had, and integrate those into your ever-evolving experience. As it continues to improve, your shoppers will continue to come back.  

3) The way you launch your eCommerce experience is as important as the experience itself.

The way in which you manage the switch to a new e-commerce shopper experience is probably one of the most important parts of the project. A lack of proper planning and training around a launch is one of the main reasons behind a painful launch.

To develop a strong foundation around a new experience, it is essential to facilitate the right communication at the right time, both internally and externally.

Internally, that could mean kick-off presentations, town halls, memos or employee marketing campaigns. Externally, explain why you are making the change, how new features will benefit the shopping experience, and entice your current shoppers with free trials, special offers and more.

Doing so will establish a culture shift for your team and customers that supports ongoing iterations and evolutions of your digital experience, something we now know is crucial to your digital success. To execute a top-notch launch consider the mantra, “communication, early and often.”

The past year has taught us a lot about where grocery is heading, and how fast things are moving.

By offering your shoppers an experience that is simple, unified, and continuously evolving, you will navigate the through the tough terrain of today’s marketplace and come out on top with a winning omni-commerce experience.     

To learn more about what a modern eGrocery experience looks like, request a demo.

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