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    August 2013
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    Online Grocery Shopping – Big Change on the Way

    Gerald Trites, FCA, CPA

    Buying groceries is still in the pre-digital age for most consumers. True, they can use websites to check for specials and do some food related activities, like gathering recipes, but basically most people still go to the store, walk through it placing their items in a shopping cart and then check out and take their order home.

    How old-fashioned is that?

    There are some exceptions. A major presence in online grocery shopping in the US has been Peapod, which offers an online shopping experience, along with delivery.

    Recently, Peapod has been offering a new service based on mobile technology. Basically, it is a mobile app for smartphones that enables shoppers to do their shopping online and then pick up their groceries or have them delivered at the end of the day. Great for commuters. To enhance the commuter experience, they have introduced a billboard system in commuter train stations, which show food items, that can be scanned with the mobile app and bought on the spot – for later delivery.

    The new Peapod app has been attracting some attention, and promises to be quite popular.

    To really take off, however, online grocery shopping needs the buy-in of the big grocery chains. And they have been slow off the mark.

    Again, though, there has been some movement on this front, particularly in the US, with some chains offering online purchase and pickup. The service, however, still hasn’t reached mainstream status.

    One difficulty the stores face is in deciding on and implementing a good e-commerce solution that provides real value for their customers and also can integrate with their in-house systems. This is not an easy job.

    Some of the companies have been teaming up with outside systems providers, such as Mywebgrocer, which offers e-commerce solutions for online grocery shopping.

    Such solutions offer a lot more than just being able to buy groceries online. They can utilize big data to enrich the customer experience by offering additional information on the products they are buying, including nutritional data, source, not only geographical area, but actual producers and their specific location. They can offer more timely specials and suggest products based on a customer’s previous purchasing patterns and those of her or his peers. And the use of smart phones for the purchasing process will enable the big data to be enhanced with more information such as purchasing patterns, customers and buying habits.

    The idea of online grocery shopping is not new, but its time may well be coming. Not only for busy commuters, but for others in this time challenged world – parents with children in sports rushing between games come to mind. Also, another group of target customers is the growing senior population, many of whom, in their later years, have difficulty going to the grocery store and getting their groceries back home. Seniors, incidentally, are the fastest growing segment of the population in the use of internet based technologies.

    At one time, delivery of groceries was common, with ordering done by phone – the old fashioned way. It still is found in some of the big cities, such as New York, Chicago and Toronto and now some of it is digital. However, for most of us, it is a lost service.

    The new innovations in use of mobile technology combined with e-commerce apps in the big chains may change all that.

     

    The MONEY® Network