Let’s say you’re relaxing on your couch on a rainy evening, fresh from a long day at the office. You just want to sit back and unwind by scrolling through social media. Then, you see it – an ad for your favorite brand’s newest edition running shoes. You’ve been craving for them since last year’s edition was released.
Limited stock, only.
You click through and find that your local shoe store has one pair left in your size. But the last thing you want to do is trek back out into the rain and leave the comfort of your couch behind to seek out a pair of running shoes.
Fortunately, both the shoe brand and the local retailer have anticipated this. With a few clicks, you have the shoes in your cart, your credit card information on the payment form, and your shoes are on their way, guaranteed in two days or less.
Concern over missing out on the limited edition over, you can go back to your relaxation as planned.
Ecommerce Isn’t Just a Trend
This right here, folks, is exactly why ecommerce is so prevalent and so successful. As we touched on briefly a couple of years ago, in 2016, ecommerce began to outpace commerce of brick and mortar companies.
Not only are more consumers exposed to a particular brand’s wares than ever before, it’s miles easier to find the correct item than fighting traffic and the elements to get to your local mall and then set out on a foot search to find a product that may or may not have been correctly labeled as “in stock.”
Now that everything is digital, consumers can go from having an inkling of an idea they may want something to a completed purchase in minutes; from purchase to having the item itself in a few hours in some cities boasting Amazon’s Prime Now services, or a day or two in most locations. All of this, without leaving home.
Primarily, consumers are drawn to ecommerce for its convenience and its relative speed – a statement that isn’t all that novel to anyone who’s ever experienced ecommerce for themselves.
Consumers today want to find the items they need quickly, and they want to purchase them relatively quickly as well.
Ecommerce eliminates the hassle of shopping altogether, and for many product categories, today’s consumers tend to prefer it.
As a result, national chains in a sector traditionally accessed in person – groceries – are beginning to look at ways they can reproduce some of the best traits of ecommerce in the hope that streamlining and digitizing the retail experience will revitalize in-store sales.
Online Grocery Shopping
At one time, online-only grocery stores began promising grocery delivery of any of their in-stock products in just a few hours.
The problem was, according to experts, that the online-only stores weren’t able to keep a wide enough range of products in stock, sending some users heading to the local store anyway.
Most of these stores in the U.S. folded in the early 2000s.
Existing grocery stores saw an opportunity. Why not open up online ordering, with accurate inventory from all the local store had to offer? Chains like Walmart, Safeway, Kroger, and others realized the potential of bringing ecommerce-style ordering to the masses.
However, most large grocery stores weren’t set up to offer delivery. Solutions went one of two directions – Walmart decided to offer online shopping, complete with an employee shopper who fulfills your order, and then made it available for free, curbside pickup. Several other chains went this route.
Others decided delivery was still in the cards – enter Instacart and ClickList. With both services, customers shop via the app, allowing a virtual walk of the aisles of a local grocery store. Instacart then shops for and delivers the order, allowing the customer full access to the store from their own home.
With either solution (and with some chains using both options), grocery stores are more likely than ever to find success online. In fact, over 40% of millennials have shopped online for groceries in the past year, a figure that’s risen 50% since 2016.
Whether you prefer curbside pickup or the full, ecommerce experience, online grocery shopping could be here to stay.
Scan and Go
For those customers who still want to touch, squeeze and choose their own produce – a desire some experts tout as the reason online-only grocery stores weren’t successful in the first place – there’s Scan and Go.
Scan and Go exists in various formats depending on the chain. But the gist is that customers can scan items via an app or a dedicated handheld scanner as they place them into the cart.
Once shopping is complete, you can pay via an online wallet within the app. You can also scan the app’s unique barcode at a self-checkout kiosk. Then, you’re free to bag your purchase as you please.
The point is to eliminate long checkout lines where customers are forced to wait while cashiers scan their items one by one, and with some minor tweaking, it has worked.
Walmart, who performed a trial run at select stores in 2013, ultimately abandoned this first effort. They revamped the app and the process and re-released the technology in its Sam’s Club locations.
They found that 80% of their customers who used the technology used it again within 90 days, and cited a 200% upswing in usage in 2018.
Walmart claims its users found the original app and process of scanning a barcode at self-checkout “clunky,” preferring to use payments within the app.
However, they and other retailers have also implied that without a final scan, some customers are turned off by the eerie feeling they’re stealing.
A 2018 check-in with automated convenience store pioneer Inokyo revealed that the company actually reinstated the final scan at checkout to relieve customer unease.
With Sam’s Club, Kroger, BJ’s and 7-11 all offering some form of Scan and Go, even while Walmart steps back at its namesake locations, it appears that Scan and Go could be available at a major location near you for some time to come.
What’s the Point?
Both of these technologies are, of course, aimed at a share of Amazon’s business (who, interestingly enough, went the reverse route and placed physical locations with its native app’s Scan and Go technology in some major markets).
Even with Walmart hedging its bets, Kroger’s and Sam’s offerings are garnering positive reviews from customers.
Will this change grocery shopping as we know it? The jury’s still out. After all, one reason we go to the grocery store in the first place is that we’re creatures of habit, and downloading an app or learning and using a specialized scanner are two actions decidedly outside our habits.
However, the appeal of new technology and the best aspects of ecommerce (speed and convenience) may keep just enough millennials and Gen Z-ers going to the grocery store instead of ordering online with Amazon – and wasn’t that the point, to begin with?
If you would like to learn more about ecommerce strategies, here you can find a list of top 10 e-commerce strategies to beat your competitors.