Retailers

New Features and Capabilities—and a Lot of New Workers—Rush to E-Commerce

H-E-B Express Delivery trades assortment for speed; Instacart recruiting in needy markets
Express Delivery
Photograph courtesy of H-E-B

Food retailers are continuing to direct new resources toward e-commerce with an eye on capturing—and successfully fulfilling—more of the “unlimited demand” for perceived safer food shopping alternatives.

Just this week, the industry has seen new hiring sprees by service providers such as Instacart and GrocerKey; new offerings such as “Express Delivery” from H-E-B and Favor; and tech enhancements designed to address capacity bottlenecks and improve the user experience at The Giant Co.

H-E-B’s new Express Delivery service is offering users of H-E-B’s Favor delivery app the opportunity to select up to 25 items from an edited selection of grocery essentials and have their order delivered in two hours or less from any H-E-B, Central Market or Joe V’s store in Texas. Officials said the limited offering would provide an on-demand option to accompany home delivery and curbside pickup options with fewer limits on selection but generally longer fulfillment windows.

“This new service is another way H-E-B and Favor are working together to respond to unprecedented demand during this crisis to get Texans the essentials they need, when they need them,” Jag Bath, H-E-B chief digital officer and CEO of Favor, said in a statement.

H-E-B Express orders are shopped for and delivered by Favor’s contracted “runners,” who are compensated with a mandatory $10-per-order tip and place deliveries at the doorstep to assure a contactless experience. The service has a separate $4.98-per-order delivery fee during its introduction.

In an effort to serve more Texans during this crisis, H-E-B and Favor recently announced Favor’s statewide expansion to provide more access to on-demand delivery from restaurants and stores, and to support more seniors via its Senior Support Program. Within a one-week time frame last month, Favor doubled its delivery footprint across Texas by launching 75 new markets, the company said. This move enabled H-E-B and Favor to expand its Senior Support Program to every H-E-B, Central Market and Joe V’s store in Texas.

The Senior Support Program provides shoppers 60 and older with delivery of groceries and essentials via its dedicated web ordering service or phone line. That service requires a $10 tip for Favor runners.

New Online Features

The Giant Co., a Carlisle, Pa.-based Ahold Delhaize brand, said this week it was seeking to hire 3,000 new workers to help it meet increased demand from in-store and online shoppers of its Giant, Heirloom, Martin’s and Giant Direct businesses. This new initiative is on top of 4,000 temporary and part-time workers to have joined the company in the past month. Many of the new workers are being deployed to help Giant better serve online shoppers, the company said.

“Over the past two months, our incredible in-store and e-commerce team members have worked tirelessly to serve families, but the demand for online grocery keeps growing stronger,” said Matthew Lutcavage, VP of human resources.

The Giant Direct platform is phasing in tech enhancements with the goal of adding order capacity and increasing time slots. It offers contactless pickup service at more than 130 stores.

Enhancements are also on the way to the company’s website and app this week, Giant said, with an eye on personalizing the shopping experience with product recommendations. New features include a bolder interface and a search and filter capability that connects to the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program.

Now Hiring: Another Quarter Million

Instacart said this week it was seeking new workers—a lot of them, in fact. The San Francisco-based company said that it would aim to hire another 250,000 full-service shoppers with a focus on six markets where demand is highest, including California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Toronto.

The hiring follows a move announced last month to gather in 300,000 new shoppers, growing its base to more than half a million contract workers. This is helping to meet average basket sizes that have increased by 35%.

The move comes as Instacart is concurrently extending a paid leave program for part-time and full-service shoppers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in mandatory quarantine and a bonus program providing extra pay from $25 to $200 depending on hours worked through the end of the crisis. The company further said it was making it easier for its shoppers to access safety kits, including masks and sanitizer, with new messaging in its shopper app.

GrocerKey, the e-commerce partner of Woodman’s Markets, is also seeking 1,000 new workers to help it meet increased demand for online orders at ShopWoodmans.com, the store pickup and delivery portal for the 18-store, Janesville, Wis.-based retailer.

GrocerKey said it offers a fast-paced environment with competitive pay, quarterly bonus incentives, health insurance contribution, flexible scheduling with full- and part-time hours available, referral bonuses to employees and opportunities for career growth. “This is a great fit for someone who has little work experience, is new to the workforce or recently lost their position during this difficult time,” the company said in a release.

Operations positions currently open at ShopWoodmans.com consist of supervising store level staff, picking and packing customers’ online grocery orders and providing “extraordinary” customer service.

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