Grocery stores are at a pivotal moment. Retailers that combine brick-and-mortar business with digital capabilities are on the cusp of seeing substantial revenue gains from e-commerce.
One of the key tests for grocery stores is the “last mile.” This involves not only moving products from the store to the consumer’s door, but offering the best possible consumer experience throughout the customer’s interaction with the grocery store.
Although major chains have made substantial inroads in the last-mile concept in recent years—think Kroger’s partnership with Instacart and Whole Foods’ curbside pick-up service—the growth of online grocery shopping is changing the game, and grocery stores must keep pace. To successfully achieve last-mile fulfillment, retailers must manage all of the moving parts that contribute to a smoothly functioning, effective and efficient e-commerce service.
Here are the four pillars of a successful end-to-end grocery delivery program.
- Integration. Enlisting digital technology is a great first step, but to advance sales for the long-term, it is necessary that systems be able to talk to each other and/or share data across platforms. There also needs to be consistent communication between employees, customers and the store, as well as between offices and headquarters.
Recommendation: Work on strengthening the weak links between data sets, between in-house and third-party systems, in the company’s processes and workflows, and between people.
- Analysis. Capturing data on your customers provides a goldmine of information regarding their preferences, wants, needs and spending habits.
Recommendation: Seek out a digital platform that not only facilitates e-commerce transactions, but also allows for storage of the data and therefore also allows for ownership of customer relationships. Then, put the transactional data that’s collected to good use by logging all single data attributes into practical insights on the order fulfillment lifecycle. Finally, use these insights to improve the last mile of a customer’s experience while considering all the people involved in the shopper journey.
- Organization. Orchestrate all the parts of the grocery e-commerce machine, from the people to the processes to the products, to ensure the best possible customer experience from a door-to-door service.
Recommendation: Gain buy-in and cooperation from all levels of an organization, from head-office IT to frontline manager, associates and cashiers. Everyone involved in last-mile picking, packing, processing and delivery must be looped into the process to ensure accuracy is maintained and that production standards for each function involved in fulfilling online orders are being met.
- Empowerment. Even in a digitally driven world, employees play an invaluable role in affecting the customer experience. That is why it is necessary to empower in-store associates to provide exceptional customer service. Research shows that the best retail customer experience comes from employees who have a unique combination of know-how and eagerness to deliver the best possible experience with every customer interaction.
Four steps for setting employees up for success:
- Communicate with employees as if they are customers. Talk to them and provide clear, comprehensive and complete information regarding program goals, sales targets and their responsibilities in driving last-mile success.
- Give employees the right tools to do a great job. Equip them with mobile devices, so they can complete customer transactions on the fly.
- Provide adequate and ongoing training.
- Invest in AI-powered digital solutions to give employees the means to collaborate more quickly and meaningfully with other stakeholders and shoppers throughout the shopping journey.
The online grocery business is just beginning to flourish. More retailers than ever are introducing flexible last-mile delivery options to cater to their most valued customers. As a result, it is imperative to think strategically and holistically about how to execute the last mile most effectively and provide a shopping experience that will bring customers back for more.
This post is sponsored by Mercatus