With the holiday season in full swing, many shoppers are turning to their local grocer for the convenience of quick and tasty prepared foods, whether for an entire meal or just one dish. This trend is becoming an ingrained part of the year-round grocery shopping routine, for both in-store and online shoppers.
But offering these foods poses many challenges for grocers, including gathering items from multiple departments; customizing orders and ingredients; compiling and packing foods with varying temperatures; coordinating assembly; and timing the hand-off.
By investing in the technology that enables grocers to meet these operational challenges and provide ready-to-eat foods seamlessly through their eCommerce platform, they can capture a share of market while differentiating their brand.
How can a retailer know if their system is up to the challenge? With technology that provides these four crucial elements, grocers can create an efficient and seamless online prepared foods program.
1. Integrated online ordering system
Shoppers need to be able to customize their order—down to the level of individual ingredients and flavors—to suit their tastes. Handling the complexity of customized orders requires:
- A sophisticated platform capable of capturing multiple data inputs around a single item, including quantity, size, color, flavor, message (for custom cakes or desserts) and component products.
- The ability to take the submitted order and unite all the moving parts at the store level, such as by notifying the appropriate team(s) and giving employees the timing requirements to prepare the various order components.
2. Accurate order timeslots
To calculate a timeslot, eCommerce systems consider variables such as staffing resources, the time required to pick, pack and stage the order, and the number of pickup parking spaces.
For a prepared meal order, the system must also be capable of making other calculations, such as the steps required to create the prepared item and how long it will take to assemble the most time-consuming, complex item in the order.
3. Fulfillment tailored to prepared meals
An order with a prepared meal may require pulling items together from different departments and thawing/cooking/warming foods. This must be carefully timed to ensure the customer receives the food at the correct temperature, without making them wait when they pick up their order. Associates packing the order must also take care that hot and cold foods are kept separate.
A solution must be able to automate these fulfillment flows so that employees can prepare and hand off entire orders on time, at the right temperatures.
4. High-quality data and reporting
To deliver a successful prepared meal program, store managers must have ready access to KPIs and metrics such as:
- Average order value (AOV), orders per week, customer wait time at pickup and number of orders per hour.
- Data to help ensure that the stock required for ready-to-eat meals is consistent with actual order patterns.
A grocer’s system should generate reportsthat deliver all this information in a format that’s not only accurate and up to date but also intuitive and easy to interpret.
Solutions such as Mercatus Ready Made Orders meet these key technical requirements for a successful prepared meal program and seamlessly integrate into any retailer’s online shopping experience. Learn more.
By: Sylvain Perrier, President & CEO, Mercatus
This post is sponsored by Mercatus