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Advice from Retailers Who Have Launched an Online Shopping Platform

As AWG’s online shopping specialist, I’m frequently asked what other retailers are doing and thinking when it comes to launching an ecommerce platform. Those retailers at the 2018 AWG Innovation Showcase were in luck as three AWG retailers and industry expert Scott DeGraeve sat down for a panel discussion with AWG Marketing Manager Kate Favrow. The discussion topic? Launching an online shopping platform.

DeGraeve started the conversation by noting that three percent of grocery business is currently conducted online. Research shows that number will be 20% by 2025, and could reach that number as early as 2023. That’s a hefty chunk of business you don’t want to lose to your competition that offers online shopping.

While nobody wants to see 20% of their business go elsewhere, many retailers are waiting for the perfect circumstances before diving into the online shopping world. You can’t do that, says Jan Greer Endfinger, of Greer’s Markets in Mobile, Alabama and the surrounding areas. Her most important piece of advice to retailers considering online shopping is don’t wait! It’ll never be perfect at the start, but you’ll get it right. Mike Pool from Big John Grocery in Metropolis, Illinois, said launching an online shopping platform wasn’t as complicated and hard as most retailers think it is. All three retailers noticed their customers were lenient at first because they knew the retailers were working through the kinks of a new system. In two years of online shopping, Pool doesn’t remember a single customer complaint.

Pool also said the key to a successful online shopping is picking the best meat and produce for your customers. “If you won’t pick it for your grandma, don’t pick it at all,” was a line that stood out to me. Your online customers are trusting you to pick the freshest dairy, meat and produce available, just as they would if they were in your store. You cannot let them down or they may not try your services again.

Another concern retailers have is what they’ll do if an item is out-of-stock. All three of AWG’s online shopping providers give customers the option of selecting substitutes if an item is out-of-stock. Take it one step further, according to the panelists, and watch online orders for substitutions and out-of-stock selections so that you can avoid those outages in the future, providing a better user experience for your shoppers.

The final piece of advice all three panelists agreed on is that your data files need to be clean and ready to go. This is by far the hardest part to launching an online shopping program. You’ll need to work with your online shopping and POS providers. Sam Blais, from Wood’s Supermarket in central Missouri, said his best advice to overcoming this obstacle is to pick a reputable, knowledgeable online shopping provider.

He’s not wrong, and that’s why AWG has vetted and partnered with three different online shopping providers to give our retailers options with different features and price points. Please contact me to learn more about launching an online shopping platform for your store.

Why do I work at AWG? “I love being a part of a fun team that creates unique ways to help independent grocery stores grow their businesses. It combines a few of my favorite things: marketing, food, and fun. Who doesn’t want to talk about food all day?” -Jimmy