While online grocery shopping continues to gain steam, a mysterious and myth-riddled sector of the store often gets talked around. Perishables is the most under-penetrated category in online grocery shopping. So how do retailers help customers feel comfortable shopping this important category online? Recently, at the Home Delivery World Conference in Philadelphia, I hosted a panel of industry experts in this area. The panel consisted of Duane Snyder of Seasonal Roots, Ben Chesler of Imperfect Produce, & Mike Demko of locai solutions. We talked through how to attract customers to the perishable category, how to deliver what customers are expecting, and how to gain confidence and repeat purchases.
Some customers are hesitant to try online shopping for their entire grocery basket. While online grocery continues to grow, customers sometimes need a little nudge to try the service. A popular statistic in the space says that customers don’t become an “online customer” until they have tried the service three times. That means you need to get them to try it. Some will based just on word of mouth. Some need an incentive like a waived pickup fee or dollars of purchase to try. To get them to try perishables, retailers could even offer a discount only off those departments of the store.
As a consumer, you know that sometimes you want bananas slightly greener because you want them around all week. One day you might want avocados that are ready to eat tonight as guacamole. You might be someone who always gets steaks cut to your perfect thickness in store. Most online shopping platforms allow for customers to make special notes about the produce or meat they want picked for them. This might take consumer education but could pay off, allowing customers to know they have a say in how their product is picked or prepared.
Food leaves very little room for error. If a first-time online shopper gets a bad apple or a rotten tomato, their sometimes already low expectations have been fulfilled and it’ll be hard for them to trust the system again. Online shopping retailers need to train their pickers to pick perfect produce and meats at all costs. Ideally, of course, there’s perfect produce consistently in store and all steaks are perfectly marbled. Yet, in this hyper-aware world of online shopping, finding the best of the best is imperative to show consumers that someone else picking their product is just as good as if they were picking their own.
Efficiencies are important in all aspects of the grocery world but be careful not to compromise the quality of the product when preparing an online order. If an order comes in well ahead of time, you’d feasibly be able to prepare and store that order until the customer comes and picks it up. Remember, though, to think about how produce will potentially age if it is sitting with other produce or with other products. Pick what you can ahead of time, but for perishables, as close to freshly picked as possible is best.
For as much as people think they need to pick their own produce, there are lots of customers who simply don’t know what makes a cantaloupe perfectly ripe or the best way to tell if an orange will be the sweetest. Remind customers that experts are picking their produce. Then, back it up. Train personal shoppers to know what’s best and to follow the notes given by consumers for what they’re looking for. This tactic can even be used in marketing the online shopping service.
When it comes down to it, there are some consumers who simply aren’t going to shop online for perishables. But, as everyone becomes more comfortable with it and as retailers buckle down and get good at delivering the best products, shopping online for perishables will continue to grow.