Albertsons Ramps Up E-Commerce Strategy
Albertsons Cos. is looking to narrow the digital grocery gap with rivals Kroger and Walmart via a new partnership.
Albertsons announced it has teamed up with Nuance to leverage its virtual assistant and live chat solutions to deliver real-time digital support to customers doing their grocery shopping online. The AI-powered application assists customers through their shopping experience and provides real-time answers to customer inquiries such as how the delivery service works, item availability, online order tracking status, and store locations and hours.
"Supporting our customers' needs as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible is of utmost importance to us. We are pleased to offer shoppers multiple options when it comes to ordering online – from in-store pickup to contactless delivery," said Chris Rupp, EVP and chief customer and digital officer at Albertsons. "Our associates are fully committed to assisting our customers in the stores, and now we can extend that same Albertsons experience to our digital channels, ensuring our customers' needs are met however they choose to shop."
Albertsons currently offers curbside pickup, as well as grocery delivery through Instacart and its own delivery force. The company's Drive Up & Go curbside pickup service, currently available at roughly 500 locations, will expand to another 500 stores by year end and be available at 1,600 of Albertsons 2,262 stores by next year.
Last year Albertsons partnered with Glympse, a Seattle-based provider of location-sharing technology, to give shoppers using the grocer's e-commerce platform the ability to track in real time the status of a grocery delivery or Drive Up & Go order.
In April, Albertsons reported that its identical store sales surged 34% during the first two months of the retailer’s first quarter and could have been even stronger judging from comments CEO Vivek Sankaran made during the company’s earnings call.
Since the end of Albertsons fiscal year on Feb. 29, the company said it experienced significant increases in customer traffic, product demand and overall basket size in stores and online as customers adjusted to the circumstances around COVID-19. As a result, Albertsons identical store sales increased 47% during the four-week period ended March 28 and increased 21% during the four weeks ended April 25, giving the company a blended total for the two months of 34%. Sankaran also noted that e-commerce sales increased 109% during March before surging 374% in April.
“In March, we saw a surge in demand and our biggest bottleneck was labor, the ability to pick product and deliver product. The primary focus in March was to ramp up labor,” Sankaran said, noting the retailer hired 55,000 new employees. “We think we can continue to add labor to drive more growth in picking and delivery.”
In March, Albertsons filed to return to public markets after more than a decade under management by Cerberus Capital Management.
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. operates 2,262 retail food and drug stores, with 1,743 pharmacies, 395 associated fuel centers, 23 dedicated distribution centers, five Plated fulfillment centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores mainly operate under the following banners: Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Sav-On, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street, Amigos, Haggen and United Express. Albertsons is No. 3 on Progressive Grocer’s 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.