Local businesses have long been the cornerstone of cities and towns across America. Every business encounters unique challenges, but a common concern we’re hearing is managing delivery from the store. Sometimes called “instant commerce,” this is the final step in the local e-commerce process – when an order finally reaches the customer. It’s an expensive service for any small business owner, especially with small deliveries over a wide area. Since local delivery is now a major driver of customer experience and satisfaction, particularly for independent grocers, this can be a big pain point.
The pandemic forced grocers to take action, especially as regular customers stayed home and curbed spending, even for everyday household items. Delivery meant survival. Now that restrictions are loosening, businesses are re-evaluating delivery management. Delivering directly to customers instantly, reliably, and affordably can still be a huge competitive advantage in a post-pandemic landscape, but companies need to weigh the costs of vehicles, drivers, logistics and more. In many cases, small business owners don’t have the capital to invest in their own delivery fleet or the time to dedicate to the logistics of maintaining a delivery service.
Independent grocers must regularly navigate these complexities to keep their businesses operating smoothly. E-commerce infrastructure and local delivery can make or break the modern customer experience. So, there is massive upside to acing the delivery experience. To ensure they’re operating as effectively as possible, grocers should weigh three things before initiating or growing their delivery capabilities.
1. Inventory Management
Grocers are always trying to balance perpetually popular items with seasonal or trendy products. This inconsistent demand can make it hard to plan ahead, both for inventory and deliveries. For example, bottles of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry sold out everywhere after a TikTok video went viral featuring a man skateboarding to “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. Just as quickly, the trend faded. Smart grocers will work their supplier relationships to satisfy demand without getting stuck with a truckload of product should the fad fade.
2. E-Commerce Enablement
E-commerce became critical to helping people buy their groceries and other essential items during the pandemic. To meet this demand, grocers must ensure they are prioritizing e-commerce enablement. This means having a fully shoppable website and quality user experience. Improving this initial e-commerce experience will better position businesses to win their repeat business. Grocers must also ensure they can reach customers within the 10-, 15- and 20-mile radius. Local delivery is a key component here.
3. Reaching Shoppers Who Prefer to Go Local
Many consumers are motivated to choose brands that align with their values. These could include concerns around sustainability, a preference to shop locally or a desire to support small businesses. Independent grocers can have an advantage with these “local shoppers,” as they prefer being patrons of small, local businesses, particularly those that were vulnerable during the pandemic. Prioritizing inventory management and e-commerce enablement, as discussed above, will make it easier to cater to “local shoppers,” at scale.
When It's Time to Partner Up
These challenges are common across merchants, but grocers serve an essential purpose in our communities – ensuring food is on the table. When it’s time to evaluate the approach to local commerce that best suits a grocers’ needs, I cannot stress enough the importance of partnering with a company that can provide fast, flexible and competitively priced local deliveries to your customers’ doorsteps. Working with a reliable partner that can satisfy consumer needs at lower costs for all will help to fuel a prosperous community.
To ensure a potential e-commerce partner is able to support and enable expansion with delivery services, look for the following standout qualities that will help meet shoppers where they are.
No Hidden Fees. Transparency is key for local businesses keeping a close eye on their books. Having 0% or near-zero commission rates isn’t common throughout the industry, but this competitive pricing allows grocers and small business owners to keep costs low for shoppers and frees up money that can be spent in other areas of the business.
Unlocking Speed and Reliability to Drive Customer Experience. Businesses should consider leveraging a partner’s delivery network, which can serve as a sole provider or work in conjunction with in-house capabilities when extra capacity is needed. Find a partner whose operating model enables them to react in response to expansion on demand.
Delivery speed can vary vendor to vendor, but companies with a large footprint may offer flexible options such as 30-minute delivery, slotted-scheduled delivery, same day delivery, etc. This means shorter wait times and businesses will get their product to customers faster than expected.
Owning and Strengthening Customer Relationship. Some delivery providers can facilitate delivery for customers and clients of all sizes. Using a white-label delivery service, grocers can continue to own the relationship with the customer and manage customer service directly, which allows grocers greater control over their brand experience. Acing delivery by fulfilling orders quickly and accurately will strengthen customer stickiness.
It’s clear that fast delivery to customers’ homes is taking a prominent role in the customer experience, and retailers are taking note. As local grocers continue to adapt to ever-changing conditions and compete to gain share of wallet, those that thrive will be fast to respond to their customers’ needs with flexible shopping and delivery services that suit their newfound preferences in a post-COVID world.