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Independent Retailers Encouraged to Adopt an E-commerce Program


Grocery retailers who are still mulling a decision to adopt an e-commerce program might already be too late, if panelists in the “Implementing an E-commerce Program” super session at The 2016 NGA Show are right.

The panel, hosted by Thom Blischok, chairman and CEO of DiaLogic Group LLC, explored consumer and market demands for a simpler, expert and fair experience as key motivators for adopting an e-commerce program. Transactions today are described “by the quality received for the dollars spent,” says Blischok. “Notice there’s no mention of price.”

Panelists weighing in included:

  • Klaus Werner, Sr. Director, Lowes Foods
  • Mark Mahoney, GM, Dash’s Market
  • Brian Moyer, President, Freshop
  • CJ Davis, VP, Davis Food & Drug
  • Mark Birmingham, Director, New Business Development, Sendik’s
  • Renata Frantum, a student at Portland State University
  • Brianna Amat, a student at Western Michigan Univeristy

While there are many pros and cons to myriad options, including in-house programs, outsourcing and third-party delivery services, as well as click-and-collect and home delivery, all are in agreement that waiting is no longer an option.

“E-commerce is a survival strategy,” says Klaus Werner of Lowes, particularly for independent retailers. To wait until the big box or national chain retailers figure it out, it’s too late for independents to enter the arena.

Retailers who have already adopted programs warn of potential pitfalls. Mark Birmingham of Milwaukee-based Sendik’s cautions against making the uninformed decision to put implementation of e-commerce on the shoulders of the IT team. “E-commerce should be a team initiative” with varying parties coming to a consensus. And start from the top, making sure that all team members buy in and realize the value to the customer and to the banner.

Perhaps most relevant to independent retailers, it’s okay to start slow, as long as you start. According to Freshop’s Moyer, independents should leverage their competency in service. Begin with two set pickup times five days a week. Invest in the right people to pick and stage orders to ensure that they are done right. In fact, cautions WMU’s Amat, 89 percent of shoppers who have a bad e-commerce experience will not go back for another try.

A happy upside, says Mark Mahoney of Dash’s, is that his fear of lost impulse sales was completely disproved when his New York-based chain ramped up its e-commerce program: Average e-commerce orders are four time larger than in-store visits. 

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