Not long after consumers began buying merchandise online, retailers coined the term “showrooming” to describe the now common practice of examining products in a brick-and-mortar store before buying them online.
While Main Street businesses grew alarmed at this trend, many grocers have since changed their thinking about the relationship between online and offline commerce. Today, food retailers and grocers are balancing the need to satisfy shoppers “running in to pick up a few things” with “showrooming” for their online business.
Grocers are seizing the opportunity to leverage online and offline sales channels to energize one another — by offering in-store pickup for online orders or food samples to generate initial in-store sales and online repeat sales.
It’s now become common for national companies like Walmart to sell groceries however customers want to buy them, whether that’s at the checkout line, delivered straight to the shopper's door or via in-store order pickup.
Regardless of the size of their footprint, and whether national, regional or local, all grocers can take advantage of the synergy and growth opportunities generated by unifying online and offline sales by applying these five best practices:
1. Earn their trust
Grocers face a complex challenge in serving their customers: provide high-quality products all day, every day, particularly when those products require special handling and precise temperature control. By meeting this challenge, you’ve earned a trust that only matters to customers when they’re buying food.
Whether delivering an order, holding it for pickup or selling it as part of a shopping experience, you should leverage this trust opportunity.
2. Align online savings with in-store experiences
Use your customers’ appetite for the food that you sell to trigger interest in other parts of your business.
If they place an online order, suggest that they pay a visit next time, and turn it into more of an experience. Offer a discount on their next in-store visit, or suggest that they stop by the meat department to talk to a butcher about the best ways to prepare a cut of beef ordered online.
3. Deliver samples with online orders
Capitalize on the unique experiences that customers have come to expect at your brick-and-mortar location. When customers appreciate the samples that you offer in your snack aisle, they associate your store with something that they enjoy — in this case, trying something new. This creates memories of your store based on all five senses.
Remind them of that association by providing samples with an online order, and message about future demonstrations and tastings in-store.
4. Be devoted to the brand and customer
When customers buy their produce online, equipment issues like refrigerators that aren’t cold enough or ovens that don’t cook evenly can still impact their experience. Simultaneously, when grocers depend on the brick-and-mortar customer experience to help drive online sales, they find themselves even more at risk if customers notice a facilities problem.
Well-maintained facilities and equipment, as well as an up-to-date website, all impact that customer experience.
5. Safety first, with efficiency close behind
A single facilities management disaster in your store guarantees that you’ll always remember the consequences of not keeping patrons comfortable. But don’t forget the importance of facilities management for delivery and online orders. Customers will taste the difference if employees prepare orders where:
- HVAC or refrigeration problems result in unsafe temperatures
- Plumbing failures create unsanitary conditions
- Equipment downtime requires employees to “wing it” rather than follow standard procedures
- Poor facilities management forces a store to close and not fulfill orders
One way to help ensure that these best practices are implemented is by working with a facilities management partner that's flexible, aligned with your goals and committed to your growth.
Keep in mind that a facilities management partner should adapt to you and your existing systems and processes — or you may find yourself trading your facilities management distractions for rigid processes that demand too much of your employees’ time.
After all, it’s hard enough to create and maintain a serviceable customer experience. Truly extraordinary customer experiences take into account the best of both the online and offline world. And when that happens, it’s a brick-and-click marriage made in the grocery cart.