Meijer Prez/CEO Rick Keyes Details Significance of Home Delivery Expansion

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Meijer Prez/CEO Rick Keyes Details Significance of Home Delivery Expansion

By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ - 03/10/2017

Following the announcement of Meijer’s plans to expand home delivery across its six-state footprint in the Midwest after a highly successful launch of the service in Detroit last fall, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer’s President and CEO Rick Keyes discussed the significance of the new deal with Birmingham, Ala.-based grocery delivery service Shipt, in an exclusive interview with PG.

Progressive Grocer: Please discuss the significance of this move as it relates to the company’s overall strategy and what it says about the latest evolutionary phase for Meijer.

Rick Keyes: It's very significant. It's a big move into the digital space, especially around fresh food and convenience for our customers. We couldn't be more excited to have this offering to roll out across all of our major markets in 2017. We tested it in 2016 and we've been very pleased with the results. Our customers are telling us that they want this convenience, so for us to be able to offer [delivery service] across all of our markets is extremely significant.

PG: How did you track customer feedback?

Keyes: We've been testing delivery since last year after starting it in Southeast Michigan, where we have 25 stores. Our consumer testing ranged from focus groups, customer intercepts, direct feedback, and survey responses that we've received from our customers. The response has been tremendous, and a lot of it has to do with the quality of the experience. We feel really good about our partnership with Shipt, and the personal shopping relationship that's being created where customers cannot only have the convenience, but they get the same level of quality. The orders are picked in a way that gives [delivery teams] the ability to communicate with our shoppers to ensure that what arrives at the door is very similar to what they would have picked out themselves.

The other big thing is the convenience factor. Many consumers are very time-starved. To have the ability to add an extra hour or hour-and-a-half back in the day or a week can make a big difference for people.

PG: Is there any one demographic group that is trending higher than others?

Keyes: We're seeing [acceptance] across all the spectrums. It's not just any one age or demographic. All spectrums are telling us this is really adding value to their lives, which we hear when communicating with our customers.

Being busy is not a demographic issue. Regardless of age, we all have a lot going on in our lives, which is why I think we've seen such a broad response to the service from our customers. The convenience and value of home delivery is something people are quickly adapting to, and when we roll this out across our entire footprint, it's going to grow even faster.

PG: What's the estimated timeframe for the system-wide rollout?

Keyes: We're starting in Grand Rapids, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, but we're going to be moving fast. We want to have it in place in all of our major markets before the holidays. This is going to be a continual process involving close partnering with Shipt to make sure we're ready in each and every market to deliver the Meijer experience. We hope to have it ready before we hit the Thanksgiving holiday season.

PG: What areas of the customer experience will Meijer most closely focus on with this expanded relationship with Shipt?

Keyes: It starts with what's most unique with Meijer. It’s not just a brown box that will show up at your door. Our customers will have access to our entire fresh experience. We’re really proud of our fresh produce, and some of the unique items that we'll be able to bring from your corner Meijer store right to your home. That is really going to be key.

PG: Are there any other learnings from the test that are noteworthy?

Keyes: Over time, what we saw stronger engagement when comfort levels rise – when customers know they have the ability to personalize their order based on their typical shopping experience – which is another key. We'll be focusing in on that closely, so that the service is very tailored and the service they're looking for is there.

PG: With Meijer’s stellar record as an early adopter of mobile and digital technology, how does this latest development align with Meijer's evolving priorities in that realm, and where might it go next?

Keyes: I appreciate you picking up on that. We pride ourselves on being innovative, all the way back to being the first supercenter in the U.S., and we're always looking for ways to continue innovating. We've been innovating in the digital space for years now. We were one of the first to have text alerts for gas prices, as well as digital couponing with our mPerks app.

Many people think of digital in just the transactional space. We see digital helping us across the spectrum, even in how we communicate with our team members, to make sure we're clear and transparent in communicating with our team members, as well as communicating with our customers. This is very important, but it is one additional step. We're trying to innovate on behalf of our customers to improve the quality of their lives and the experience with Meijer, make it easier to connect with our brands.

PG: The leadership role Meijer is taking with home delivery is certainly impressive.

Keyes: There's no one of our scale in the Midwest that's launching it this aggressively – at least not at this point. We're putting a stake in the ground by moving from test-mode to operational mode. That's a big step to make delivery available across our entire footprint,

We think it's going to be great for our customers.