- First, most consumers expect to be able to shop online, either from home or from their mobile devices. A seamless, easy-to-use website is therefore a requirement.
- Second, today’s consumers tend to be on the go 24/7 and are often overscheduled —indeed, time is often as valuable to them as the money they spend. They want the option to remotely select items from their phone or computer, or on a smooth and simple app, and have them ready for in-store pickup when they arrive.
- Finally, and likewise as a service to these time-strapped consumers, the option to have items delivered to their homes is another essential offering. While some large players like Amazon-Whole Foods have the scale and financial means to build out their own delivery services, this is not a strategy that regionals should attempt. Instead, they should continue to expand their relationships with third-party delivery companies like Shipt, Deliv or Instacart, which can offer a high level of convenient options to consumers. And of course, in doing so they will deepen the most important relationship of all — with the customer.
Looking at the broader picture, by offering these three essential services, regional players can ensure that convenience doesn’t become a negative differentiator, giving shoppers a reason to abandon them.
Of course, the goal posts of accessibility and shopper amenities are always shifting, so regional grocers can’t afford to rest on their laurels once they’ve made these table-stake investments. It’s critical to remain abreast of changing customer expectations to stay a step ahead. But any attempt by regionals to dazzle on convenience — as defined in the new, digitally empowered way — is likely to be unproductive, succeeding only in funneling resources away from where they can have the most impact. Regionals in general would be better advised to focus on other critical areas where it’s possible for them to outshine national competitors.
In our next article, we will address one of the most important differentiators for regional grocers: a carefully curated suite of offerings.