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Behind the scenes of IGA’s online shopping system

Personal shoppers and store managers talk about the rollout of

Tact and diplomacy are the two key people skills required to properly take and assemble grocery orders placed online or over the phone, says personal shopper Jessica Froment-Piché.

“You’re in direct contact with the client so you need to be polite and attentive,” said Froment-Piché, who is in charge of the three-employee team of personal shoppers at the IGA Extra/Sobeys store on Curé-Labelle Boul. in the Montreal suburb of Laval.

Her store is one of 247 locations across Quebec connected to Sobeys Quebec’s new-and-improved online grocery shopping platform.

Launched in February, the service offers registered users access to more than 30,000 products.

Service users can select items by category or themes, or search using multiple or single search words. A grocery list-like function also allows them to personalize their orders by making special requests.

“It’s mostly younger adults, but some elderly people are using it too,” she said. Most phone orders, she added, continue to be made by elderly people.

“I like it because you can build up a rapport with them,” said Froment-Piché, who keys phoned-in orders into the store’s personal shopping system.  “You can make suggestions about food items or choices. But they know what they want, and they rarely change their minds.”

The service is free for people 65 and over. Those under 65 pay a $4 order assembly charge, plus $4.50 for home delivery in one of the store’s two mini vans.

Once received, Froment-Piché relays orders from her office to team members on the store floor below.

It takes a personal shopper about half an hour to assemble orders, depending on the order size and the day of the week.

According to store owner Julien Gagnon, his vehicles make up to 300 home deliveries a week of online and phone-in orders.

“They are never less than $75-$80,” said Gagnon, a butcher by trade.  “The biggest has been about $500.”

The reaction of clients, he added, “has been very good.  They find it much easier to use the new system.”

That’s music to the ears of Mathieu Lacoursière., Sobeys Quebec’s chief operational excellence and the person responsible for rolling out

According to Lacoursière, that effort began a year ago with a presentation about the new system to store owners at their annual meeting.

“We gave them a heads’ up (and) told them to get ready,” he told Canadian Grocer.

Since then, owners and managers have been invited to several regional information sessions, where they notably saw demonstrations of the upgraded pick-and-pack system.

Some two dozen classroom training sessions were also held across Quebec for IGA managers and personal shopping-designated employees.

“We also did a deployment guide with the rules and regulations of the system, as well as Q&As,” said Lacoursière.

He added Sobeys initially sent system experts out to stores during the first few weeks of the deployment, when only a handful of stores were involved.

That became unworkable, however, when the rollout rate hit 75 stores a week.

“We didn’t expect it to go so fast,” said Lacoursière.  “We’re still in transition (and) people are on the learning curve.”

Though there have been some glitches, Lacoursière said things have gone relatively smoothly.

Users can also access previous orders and reorder basic items instead of shopping for them again.

According to Froment-Piché, the number of online orders she receives has steadily increased since the launch.

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