Behind the scenes, online help for grocers

MyWebGrocer helps grocery chains across the U.S.

If you’ve never heard of MyWebGrocer, don’t feel bad. Most shoppers haven’t either. That’s because the Vermont company doesn’t sell product direct to consumers.

Instead, it takes care of back-end e-commerce for a who’s who of America’s grocery chains. Clients include Kroger, Shoprite (Wakefern), Harris Teeter, Winn-Dixie, Price Chopper, Bashas’, Lowes Foods, Brookshire’s, Big Y and Albertsons.

Rich Tarrant, CEO of MyWebGrocer, started the company, in 1999, the same year as online grocer Webvan. Two years later, Webvan was bankrupt–a massive casualty of the dot-com bust.

MyWebGrocer, however, kept going. The company recently announced it would soon support more than 870 Acme, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Star Market and additional Albertsons stores.

Tarrant (pictured above) recently spoke with Canadian Grocer's U.S. correspondent, Ron Margulis.

Explain to me what your company does.

MyWebGrocer is the digital platform that powers grocery retailers and consumer packaged goods brands executing their digital strategies. We provide cutting-edge digital marketing services and solutions to our clients, which include more than 140 U.S. retailers and more than 200 CPG brands.

You collect a lot of data for the grocers you work with. What are shoppers buying online?

Our shoppers are buying everything online. The average order is $146, so it’s a stock-up trip. We make it easy to order fresh fruit and vegetables by providing space for them to leave special instructions before completing the online order. You can specify that you want five soft yellow bananas, or two medium-sized tomatoes that haven’t ripened yet. We let the consumer also add comments for substitutions if their “personal shopper” at the retail store is not able to find exactly what they requested.

What are some counterintuitive findings you’ve seen in behaviour?

A lot of retailers think that e-commerce will cannibalize their store business. This is not the case at all. Shoppers using e-commerce combined with in-store shopping spend between 21% and 23% more with that retailer when they have both channels available.

How does a retailer get started with your program?

First, a retailer decides which digital strategy is the most important to them: e-commerce, mobile commerce, planning solutions, or all of the above. Once a retailer knows what tools they want, it’s about a 90-day process to get them set up. MyWebGrocer provides the tools, training and best practices, and works in partnership with the retailer.

What are big mistakes grocers make online?

They need to have a well-thought-out strategy. The digital world is constantly evolving and it is crucial to have both short- and long-term plans that are being iterated on a weekly basis. Retailers also need to have direct accountability for the channel. A “build it and they will come” strategy does not work. Effective digital programs need to be heavily marketed.

How do you see online shopping evolving?

The future is vast for online shopping. Mobile and social will continue to change the digital landscape, and e-commerce will grow in significance. There will be more personalization and deeper consumer adoption. We’re seeing greater connectivity, with consumers using digital tools in the store and at the time of purchase. To stay relevant, the grocery industry needs to embrace digital shoppers.

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