IGA improves online shopping experience

Customers can click-and-collect and or have groceries delivered using IGA.net

Sobeys Quebec executive Alain Dumas doesn't think online grocery shopping will ever replace the in-store experience.

But for the growing numbers of consumers who do shop online, he says the newest version of IGA's online shopping platform is about as close to in-store experience as you can get.

According to Dumas, Quebec IGA stores and Canadian Thrifty Foods are the only banners under Sobeys with online shopping sites.

"Our platform, which is completely bilingual, can be used by others," he said.  "We're leaders in this domain, and we're very proud of the expertise we've developed."

Launched in mid February and expanded since then to include 247 of the 288 IGA stores across Quebec, IGA.net offers registered users access to more than 30,000 products.

The site displays flyer items, promotions and offers at the locations shoppers identify as their preferred store.

A grocery list-like function allows users to personalize their orders. For example, if a shopper buys avocados and makes a special request that they be ripe, this comment will be passed on to a personalized shopper who collects the products in-store.

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

"It just speeds things up," said Dumas. "Seventy percent of the grocery items people buy are the same week in, week out."

For store owners, he added, the new online system simplifies the tracking, assembly and payment of online orders.

It notably allows for up to four orders to be loaded on scanner guns, reducing the time it takes for specially trained employees to do pick-and-pack assembly of orders in stores.

The same barcode-driven technology also allows orders to be rung up separately.

For Dumas, the new service is the fruit of nearly 20 years of effort by a pioneer in e-commerce in Canada.

"This is our sixth version since we first went online in 1996, when most orders were phoned in," he said.

Since then, he added, the popularity of the Internet, computers, and mobile digital devices, together with greying demographics, increased road traffic and less parking, have made online shopping a necessary complementary service to storefront operations in crowded urban areas.

"It's particularly useful for the elderly and people with mobility issues," said Dumas. "But young families squeezed for time are also using it."

He noted that the vast majority of the thousands of online orders that are now placed on the service every week – roughly 95 percent – are delivered. The remaining 5% of orders are collected at the store.

A similar percentage of orders are made by residents of Quebec's two largest cities– Montreal and Quebec City –and their suburbs.

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