Will shoppers buy into Walmart's grocery pickup? (Q&A)

Senior VP of ecommerce on how Walmart is trying to win time-strapped consumers

Walmart Canada upped its ecommerce game with the launch of its first grocery pickup service for online orders. The service will be available at 11 Ottawa-area locations. For a $3 fee, customers can order online up to 21 days in advance, and select a two-hour pickup window. At the store, they go to a designated parking spot, call a number, and an employee brings out the order. Walmart Canada has been bolstering its online business in recent years, and in February, announced it’s making big investments in food and ecommerce. Canadian Grocer's sister publication Marketing spoke with Simon Rodrigue, senior vice-president, ecommerce at Walmart Canada, about the new pickup service and how Walmart plans to get people to shop online for fresh food. Why did Walmart Canada decide to launch a grocery pick-up service? We’ve really spent a lot of time talking to our customers and over the years, they continue to tell us that an hour of their time today is worth way more than it was 10 years ago. And as we continue to roll out ecommerce, whether that’s general merchandise four-and-a half years ago, or dry grocery a year ago, customers kept saying, ‘how do we continue to get this convenience in our fresh foods, our meats and our produce?’ So that led us to launching the pick-up service that we have today. It was really meant to focus on that customer and allow them to save time and get access to great Walmart pricing. Why did you decide to launch in Ottawa? There were a couple of reasons. First is Ottawa has always been a good customer for us. We look at our online initiatives and what we’re selling into this market and it’s a very strong online market. When you look at the demographics, there’s a large student population with the two universities, there’s a strong high-tech sector, and demographically, there are also a lot of young families. So, we believe that the service will play very well in the market. Some surveys have indicated that consumers are still hesitant to buy groceries online because of perceived freshness issues. Do you see this as a challenge? I absolutely think it’s a challenge. one of the benefits that Walmart has being a global company is that while this is new to Canada, this isn’t new to Walmart. In the U.K., Asda has been doing grocery home shopping for over 16 years. In addition to Asda, we took a lot of learnings from the U.S., and how they’ve rolled that out. One of the things we’ve done with the Ottawa launch is make sure we understand how to get the perfect order every time. For the last few weeks, we’ve trained as dedicated shoppers, so they understand how to pick that perfect avocado, the marbling in meat, what a ripe banana is… On top of that, we give the customer the opportunity to review any of the products they may be apprehensive about, and if there is an issue, we correct it right there. What will it take to get more consumers on board with online grocery shopping? Customers are going to use the service, they’re going to find it convenient, they’ll place a couple orders and I think they’ll get really hooked into it. Walmart is all about saving time and saving money, and this is the perfect marrying of that. I think there is a lot of education. From a marketing perspective, the apprehension in freshness and how we’re dealing with that, the convenience , and how this can give you access to Walmart pricing while saving you about an hour a week. What are your expansion plans for grocery pick-up? We’re taking this one market at a time. Our focus now is launching this in the Ottawa market, but as demand dictates, we’ll expand this to other markets. What’s the future of online grocery shopping in Canada? I think it’s going to be a big part of the market. You just need to look to the U.K. and to Europe to see how important it is for consumers. It all ties back to the fact that consumers today are so time-starved and they’re highly, highly connected. There are very few people today who don’t have some type of connection to the internet. So I think the grocery home shopping service really fits in well with that. And I think we’ll see hyper growth in this category in the years to come. This article first appeared on MarketingMag.ca

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