3 Essential Features Your Online Grocery Store Must Have Amid The COVID-19 Outbreak

This blog is written by Gauri Munuswamy, VP Sales and Customer Acquisition at Mercato. Webstop has partnered with Mercato to provide our retailers a safe and efficient way to get food and other essentials to their communities. If you need eCommerce help, feel free to reach out to them directly or I can set up a meeting – Shawn Tuckett, VP Sales and Client Service at Webstop

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve probably spoken to more merchants over the phone than I have over an entire year. 

The #1 thing I’ve been hearing? “I wish I set this up a year ago.”

Gauri Munuswamy | VP, Sales & Customer Acquisition

It’s no secret that every grocery store needs to be offering online ordering and delivery to their customers right now. 

Some of my conversations have been with stores that don’t have any kind of online ordering platform, and some have been with stores who do have an online ordering platform, but it’s not quite “doing the job” or living up to expectations.  

I was excited when Webstop asked me to put together this blog and I thought it would be valuable to share some insight into what I believe to be the 3 essential features an online grocery store must have to be successful, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

#1 Make All of Your Items Available Online

This is the very first thing I always tell grocery store owners. In order to give your customers the same experience they get in your store, you must make your entire in-store inventory available online. 

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s the truth. A lot of platforms typically focus on one area of your inventory. Maybe it’s DoorDash for your prepared foods, Drizly for your alcohol, ezCater for your catering orders, and then Instacart for your center-aisle items. 

You’ll want to find an eCommerce platform that will include ALL of your inventory in one place, making it a seamless shopping experience for your customers. 

For merchants that are looking to get online quicker, I’ve been advising them to focus on getting their center-aisle items and produce up first. Customers typically purchase center-aisle items through the big chains to save money, but with demand being so high right now, your customers are relying on you for these items. It’s important for you to offer these items right away, and then you can add the other more unique items in the days following!

#2 Offer Same-Day Delivery with a Wide Radius 

The next thing that I always talk to grocery store owners about is the importance of offering same-day delivery or pick-up. 

Companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Target give their customers the ability to shop online and then receive those items the same day via delivery or pick-up. These companies have normalized the idea of receiving items instantly, and as a result, customers want things faster than they ever have before.  

In addition to offering same-day delivery, it’s very important to have delivery that extends over a wide radius. You can quadruple your reach (and your online sales!) by simply working with a partner that offers a 20-mile delivery radius instead of a 5-mile one. 

Jumping back to my point about the power of Amazon, Walmart, and Target – these companies have also normalized the idea of “free” delivery in customers’ minds. 

In order to stay relevant, independent grocers must be providing their customers with a delivery membership program. By removing the friction of delivery fees, retention increases! Here at Mercato, we’ve seen that customers who are members of our delivery membership program, Mercato Green, shop 5 times as often as a customer who is not a member. 

#3 Run Customized, Targeted Marketing Campaigns 

The final piece of a successful online store is a robust marketing campaign. By “robust” I mean a campaign that goes above and beyond in-store promotions and email blasts to your customers. 

Why? Because promoting your online store to your in-store customers is important, but you should also be focused on finding new customers to shop your online store. Maybe it’s someone who lives a bit too far away to shop with you on a regular basis. Or maybe it’s someone who drives past your store all the time but has never actually ventured inside to see your amazing selection.

This is where Facebook and Google campaigns can help. You’ll want to choose an eCommerce platform that not only builds your online store, but leverages Facebook and Google ads as well. And more importantly, you’ll want to partner with an organization (like Mercato) that will manage these ad campaigns and fund them for you!

As you’re searching for an eCommerce platform, I encourage you to keep all of these tips in mind. Mercato is a mission-driven organization that was created specifically for the independent grocer by an independent grocer. Our platform was built with all 3 of these features in mind. 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at partners@mercato.com.  We are here to support you and your team during these unprecedented times!

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