Grocery store wars: What's the future of grocery shopping in a mobile and mortar world?

Posted at 1:43 PM, Nov 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-14 19:36:19-05

On the surface, Trish Soetaert's life is an endless loop of grocery store aisles.

"I like shopping," she said. "I do this all day long - 45 to 50 hours a week and I love doing that. People can't believe that, but I enjoy shopping and getting things correct for the customer. Making sure we have filled the order to the best of our needs, the best of our possibility and getting everything they need."
As soon as she completes one customer's order, it's time to get a fresh cart and start all over again.
"I shop every order as if I am taking it home for my family," said Soetaert. "I look for produce that is excellent. I look for meat - the kind of cuts that are good for my family. When we shop -- and all of my shoppers are the same way -- I say if you are not going to take that home for yourself, if you won't take that home for your family, don't you dare put that in the cart for our customer."
Through Hy-Vee's Aisles Online, customer Soetaert completes dozens of shopping lists every single day. She also manages 15 other Aisles Online personal shoppers at the Shawnee, Kansas store. 

"I like the convenience of the whole thing," said Nancy Wacker, a resident of Shawnee. "Knowing that I can make a list, put it on my computer, my telephone, add to the list as I go."



While she lives a few minutes from the store, Wacker has nearly all of her groceries delivered to her doorstep. The same is true for other Aisles Online shoppers, who either opt for door-to-door delivery, or the curbside pick-up option.

"Amazon is doing that and different other stores are doing it as well," said Soetaert. "The future of grocery shopping is that people are shopping online. I think retailers are seeing that across the board, especially on holidays. They are seeing more and more people are shopping online for Christmas. I think Hy-Vee is always forward thinking and future thinking and we are ahead of the curve on that."

Bloggers at Thriving Home wrote about their Aisles Online experience. Read their review here.

While this service makes up a small percentage of the grocery Goliath's sales, inMarket, a mobile technology company that offers consulting services to supermarkets, says having e-commerce is essential if supermarkets want to stay competitive.

"Digital and offline are really blending," said Dave Heinzinger with inMarket. "I don't think that e-commerce will completely replace the offline store environment -- in fact, about 90 percent of our purchases still happen offline, so that's a huge chunk of purchases that are still made in the real world."

That said, CNBC reports the online grocery industry is a $10.9 billion business (annually) that's expected to grow about 10 percent each year for the next several years.

"What we found is that 55 percent of those mobile moments that happen inside the store directly relate to the purchase decision and so what that tells us is that people are really relying on digital," he said.

inMarket expects stores, like Hy-Vee, to implement what draws us to online shopping -- for example, the personalized experience -- in their own brick and mortar stores.



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