The bottom line really comes down to having your customer buy the groceries that they need for their home, their business, restaurant or even a University cafeteria, hospital or whatever it might be.
The Complexity of Grocery eCommerce
In grocery category, probably more than in anywhere else, there is a need to get very granular about the things that I can eat, things that I want to eat, things that I won’t eat and then things that I shouldn’t eat at all. The journey begins with what I absolutely can’t have. If I have a raspberry, I’m going to swell up, my tongue is going to get going to get large and I’m going to die. Or a peanut, there’s so many allergies out there. So, there’s that component that I must address. But then it goes into preference component – I only prefer to eat name-brand food or I don’t want to eat any store brand products. It could also be that I have a specific diet I’m trying to keep like Keto, South Beach, Paleo or something else. I want foods that fit and match my particular diet. And then let’s talk about diversity in ethnic foods. In Houston, we have a very diverse population from all over the world and they are looking for foods from their homelands. We end up with a tremendous number of SKUs in this industry plus we add in the various options within each item of food as to what it is that I want to actually prefer and purchase.
What you end up with is a tiered search approach where I might start with ‘don’t show me anything with peanuts’. And then follow that with ‘show me the one with the highest amount of Vitamin C’ as I am trying to get a bunch of Vitamin C out of my nutrition right now. You start drilling down further and further with each step of your search within each item group or subset that you build.
How Do We Make It Easier?
Most grocers have built their own homegrown PIM, or Product Information Management system. And that has now gotten to the point where they can’t really manipulate it the way that they need to because they originally built it when they thought they only needed three categories and now they find they need 20. The solution is either rewrite the whole thing or find something out there that will actually work in a way where they can go in and create new categories without limitations.
Mobile Friendly Views, Accuracy and Predictive Search
The other huge consideration is that we are using our cell phones for everything nowadays including grocery shopping. Even the B2B buyer is on mobile. Not only is a consumer using the mobile app to shop at home, but they are also using it while they are inside of the store. You wind up with limited real estate. The photos and the accuracy of the search is even more important. At issue? Most data in grocery is incomplete. It’s rather short, doesn’t always have the description necessary.
But even as laws and changes happen and preferences change, the accumulated need of data is exploding. As we are moving into information about our foods, nutrition, diet needs, etc., you have to really be able to control your data, display it properly, find it accurately and fast. The only clear competitive advantage a grocer can have is Search. Given the number of SKUs, number of products, number of stores that grocers face, search is what will set anyone apart and give the customer what they really want and need.
Because a visit to the store, aside from home delivery, is often predicated on a favorite item. I can pick up milk anywhere. I can pick up a variety of staples from any store. But if I can only find that one thing at your store, you’re engendering loyalty and being able to find the data and using it is absolutely critical to success.