Mar 31, 2021
‘Delighting’ the online customer ideal marketers’ goal

From Brick Meets Click: The total U.S. online grocery market posted $9.3 billion in sales during January as more than 69.7 million U.S. households placed on average 2.8 orders across delivery, pickup and ship-to-home, according to the Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey fielded Jan. 28-31, 2021.

The delivery and pickup segment captured $7.1 billion in January 2021, accounting for 77% of all online grocery spending during the month.

Brian Moyer
Brian Moyer is an educator at Penn State Extension.

Total sales grew 15% in January 2021 ($9.3 billion) vs. November 2020 ($8.1 billion), driven largely by a 16% increase in the number of households buying online, according to Brick Meets Click.

The strong gains in the total number of households shopping online during January were tempered by sharp declines in the leading indicator “likelihood to use a specific service again,” which measures the share of customers who are extremely or very likely to place another online order with the same provider within the next month.

Brick Meets Click reported the overall satisfaction metric dropped to 56% in January, down more than 32% from the record high ratings level in November 2020.

The pickup segment had the greatest decline (35 points) during the period. In their effort to improve efficiencies in their online ordering, food retailers have entered into a big customer satisfaction problem.

I’ve seen my local grocery store go from having an employee shop for a single online order to having that same employee push a huge cart filling multiple orders at once to improve fulfillment efficiencies. So, mistakes are being made and the customer isn’t “delighted” or even “satisfied.”

In a Tech Connect blog post by Arthur Chow, vice president of S2G Ventures, he said, “(Online) fulfillment of mass perishable grocery will remain decentralized, whether the customer is shopping online for delivery or coming to the store. For core perishable items reaching a mass audience, having a hyper local focus will be a winning strategy. Micro-fulfillment will be key in allowing retailers to adapt profitably to a changing consumer market. Brick and mortar can still be a competitive advantage in fresh, even with the increasing consumer shift to ordering digital.”

That said, 32% of their customers are not happy! That is devastating, but sales grew by 15%, which says to me that consumers are going to continue to shop online, and it will continue to grow, but we need to improve the experience to where they are not just “satisfied” but “delighted.”

An example I heard recently from a market owner, a customer who was too scared to shop at a grocery store during the pandemic placed their entire grocery order online with the farm market. When the orders are printed out, they are printed on both sides of the paper. One side of one of the order sheets was missed and that portion of the order wasn’t filled. The customer called to let the market know of the error, so the market owner not only filled the order, but added a bunch of asparagus from the farm and a jar of their honey garlic vinegar for free as an apology – roughly a $15 value. When the customer received the order, they called the market owner, and said, “Nobody gives the product away as an apology. You have a customer for life!”

This customer has continued to place weekly orders. That’s delighting the customer. $15 worth of high value items has made a big return.

— Brian Moyer, Penn State Extension

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