Taking your offline grocery business online? Here are 5 critical factors to consider

创业投资 e27 (源链)

As a traditional grocery retailer, your business is completely at the mercy of customers living in your vicinity, but as an online grocer, you can easily reach a wider audience, engage more customers, therefore, garner more sales

Online grocery shopping is catching up with consumers rapidly. According to a Nielsen study, in growing e-commerce markets, about one-fourth of online shoppers are already shopping groceries on the internet, and 55 per cent are willing to do it in near feature.

To cater this growing customer base, online grocers are also increasing at a 3x rate year-over-year. And the whole sector is growing at an impressive annual rate of 11% (even the booming online travel industry is at 9.5 per cent).

So, for any brick & mortar, going online does seem to be the obvious logical step to take business to the next level.

As a traditional grocery retailer, your business is completely at the mercy of customers living in your vicinity, but as an online grocer, you can easily reach a wider audience, engage more customers, therefore, garner more sales. Additionally, it also allows you to automate a number of business processes; thus, makes thing more efficient.

That being said, running an online grocery store is a much more challenging job than running an online store for products like apparels, electronics, home décor, etc. And this additional level of challenge is due to the nature of grocery products, which are either perishable or intended for immediate consumption.

However, by acting upon a few critical areas, these challenges can be turned into opportunities to expand market reach & increase sales of your grocery business through an online store.

Here in this post, we will discuss about five most critical areas that act as the deciding factors for the success of an online grocery business. Read on to learn how to capitalize on these key factors for the assured success of your business.

Also read: Amid diversity and market differences, Indian and Southeast Asian e-grocer platforms can learn from each other

A website with the right underlying tech for an online grocery

Use of technology can make a business more efficient; but only if implemented in the right way. So, just opening an online grocery store isn’t the solution; you also need to make sure that your store has what it takes to succeed.

Brick & mortar grocers cannot inherently know the technicalities that affect the performance of a grocery business in the virtual world, how to improve website’s user experience, how to customize its features as per local customer’s preferences, etc. To address these concerns they need a technology partner by their side at the initial stage of their online journey.

There are many e-commerce solutions that enable offline retailers to migrate their business online. But only a few are there for launching online grocery stores.

A readymade technology solution like the Growcer allows you to launch a high-end online grocery store swiftly at an affordable price and additionally, will give you the advantage of being the early bird.

The takeaway here for offline grocers is to be more cautious when choosing a technology solution for their online store.

An supply-chain and network for efficient delivery

Regular online stores can afford to tackle instances like delays in delivery, wrong item delivery, returns, etc. But for online grocery stores, it is a pretty much ‘do or die’ situation.

The entire supply chain network – from farms/manufacturers to storehouse & then from storehouse to the customers – must be very robust & time-efficient to meet customers’ expectations & to minimize the wastage.

Meeting customers’ expectation will certainly help you garner more sales, and minimizing wastage will result into higher profit margins.

In addition, storage infrastructure will also be an additional challenge, since perishable food products need to be stored & delivered in refrigerated chambers.

To address all these challenges, you would need a reliable delivery partner that can take over the job assuring the expected customer satisfaction. Additionally, it would also include the integration of a robust API for the delivery management system with the grocery store to automate things; therefore, to make supply chain more efficient.

Here again, grocers will require the support of technology partner to ensure the robustness of the delivery management system.

Also Read: Here are 6 money-saving tips to help reduce operating costs and improve profits

A mobile-friendly website or app to enable buying on-the-go

The whole idea behind online grocery shopping is to save people’s time and effort; and what good that would do if customers can’t shop groceries on the go?

In fact, if you pay attention, the prime target audience of online grocery stores is the urban working class that performs a good amount of internet-related tasks on their smartphones while they are commuting, or having a break from work, and so on.

A Switzerland based grocery store leshop.ch took 8 years to reach its €50 million (US$57 million) in sales on PCs but garnered the same turnover on mobile in just three years.

So, this much is clear that your store ought to have a good presence on mobile. Now the question is how?

There are 3 options:

  1. A responsive layout design of your online store
  2. A separate mobile website
  3. A mobile app

For an online grocery startup, a responsive layout design is the best way to target mobile shoppers. A dedicated mobile website offers good user experience, but a startup may not be able to afford the extra expenses required to manage two websites. Besides, a responsive layout design, if done well, can provide as good a user experience as a dedicated mobile website.

As for the mobile app, it is only for loyal customers. It is unlikely that customers will install mobile app of a new store right away. So, it is logical not to spend on mobile app unless until you have a good loyal customer base.

It is really a good piece advice that makes sense in most scenarios. But if you have sufficient funds or an existing loyal customer base, then spending on a mobile website or app won’t be bad decisions.

Also Read: 4 common myths about building a website

Online marketing – make the most out of it

Pamphlets, posters, hoardings, etc. have become old-school marketing tactics in the age of the internet.

Today, social media, display ads, and other marketing channels allow you to send out your message rather easily & quickly; and in most cases, it doesn’t even cost a penny.

Here are some ways you can leverage different online marketing channels for the growth of your online grocery store:

  • Promote your offers on social media & other online channels to make sure word about it reaches to maximum number of customers;
  • Encourage customers to leave review on your business’s online profiles as it will engage new users & bring you more customers;
  • Use social media to gather customer feedback to know how to enhance your service & which offers to provide to attract more customers;
  • Send out discount coupon codes to your to engage them in on-going offers & to enhance their shopping experience.

These online promotion mediums can also be used for offline stores (and they should be), but unfortunately, results may not as effective as in the case of an online store. Reason being, if a potential customer watches an online ad of your store, it is likely that he would visit your store’s website right away, but same cannot be said about a visit to the brick-and-mortar store.

To really make the most out of online marketing, it is almost imperative to take assistance of an expert digital marketing firm, as they know how the digital landscape works, where to find your target audience & how to attract them.

Get the best of both worlds with an omni-channel shopping experience

Online shopping is convenient. But offline shopping offers assurance, immediate fulfillment of needs, and of course, the experience of shopping itself. So as the old saying goes, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Thus, merging your online and offline grocery store does seem to be a good solution here.

Let’s first breakdown the ways in which it can be done:

  1. customer checks product online for availability & buys it at store (after confirming quality);
  2. customer visits store & orders online to get groceries conveniently delivered at home;
  3. customer orders online & pick up order at store (something like curbside pickup service);
  4. self-checkout at stores (using technologies like iBeacon).

As a matter of fact, providing such kind of flexibility is quickly catching up with retailers; needless to say, it will make your grocery store stand apart. But the challenge here is the development & maintenance of the needed infrastructure – physical and virtual.

At first glance, this approach may seem possible only for retailers backed by a good funding, but some of the above mentioned approaches can be adopted by any retailer. Of course, it would require more effort (if not funds necessarily), but it will also result into a growing customer base & increasing revenue.


The concept of online grocery shopping fits very well in the current dynamics. As mentioned before, it fulfills the basic human need of grocery consumption, and caters to the increasing reliance of customers on online shopping. So, online grocery business is here to stay, even if the path may not be as smooth as for other e-commerce sectors. There are opportunities along the way, but only for those who are ready to overcome above-mentioned challenges with right mindset & right technology.


The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your post here .

Featured Image Credit: creativenature / 123RF Stock Photo

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