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Omnichannel grocery: a grocer’s guide to staying competitive

Consumers have spoken. They expect an omnichannel grocery experience. Research in 2022 from Acosta found that half of consumers buy groceries online at least some of the time and half switch between different fulfillment types. To capture the business of these consumers, grocers must provide customers with multiple options to meet their grocery needs.

The rise of e-grocery: why an omnichannel grocery model is important

The growth in omnichannel grocery shopping is directly related to the rise in e-commerce grocery orders. According to a 2022 McKinsey report, online grocery orders rose by 50% during the pandemic, and the popularity of e-grocery shows no signs of slowing. Data from Brick Meets Click in 2023 estimates that the compound average growth rate for online grocery sales will be 11.7% over the next 5 years. To stay competitive, grocery retailers must consider the needs of consumers who prefer an online shopping experience.

In this article, we'll cover key topics to keep in mind to build a successful omnichannel strategy. Read on to learn more about:

What providing omnichannel options looks like for grocers

Offering a successful omnichannel experience to grocery customers involves considering a few main channels:

  • Brick-and-mortar locations. The grocery store experience you provide to customers who show up in person to shop for groceries themselves.

  • Online and mobile ordering. The website and mobile app that enable online orders and let people choose between delivery and pickup.

  • Buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS). The option to place an order online, then show up in person to collect it. This is also referred to as curbside pickup, or just pickup.

  • Third-party delivery. A partnership with companies that connect you with couriers who handle delivery for you. For customers, this can often involve placing orders with your store through a third-party app. Depending on the third-party delivery platform you work with, you can also enable white-label delivery to offer customers efficient delivery options directly from your own website or sales channels.

How to create a seamless e-commerce grocery experience

A strong omnichannel grocery strategy involves creating a consistent brand experience across channels. You want e-grocery customers to feel like they’re getting all the benefits that in-store customers enjoy, with the added perk of convenience. Four main objectives can help you achieve that:

Provide strong selection across channels

Customers shouldn’t have to sacrifice product choice if they’re shopping from the couch rather than the aisles. Do your best to ensure that online customers have access to the same product selection as those who show up in your store. That can mean:

  • Use proper packaging. Make sure you invest in the right packaging to include fresh goods like deli items and salads in pickup and delivery orders. You don’t want a preprepared item to be squished in transit, and items that need to stay warm will benefit from insulated packaging.

  • Offer fresh and bulk product options. Use tech that enables customers to select items priced by weight, along with those that have a set price. That ensures that they can still purchase their favorite products in the bulk and deli sections.

  • Expand product selection. Make sure you have enough SKUs to provide customers a strong selection, even when items run out. A customer won’t mind encountering an out-of-stock message as much if they can replace the item with something similar from another brand.

Give e-grocery customers control over the process

For some customers, the loss of control is a concern with online grocery shopping. They may want the convenience, but they don’t want to lose options in the process. To give e-grocery consumers more control over their experience:

  • Allow substitution selection. Let customers choose which items they want substitutions for. Even better, allow them to select their preferred alternative for any out-of-stock items.

  • Enable closed-store shopping. Expand when customers are able to place and receive orders. If customers can place their online orders at any time and schedule pickup or delivery for later, it makes grocery shopping easier to fit into their busy lives.

  • Provide order tracking. Offer live order tracking for delivery orders so that customers can follow their deliveries in real time. That way, they know exactly when to expect them.

Streamline all in-store fulfillment processes

Depending on the tech you use, online orders can be fulfilled by your staff or by couriers who shop for and deliver orders. You want to manage order fulfillment in a way that lets both groups work efficiently without disrupting in-store customers. A few smart strategies for that include:

  • Optimizing your store design. How you organize your store affects how quickly couriers can find items for online orders. Consider devoting a section of the store to some of the most popular delivery items for easy access.

  • Updating employee training. Train employees in the most efficient strategies for finding order items quickly without getting in the way of customers.

  • Adopting mobile barcode scanning. Mobile scanning technology makes it easy for shoppers to scan items as they find them, simplifying the work involved and improving accuracy.

  • Using item substitution technology. If you give customers a way to choose their preferred substitutions for out-of-stock items, you can improve their satisfaction with online orders. At the same time, it can make the process of preparing orders easier on staff, since they don’t have to spend time trying to identify a good alternative.

Provide a great delivery experience

Whether customers place orders through a third-party app or on your own channels, give them choices they’ll appreciate. These are some common delivery options:

  • Scheduled delivery. Most customers can’t afford to wait around for a long, unpredictable delivery window. Scheduled delivery ensures that orders arrive when customers are there to receive them, and it gives your staff more opportunity to plan ahead.

  • Same-day delivery. Offering customers the option to receive an order later that same day—even if you charge an additional fee for it—can improve their experience with your brand and keep them coming back.

  • Express delivery. Occasionally, a customer will need their items even faster than your typical same-day delivery speeds. Express delivery gets orders to customers in an even shorter time frame—usually within an hour. If your staff lacks the ability to fulfill orders this quickly on your own, partnering with a third-party delivery platform can give you the means to do it.

How Uber Eats can help

Providing an exceptional customer experience through one channel is already a big undertaking. Partnering with Uber Eats can help you better meet customer expectations without diverting resources from the in-store experience. Uber Eats helps grocery stores achieve this in 2 main ways:

1. By enabling a seamless shopping experience for customers using the Uber Eats app, which includes:

  • Substitution options. Uber Eats allows customers to choose their preferred alternatives for any items that are out of stock.
  • Order tracking. The Uber Eats app lets customers view the status of their order in real time, so they know when to expect it. Closed-store shopping. Regardless of your store hours, you can keep your online store open 24/7 so customers can place their orders at the time that works best for them.

2. By providing multiple delivery options to streamline operations:

  • Uber Eats marketplace. We provide delivery support for orders placed through the Uber Eats app.
  • White-label delivery. Through Uber Eats, you can offer scheduled, same-day, and express delivery from your own sales channels.

Whether your grocery store joins the Uber Eats marketplace, uses Uber Direct for white-label delivery, or combines both solutions, tools are available to help you improve your e-grocery strategy and create an experience that keeps customers coming back.

Frequently asked questions

  • Omnichannel grocery is the practice of providing grocery services to customers across a variety of channels. The different grocery channels can include in-person shopping, the grocery store’s website, the brand’s mobile app (if they have one), curbside pickup, and orders fulfilled by third-party delivery companies.

  • E-grocery is the online version of a grocery store’s business, including all the services customers can access through online channels. E-grocery can include orders placed through a grocery store’s website, their mobile app, or third-party delivery apps.

  • An omnichannel grocery model is a business model that takes multiple purchasing and fulfillment channels into account. Any grocery store that develops a strategy for providing in-store shopping, delivery, and pickup options is using an omnichannel model.

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