Building an Effective Supermarket Retail Website
By Al McClain
A report out by Bill Bishop, chairman of Willard
Bishop, aims to decipher what supermarket websites
need to do to best communicate with shoppers. The report is based on
multiple visits to websites of eight retailers — Festival Foods, Giant
Food Stores, Harris Teeter, Wegmans, Kroger, Publix, Safeway, and Schnucks
— as well as an evaluation of their outbound (primarily e-mail) communications.
Here are some of the findings based on the report, which was conducted
in June through October of 2009:
(Note: While Bishop noted the importance of social media in his introduction, that area was not covered in the study.) E-newsletters are important and keeping them
out of the recipient’s junk folder is key. Festival Foods, Harris Teeter,
and Kroger opt to use simple and consistent subject lines, while Wegmans
varies the subject line to make each edition more eye-catching. Festival
Foods presents a short and sweet e-letter, while Wegmans goes into more
detail, highlighting the circular, presenting recipes, linking to video
clips, etc. The Wegmans approach is along the lines of “bringing the site
to the customer” in case they don’t make it to the site. Personalization
and making the e-mail “need-to-read” are also important.
Ease of access to the site is big, as is making
navigation simple. Festival Foods offers a unique home page
for each store while Wegmans rolled out improved navigation in late September.
Six of the eight sites reviewed give consumers the ability to access special
deals by signing in or becoming a site member.
Most of the sites offer meal-planning tools,
such as recipes and cooking videos, while Festival Foods offers a daily
lunch menu and Wegmans showcases its take-out items.
Five of the eight sites offer online shopping,
but Wegmans, Publix and Kroger do not. Delivery is offered by Safeway and
Schnucks. Store pick-up is offered by Harris Teeter, Giant, and Festival
Foods. All of the retailers provided a way to build a shopping list online.
Wegmans also provides a store map so the consumer can see where the items
are in the store. Harris Teeter shows prices as items are added to the
list. Giant and Kroger offer ways to take advantage of online coupons. Harris
Teeter, Publix, and Giant all offer party planning options.
Six of the eight sites offer diet programs,
and some have staff nutritionists or even a physician who can answer questions
online. Most of the sites provide some sort of wellness center and/or links
to outside sources.
In terms of building relationships with consumers:
Wegmans offers to store recipes from previous searches; Festival Foods
and Giant Foods keep records of shopping lists and frequently purchased
items; Safeway has a section on stretching a budget; and Schnucks has an
advisory board that shoppers can join.
Most of the sites tout their ties to the
local community through various charitable programs and several have community
calendars and tie-ins. Bishop suggests that to do more with their sites,
supermarkets think about promoting them on shopping bags, ads, circulars,
in-store signage, labels of private label products, and on receipts and
How well do you think supermarket websites engage shoppers? Is having
a top notch website important for supermarket operators? What are the
key areas supermarket websites should focus on?
- Festival Foods – www.festfoods.com
- Harris Teeter – www.harristeeter.com
- Giant Food Stores – www.giantfoodstores.com
- Wegmans – www.wegmans.com
- Kroger – www.kroger.com
- Safeway – www.safeway.com
- Publix – www.publix.com
- Schnucks – www.schnucks.com
- How Do Food Retail Websites Reach Higher Levels of Customer Engagement? (PDF)