While some grocery stores failed to meet the needs of the new wave of anxious pandemic consumers, others succeeded. Wegmans failed and succeeded. Here’s how.
When offline options dwindled, consumers looked online to stock their kitchens and feed their newfound love of cooking. As such, grocers were forced to either broaden their marketing nets to capture the new crowd, or let them fall through the cracks. But it’s not enough to simply take on new digital tools and hope for the best. Wegman’s mobile app, for example, suffered an increase of 1-star ratings of 43% in December 2019 to 82% by the end of February 2020, according to Gartner’s Digital IQ Index: Grocery. Customers were quick to notice how the brand’s recent update took away features and functionality that they found most useful while shopping in stores, like finding locations of certain items. Behind the app however, the brand, which boasts famously loyal shoppers, was suffering unseen wounds of its own, including the pressures of changes to its supply chain, workforce, and communication and operating procedures.
As the urgency of survival escalated, Wegmans had two choices: improve or implode. It chose to improve, responding directly to consumer complaints with site and app redesigns and by better positioning private-label brands in their on-platform search results. The company also expanded online-order-curbside-pickup to satisfy the safety requests of concerned consumers. As a result, Wegmans won over 1 million e-commerce orders since then. The grocer also saw an increase in the number of customers purchasing its Meals 2Go, which allows them to order Wegmans meals to be picked up or delivered to their door. For customers who prefer to shop in-store, Wegmans introduced its SCAN app to more than 82 stores, allowing them to scan and bag their groceries while they shop.
As grocers build their digital shopper base, they must continue to execute digital strategies with customer agency in mind. Allowing customers to control their digital grocery shopping experience is crucial to developing trust and a loyal customer base in the long run. This need becomes more pronounced in times of crisis, as certainty and control become valuable commodities. This requires marketing leaders to think critically about how they can bridge the gap between the in-store and online shopping experience so that customer needs are met regardless of where and how they shop.