Food retailers are taking the same approaches to their websites as they are to their stores: Focusing on upgrades and remodels.
The latest crop of website revamps enhances functionality and design without making these sites unrecognizable to regular users. The improved sites offer more tools, additional ways to achieve price savings, enhanced personalization features and bridges to the mobile world.
Here are some examples of how these enhancements play out with specific retailers, based on recent reporting by SN.
• Bigger Toolboxes: Food retailer websites have always contained user tools, but now some offer toolboxes on steroids. A good example is Hannaford's newly enhanced site, whose expansive offerings led a recent SN article to compare it to a personal assistant. It offers birthday reminders, notifications when favorite products go on sale, exclusive coupons, ability to track purchases, and features that enable consumers to create shopping lists that filter allergens and other ingredients from their foods.
H.E. Butt Grocery Co., meanwhile, plans to launch an enhanced site that also steps up its number of features, including online party planning, pharmacy services and better recipe functionality.
Here’s the point of all this: Hannaford, H-E-B and other retailers are using their websites to ensure they have a bigger role to play in shopper planning and decisions.
• Enhanced Savings: Websites are increasing the number of ways they drive home price messages. One example is an extensive online coupon hub on Fresh Madison Market's redesigned website. Another case is Sweetbay's new price comparison site, which allows shoppers to compare the retailer's prices against those of Winn-Dixie Stores and Publix Super Markets.
This approach is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it's an easily understood comparison tool that ties directly into the chain's television and print ad campaign touting its EDLP positioning vs. the promotional strategy of its two large competitors. Second, the initiative taps into shopper frustration over traditional supermarket pricing, given that the website address is www.takebackyourlist.com.
• Personal Touches: The latest website upgrades put even more value on personalization and customization for shoppers. Safeway has been testing an online tool for Hawaii customers that enables them to receive emails about exclusive deals on their preferred products, based on their loyalty card purchase history. In another case, Sam's Club added upgrades that enable easier customization by users, including with the club's e-Values customized discount program.
• Mobile Connections: Retailer websites are increasingly playing up their companies' mobile marketing programs. H-E-B, as part of its website improvements, will enable consumers to arrange for pharmacy services such as immunizations and have reminders sent to their mobile devices. Hannaford's updated site allows users to send customized shopping lists to mobile phones.
There are other features that many upgraded sites are pursuing. Some sites are increasing the amount of food product information displayed. Others are offering incentives to attract visitors. For example, Hannaford has offered gifts to shoppers who register at its redesigned site, while Harps Food Stores recently gave away gift cards and cash in a contest aimed at promoting its revamped site.
Time will tell how successful each of these website enhancements are. But they all have one important thing in common: They are based on insights about shopper needs. That alone gives them a strong edge in the competition for customer attention.