BJ’s Wholesale Club, the membership-warehouse operator based in Westborough, Mass., rolled out online ordering for bakery and deli items in mid-December just in time for the holiday season, and now is looking at additional opportunities to expand its use of technology in those departments.
BJ’s joins an array of other food retailers that offer online deli and bakery ordering functionality for party planning and catering, which is often separate from their more mainstream online grocery ordering and fulfillment offerings.
Ledia Dilo, assistant VP of member care services at BJ’s, said the company was “very pleased” with the launch.
“We were pleasantly surprised at how quickly our members embraced the system, and we received our first cake order within minutes of going live,” she said. “We continued getting online orders within a couple of hours of the launch with very little fanfare to announce the program.”
Going forward, BJ’s is promoting the service via print media, mailers, its in-store coupon book, social media and in-store demos.
Dilo said the offering puts BJs on par with competitors, and has also created customer-ordering efficiencies.
Now, the chain is exploring ways to leverage technology to improve the in-store experience for its members by offering a mobile ordering solution. Customers would be able to place orders via their mobile phones while in-store and receive a text when their order is ready.
“We are hoping to drive a better member experience and deli line efficiencies through this solution,” said Dilo. “Most importantly, we are giving members more choice to engage with BJ’s across multiple channels and devices.”
BJ’s is also looking at ways to leverage technology to assist its deli and bakery employees via tools such as mobile alerts for online orders.
Capturing impulse sales
While certain elements of food retailers’ bakery/deli departments are logical candidates for online ordering — especially offerings such as cakes and deli platters — perhaps no other area of the supermarket lends itself to a more rewarding in-store experience for both retailers and shoppers. The bakery and deli are often signature in-store features, enticing shoppers with their aromas and their often colorful and appetizing displays.
Eric Richard, education coordinator at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, Madison, Wis., cautioned that the rise of online shopping could pose future threats to supermarket bakeries, given the importance of impulse purchases in the department.
“To garner online sales, retailers will need to find ways to keep fresh bakery products front and center and on the minds of online shoppers,” he said.
He suggested one way to do this is through “recommended for you” messaging that appears when shoppers are online.
Meanwhile, online and social media channels “are creating excellent opportunities for retailers to showcase their bakery department offerings,” said Richard. “This, in turn, can help draw in traffic to in-store bakeries, where they can experience the sights and smells that in-store bakeries offer; it’s also a great outlet for shoppers to access coupons, know about any current or future promotions and to learn about new items in the bakery.”
Websites and in-store kiosks that allow shoppers to customize their cake orders or to place a deli order for later pickup while they shop offer convenience and encourage use of online functionality, he added.
In addition, retailers also have the opportunity to explore online opportunities for offering online meals or ingredient kits from their delis, he said.