Wakefern is the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the U.S., comprising 50 member companies (including ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer, and Fairway Market, among others.)
The company’s banners (especially ShopRite) have seen great success with Order Express — an online ordering platform available on web, in-store kiosk, and mobile app.
The app, which was rebranded to “Order Express” in 2020, was first launched in 2015 as the “Deli & more” app, primarily focused on deli, and in 2017 Wakefern expanded those offerings, adding foodservice catering, prepared foods, and cake building.
“Our customers loved it,” said Lisa Haley, Wakerfern’s digital experience manager. “It was really easy for them to place their order at the deli, and then during the pandemic it really took off.”
So far, the in-store kiosk makes up the highest volume of orders placed, but Haley said Wakefern plans to make a bigger push this year to get shoppers using the app, which the company sees as an opportunity for growth. Wakefern is also seeing a big shift in its website usage — more customers are shifting to mobile ordering, and Haley said the company is very attune to ensuring a mobile-friendly design.
Order Express has also made a big difference in terms of productivity — placing orders ahead translates to more efficiency at store level.
Supermarket News editor Chloe Riley spoke with Lisa Haley and Wakefern Senior Digital Product Lead Jenna Goitiandia about what’s working for Wakerfern’s stores.
Chloe Riley: Order Express sounds like it’s been such a driver of growth for you guys. That app launched first for ShopRite?
Lisa Haley: It was originally called the "ShopRite Deli & More" app, but it’s been rebranded. That was about six years ago. And then we’ve expanded adding new departments, adding new functionality, and just constantly updating the experience.
CR: What were you seeing at the time when you first launched it that was like, “Oh, this has a lot of potential and we should move it across brands and we should do more with it?” What were you guys seeing?
LH: Our customers loved it from a deli perspective. It was really easy for them to place their order at deli, and then during the pandemic it really took off. We had stores that closed their service deli and were only allowing customers to place their order via the Order Express app. That’s really when it started to expand and grow.
CR: And it’s a combination — web, in-store kiosk, and the mobile app. Right?
LH: Correct. It’s all three. All six banners have it available in all three places. In-store kiosk is the highest number of orders being placed right now. We’re really working towards promoting our mobile application more just to get customers to place that order before they arrive.
CR: So it sounds like you see potential opportunity with growth on mobile.
LH: Yeah, absolutely. That’s really where we’re going. We’re seeing a big shift in our website usage — customers are shifting to mobile. When we try to build new enhancements, we take that mobile first mentality and really are trying to do it in the mobile application first.
CR: Catering orders were up 10% compared to last year, and 31% over last year during key holiday periods.
Jenna Goitiandia: During Thanksgiving and holiday times were our bundles where it combines a few different offerings, just probably around 20 to 30% savings as compared to a few bought them all separately. For Thanksgiving we had a Friendsgiving bundle, and those sales were up 90% year over year. That was something we were really excited about.
CR: How does your strategy break down in terms of prepared foods vs food service?
LH: Every store has the option and the way that the application was built gives the stores the ability and our members the ability to customize the offerings based on, I would say, to customize or differentiate based on the neighborhoods that they serve. Some stores have food service, prepared foods, breakfast. We’ve got one store that has King’s Hawaiian sandwiches, we’ve got stores that offer sushi, pizza. Then we’ve got DoorDash integrated with the application as well, so customers can get delivery for those items.
I would say that prepared foods is still in the infancy stage and it’s growing. The more that we market and promote it together, the bigger increases are that we’re seeing.
CR: Nice. What about in bakery? Any exciting moves going on there?
LH: For our stores, we have a “Build Your Cake” application where you can actually see the cake come to life. You can go on and custom create the cake of your dreams with the deco pack.
JG: You can select your flavor, your filling, and then once you get to the icing and the decorations, the image on the site changes to indicate what you’re selecting. Then you can click your border style and once you select a color it’ll update and you can really see a preview. It’s pretty cool. Customers have really liked using this.
CR: Love this. And then hey, kind of amazingly, it’s on you if you misspell on your own cake.
LH: Yeah, if it’s wrong, you did it wrong. Right?
CR: What are the goals moving ahead? What areas are you guys excited to grow?
LH: I would say that we’re looking to expand our assortment within the stores and the departments that are available. We have a sandwich counter in every one of our locations, so we are constantly looking to expand that. We just added floral for the holidays. That was really successful for us. Floral we think is going to be a bit, I know that that’s not a food service category, but it’s actually something that would help the stores out as well. One of the other things that we really didn’t talk about, this Order Express system helps on productivity within the stores. Having those customers place the orders ahead of time, at least the stores know what to expect and what to plan for. It has been a time saver from a productivity perspective.
CR: That’s great. That makes a ton of sense. Getting more customers on the app and using the app to order ahead versus ordering in-store at the kiosk. Right?
LH: Exactly. That’s absolutely why we’re trying to do that. We’re going to continue to work. We have a marketing program that we’re working on right now to increase mobile usage and keep getting those customers to place their orders ahead.
This feature is part of our 2023 "SN Foodservice at Retail Innovators" list: see more innovators here.