United Supermarkets upgrades e-commerce platform

Western chain says new tools enhance online grocery service

United Supermarkets has bolstered its online grocery capabilities to drive customer engagement and hone operational efficiencies in fulfilling e-commerce orders.

The Lubbock, Texas-based retailer, part of Albertsons Cos., upgraded its MyWebGrocer STREETside solution with enhanced metrics for the platform’s Mobile Personal Shopper application and two new digital advertising tools, Sponsored Listings and Category Header ads.

“MyWebGrocer’s Mobile Personal Shopper app has really helped us be efficient. With this upgrade, a lot of what they introduced was improved back-of-the-house efficiencies — ways to pick items quicker, find suitable substitutions faster, etc.,” Chris Farr, e-commerce manager for United, told Supermarket News. The retailer has more than 100 stores in Texas and New Mexico under the United Supermarkets, Market Street, Amigos, Albertsons Market and United Express banners. “The name of the game for us is how we can get more orders to the guests faster.”

The Mobile Personal Shopper tool is designed to guide United’s personal shoppers through store aisles to make picking and packing of online grocery orders and fulfillment easier and more accurate. Winooski, Vt.-based MyWebGrocer said the app’s new features include more robust reporting of personal shopper metrics to improve picking quality, efficiency and e-commerce profitability.

Farr noted that United did custom development with MyWebGrocer on the app to institute item-level mapping, enabling personal shoppers to pinpoint specific items.

“It tells you what aisle, what section of the aisle and what shelf, and then you have a picture of the product. It really has reduced a lot of our training time for people who don’t know the layout of the store,” he explained. “The picking process has been very good for us.”

Meanwhile, MyWebGrocer’s new digital advertising tools bring more support for United’s merchandising and collaboration with consumer packaged goods brands. The Sponsored Listings solution helps CPGs to step up native product placement and sales with grocery retailers, while the Category Header ads provide a way for CPG brands to reach and influence United customers on their path to purchase.

“When shopping online versus in-store, you lose the ability, for example, of walking through the bakery and being able to see all these other nice items,” Farr said. “With this upgrade, different brands and categories can sponsor almost a digital endcap, or digital display, for different departments.”

United’s foray into online grocery began with MyWebGrocer in October 2016, when the retailer piloted the solution at one store. Farr said about 25% of United’s locations now use the platform.

“We felt it was the best solution at the time. We looked at some other e-commerce providers that had a really good front end, but the back end just wasn’t as good,” he explained. “And our fear was that if we get to a critical volume, and we’re not as efficient as we can be, it would take us a lot longer to get a return on our investment.”

United has an in-house grocery delivery service and uses its own trucks. “It’s been a very good service for us and has helped us get a competitive edge in some of our regions,” Farr said.

When making orders on MyWebGrocer, United shoppers can select delivery or pickup options. “We have delivery in all of our major markets, but where we have multiple stores in one city, we have just one store that delivers to the whole city,” Farr said.

Next on the e-commerce front for United is to bring more functionality to customers. Farr said that includes more insight into out-of-stocks, facilitating product substitutions and additions, and enabling more communication between customers and personal shoppers, such as specifying product preferences like green bananas.

“Something else we’re working on is how to offer guests more options for a turnaround time,” he said, adding that he’d like to enable delivery in two hours, one hour or less. “It’s about how we close the time gap to be more efficient and make the service more convenient for the guests to use.”

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