Grocery retailers

The omnichannel opportunity awaits

Retailers have long been at the forefront of the omnichannel revolution. As an industry, they’ve been among the first to feel the impact of advances in digital and mobile technology, as well as changing customer behaviours and expectations. Some retailer categories have responded to the challenge more effectively than others: a recent Deloitte study suggests grocery retailers have some catching up to do.

The Deloitte Omnichannel Customer Experience Index 2016 ( explores the omnichannel offerings of leading retailers in all major categories across Canada and the US. By evaluating omnichannel capabilities all along the path to purchase and across online, mobile, and integrated channels, the report takes a comprehensive snapshot of the “state of omnichannel” in North American retailing.

Buying behaviours, regulations create omnichannel challenges for grocers

Buying behaviours, regulations create omnichannel challenges for grocers

Buying behaviours, regulations create omnichannel challenges for grocers
In both Canada and the US, home improvement, department stores, and mass merchandisers lead the way when it comes to omnichannel sophistication. Grocery retailers’ current omnichannel efforts aren’t yet as developed, for a number of reasons. Canadian consumers haven’t really embraced buying groceries online and can’t purchase pharmaceuticals over the Web—factors that can make it hard to justify significant investment in this area. As a result, grocers’ online and mobile capabilities are less advanced.

An untapped opportunity for grocers
The real takeaway from our research isn’t that grocery retailers lag in omnichannel. It’s that omnichannel offers a clear opportunity for grocers to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market by making shrewd omnichannel investments.

Seizing these opportunities is vital, because the grocery sector continues to evolve, becoming more complex and competitive every step of the way. As Ontario grocers begin to offer beer and wine, for example, they find themselves competing with the LCBO—which now provides online purchases and home delivery or in-store pickup. With busy consumers always looking for ways to make shopping easier, faster, and more convenient, grocers that can up their omnichannel game could realize a powerful advantage.

But that doesn’t mean grocery retailers should charge into omnichannel blindly. It’s absolutely essential that grocers pursue omnichannel investments that reflect customers’ actual behaviour and meet their needs and expectations.

Investing in omnichannel? Learn from the leaders
As they accelerate their omnichannel journey, grocery retailers should capitalize on the experience and best practices of today’s omnichannel leaders: home improvement chains.

Home improvement retailers have surpassed their counterparts in both e-commerce and mobile commerce, with strong integration across all platforms and genuine omnichannel capability. They’re strong in pre-purchase and post-purchase, providing support to customers starting new projects and enabling customers to make sure what they’ll need is in stock before they set foot in-store. And online shopping, convenient home delivery, and click-and-collect options mean customers can bring their purchases home however they wish.

As well, home improvement retailers offer highly functional mobile apps that connect to customers’ preferred stores and allow them to easily redeem online and mobile coupons and promotions in-store. Profiles, wish lists, and digital shopping cards can be created and accessed across all channels, with a seamless, loyalty-building ease.

Time to start the omnichannel journey
It’s time for grocers to improve their omnichannel offerings and seize the opportunities that new technologies and shifting customer behaviours have created. Taking the first step on the omnichannel journey doesn’t have to be a huge investment. Here’s where to begin:

  • Start small. Omnichannel and the analytics behind it don’t have to be big and scary. Use a focused, proof-of-concept project to prove how analytics can be an asset to the organization and support smart omnichannel investments. Introduce new features gradually, refining your offerings until they delight your customers.
  • Review your competitors’ omnichannel offerings along the entire path to purchase. Examine your competitors’ omnichannel services from product discovery to purchase, post-purchase, and follow-up. What do they do well? What’s lacking? Use that knowledge to shape your own plan.
  • Create an integrated omnichannel team. Excelling in omnichannel requires an integrated, cross-functional team that combines creative minds and analytical business acumen. Today’s marketing teams require new kinds of talent: strategy and operations experts, IT architects, data scientists, data visualizers, and more.
  • Identify the right omnichannel business model. Will you centralize omnichannel capabilities in your organization, or use a decentralized approach instead? What about a hybrid, “ecosystem” model? There’s no one-size-fits-all operating model for omnichannel. External advisors can bring you insights to help you make the right decisions on omnichannel for your business and your customers.

Those that move fast, win
Deloitte’s Omnichannel Index makes plain that Canadian grocers have much room to grow when it comes to omnichannel. Those that move fast and invest in new omnichannel capabilities—from mobile to online shopping to new delivery options—can set themselves apart and gain a significant advantage in the market.

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