eCommerce grocery shopping has been more normalized over the past decade and half in many territories around the world. However, few anticipated the current explosion in online grocery sales. This applies regardless of the maturity of the market as it is increasingly becoming a necessity. According to Mercatus, online grocery sales in the US in June went up 9%, surpassing $7.2 billion. In fact, online grocery sales have grown month to month since March this year. In that same time period, average spend per order, active orders and frequency of online grocery shopping increased. With sales growing from $4 billion in March to $7.2 billion, this illustrates just how fast things are changing. COVID has proven to be an unpredictable foe and has required big adjustments for grocers and shoppers alike.
As expected these big changes have impacted major grocers around the world which have adopted their offerings to customers. Canada number two food retail giants Sobeys, has been one those grocers making timely changes to adapt. The grocery giant’s answers to this growth by launching an app on IOS and Android called Viola. Viola is specifically designed to capitalize on this shift of customers online. Sobey’s is initially launching Viola in Canada’s largest metropolitan area, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The service delivers from an automated warehouse where artificial intelligence powered robots assemble orders as opposed to a store. The intention is to give customers access to a broad selection of products from their warehouse.
Better late than never
This development is part of the partnership with Britain’s largest eCommerce grocer, Ocado. The AI robots in the warehouse facilities take 10 commands per second via antennae that link them to a system designed by Ocado engineers. This gives the capability of processing a 50-item order in less than five minutes. Ocado is a pioneer in the British online shopping where today, as much as 10% of all British food sales happen online. In comparison, online grocery shopping in Canada is a paltry 2%. Considering 22% of Canadians intend to conduct grocery shopping online on a more regular basis according to Agri-Food Analytics Lab, there is a significant gap in the market. Sobey’s and Ocado have recognized this and a similar AI robot powered warehouse is currently being constructed in Montreal.
COVID has sped up innovation in eCommerce and convenience is the name of the game for grocery shoppers. Companies now compete on the speed of the online delivery process, a testament to eCommerce innovation. The online shopping experience is very important, especially for millennials and generation Z. AI is the key to efficiency and profitability. As the use of AI grows in warehouse and fulfillment centers, it also grows with many aspects of customer services with innovation like automated chat boxes etc.
A big indication of this change and opportunity is the presence Uber in the grocery retail markets. It is a significant move because online grocery shopping is not intuitively the natural habitat for Uber. In a big move for eCommerce grocery shopping throughout the Americas it has launched a grocery delivery service. The Uber and Uber eats apps has introduced service and has launched the apps in 19 cities across Latin America and Canada. Uber is in partnerships with local grocers in these cities, for example Walmart and Metro Inc in Toronto and Montreal.
By tapping into the network and capability of Chile based Cornershop which Uber acquired last year, grocery orders will be processed in under two hours. This is a potential game changer for eCommerce and retail as the traditional shopping experience is turned upside down. This makes the future more unpredictable for many companies and digital agencies like DigiCommerce are there to guide companies through there transitions.