With most cities and states enacting strict shelter-in-place laws during the Coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores are one of the few businesses that are still fully operational.
Before our whole reality shifted, most grocery stores didn’t need sophisticated websites. After all, the majority of your customers probably never visited your website under normal circumstances.
That’s all changed though. For now and the foreseeable future, people are engaging with grocery stores in a whole new way. And as their needs and behaviors change, stores need to evolve to meet those needs by improving their online presence.
Keep in mind that this list is not meant to overwhelm you. You don’t have to do it all, but choosing even a few updates from these suggestions would put you ahead of your competitors and endear you to your customers.
A lot of grocery stores are already offering customers this valuable service, but it should be something that’s available everywhere. Online ordering and curbside pickup not only protect customers but also employees. The fewer people in your store, the less at risk your team is.
Your online ordering system should be easy to use, accurately reflect current inventory and allow customers to choose a convenient time to pick up their order. It’s also important to provide detailed information on the website and in follow-up emails to ensure that customers know exactly what to do when picking up their order.
These days, in-store shoppers are usually trying to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. And grocery stores should be helping them to do just that.
So, consider adding a store map to your website. This way, people can get a lay of the land and plan their shopping trip to be as efficient as possible. Of course, we realize that less wandering may result in fewer spontaneous purchases, but it’s important to remember that health and safety are your top priorities for now.
One thoughtful way you can make life easier for your customers is to update current inventory on your website as frequently as you can. Of course, we realize that inventory levels can change rapidly, but any effort you can make in this direction will be helpful. Knowing what’s in stock and out of stock will go a long way in allowing people to plan effectively.
If you don’t want to pursue your own proprietary online inventory system, consider using a third-party system like Instacart. It’s key to make your inventory system searchable and filterable to allow for maximum usability.
Digital Coupons and Sales
If you haven’t already, now is the time to make your sales and coupons available digitally. People want to be in the store for as little time as possible, so leafing through a physical coupon circular is not ideal right now.
Instead, consider putting all current sales and coupons online and allowing them to be redeemed via phone or print out. Your customers will appreciate the chance to plan their trip and savings before visiting the store.
Vulnerable Groups and Department Hours
By now, many grocery stores have chosen to instate shopping times that are exclusively open to high-risk groups. Given that people who are older or have certain medical conditions are most vulnerable to COVID-19, it’s helpful to allow them to shop during a less busy period when the store is fully stocked. If your store has done this, be sure to put this information on your website.
Additionally, you may be closing certain departments earlier than usual. As of very recently, for example, Chicago stores can no longer sell liquor after 9pm. So it may be helpful to put this sort of important information online to let people know what to expect.
Everyone is on high alert whenever they leave the house these days, and for good reason. Safety precautions are critical to slow the spread of this virus and flatten the curve. And as one of the few public places open now, grocery stores have a responsibility to enact smart safety measures and to keep customers informed about them.
Your homepage should prominently feature a list of the things your store is doing to keep staff and customers safe. Here are a few examples of things you might want to include:
- Senior shopping hours
- Limited number of customers in the store at once
- One-way aisles
- Frequent cleaning of high-touch areas
- Masks or other safety equipment in use by staff
- Marked distances for shoppers in line
Instead of depending on customers to run across seasonal or new items in your store, you should consider adding a section to your website that features them. Once again, shoppers will be trying to get in and out quickly. So advertising these items online may help draw attention to specific products.
Most of us are used to going grocery shopping once a week or more as the need arises. That’s all changed now. Instead, many are trying to go every two to three weeks to cut down on contact with others. That sort of shopping can be a challenge though.
So, why not offer educational resources that will help people to stock up smartly? You can suggest items that last long or tips for preserving fresh produce. Any advice you can offer will help your customers and let them know that you’re looking out for them in this difficult time.
Speaking of resources, you may also want to have a section on your website that offers simple recipes for things like:
- Nutritious dishes that can be made in big batches for freezing
- Fun, healthy meals for kids
- Meals that use on-sale or low-priced items for people experiencing financial hardship
- Easy homemade dishes that come together in 30 minutes or less
How You’re Helping
Does your store donate to food banks, homeless shelters or other organizations that help people with food insecurity? If so, make this known on your website. Your customers will appreciate knowing they’re supporting a business that gives back to their community.
They may also want to know how they can help. If you have a place in the store where you collect dry and canned goods, be sure to include this on your site so that those who want to help know how to do so.
Social Assistance Policies
It’s always a good idea to let people know your policies on using social assistance like SNAP in your store. However, now it’s more important than ever.
There are many more unemployed people than ever before, some of whom may not be experienced with using social assistance programs. Any guidance you can offer will be appreciated by your customers.
Go Above and Beyond
Your grocery store website can be a whole lot more than just a virtual storefront with basic information. In these unusual times, your business is more important. Your website ought to reflect that by offering features that keep them safe, healthy and informed.
While you may be thinking that this will pass and there’s no need to make big changes, keep in mind that many of these features are also valuable for people who are differently-abled. So, even when things return to normal, you’ll be ahead of the game in terms of catering to customers of all abilities.
Ready to get started turning your website into a valuable resource for your customers? Get in touch and we’ll provide you with a custom plan to transform your online presence.">