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Waitrose hops on board with online grocery delivery through app revamp

British grocer Waitrose is rolling out online ordering functionality within its mobile application, a feature that is already common in Europe but is still up-and-coming in the United States.

To access the ordering features, consumers first need to create a Waitrose account that can be accessed on the grocer’s Web and mobile properties. Waitrose’s revamped mobile app is available for free download in Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

“Online grocery has been slow to take off in the U.S., although it is becoming well established in other markets such as the UK, France and the Netherlands,” said Lisa Byfield-Green, online and digital specialist at IGD, Watford, Hertfordshire.

“One of the main reasons for this has been the costs involved for retailers in establishing ecommerce operations for fresh groceries, particularly when delivering to customers’ homes, and the potentially large distances involved,” she said.

“Retailers need to be able to reach a critical mass of shoppers in order to reduce operational costs and offer the service at a level that makes it attractive and affordable for customers. The most effective way to do this is to establish operations in densely populated urban areas, and this is where online grocery retailers such as Peapod, Fresh Direct and Amazon Fresh are focusing their efforts.”

Ms. Byfield-Green is not affiliated with Waitrose. She commented based on her expertise on the subject.

Waitrose declined to comment for this story.

Mobile ordering
By logging into their Waitrose account, consumers can add and edit groceries to their grocery order from either a Web site or the mobile app.

A bar code scanner feature also lets consumers scan a package and immediately add the item to their order.

Consumers can then pick a time slot and have their order set up to be delivered. Online deliveries require a £50 — or roughly $84 — minimum order.

Shoppers can also access past orders and loyalty program information via the app.

In addition to mobile ordering, Waitrose’s app still features the additional pieces of content that were available previously.

Shoppers can also find nearby stores, as well as view directions, hours of operation and recipe ideas via the app.

Products can be sorted by relevance, and there is also a big search bar across the top of the screen where consumers can type in keywords of products that they are looking for.

There is also a shopping list feature that aggregates all of a shopper’s favorite items into one place.

Learning from international markets
Waitrose is fairly slow to adopt online ordering in Britain. All four of the country’s biggest supermarket chains — Tesco, Morrison’s, Asda and Sainsbury’s — already offer online ordering.

This is significantly different than the U.S., where only a few major grocery chains such as Safeway are experimenting with mobile and online ordering.

Third-party companies including Fresh Direct, Peapod, Amazon and Instacart are more common than bricks-and-mortar retailers offering online delivery (see story).

However, there is quality and freshness for these third-party online grocery companies in the U.S., meaning that there is likely a lot of room for physical bricks-and-mortar grocers to apply some of the learnings from the British grocers.

“This model could absolutely work in the U.S.,” said Molly Garris, digital strategy director and mobile practice lead at Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide, Chicago.

Ms. Garris is not affiliated with Waitrose. She commented based on her expertise of the subject.

“In fact, it may actually work better in the States since we’re less reliant on pre-made meals and we love stock up trips,” she said. “With many online grocery orders having a minimum order amount, stocking up seems like a great use of online shopping in the U.S. since shoppers don’t have to haul items to and from their car.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York