E-commerce grocery platform provider Unata recently acknowledged it’s now powering digital customer experiences for 11 regional grocery retailers across North America, together representing over 1,200 locations, according to a company press release.
Unata also said it has several major updates to product capabilities planned for the rest of 2017 as it looks to support its growing roster of retailers. The company recently launched and will continue enhancing its "Unified Shopping Experience," which allows customers to shape their shopping experience when they visit a grocer website by indicating if they want to build a list, build a shopping cart or just browse. Based on whatever the shopper chooses, the web or mobile experience adjusts to reflect accurate content, features, product assortment, pricing, button functionality and store selection, among other things. A shopper can also switch between the different shopping modes if they change their mind, according to the press release.
Unata also plans to update its "Integrated Configurable Products" service, which allows shoppers to order fresh and prepared foods "at the same time and in the same website as their regular online grocery shop," according to the release.
It may seem as though retail's giants, namely Amazon and Walmart, are fighting over the rights to the future of the grocery market, but smaller regional grocery companies still have options. That being said, as Amazon recasts itself as a grocer with its Whole Foods acquisition and reshapes the future of the sector, and Walmart initiates a price war in a way that only a behemoth can, regional grocers need to start turning options into actions.
Unata is giving them a way to do that by creating a more flexible and user-friendly online grocery shopping experience for their customers. The company said in June that four regional grocers, including Lunds & Byerlys and Roche Bros., had already moved to adopt the unified shopping experience capability.
Unata also aims to increase usage of the platform by involving retail executives in the development process. Chris Bryson, Unata founder and CEO, said in a press release that the company last month hosted 25 executives from 10 retail brands at its bi-annual partner summit in Toronto, where they "provide input into the innovation roadmap and influence the overall direction of the platform."
Online grocery shopping, despite all the activity by Amazon, Walmart and others, is still in its earliest innings. The fact is that the vast majority of consumers don't do their grocery shopping online. That said, the percentage of grocery customers who are shopping online is growing fast.
Earlier this year, Unata revealed the results of a study that suggested 31% of U.S. shoppers are likely to order groceries online during 2017. That figure was up from about 19% in the year-ago period, which was roughly the same percentage quoted by the Food Marketing Institute when the institute discussed grocery shopping trends with Retail Dive in January. Unata's study also suggested that 80% of shoppers who ordered groceries online in 2017 would do so again this year.
The online grocery trend is building and regional grocers can't embrace it quickly enough — the days of shopper loyalty to a single, local brick-and-mortar supermarket are fading fast. The FMI provided evidence enough of that last year, when the institute said that less than half of the shoppers it surveyed identified a traditional supermarket as their primary grocery store, way down from the two-thirds who did so a decade ago. It's time for grocers to strengthen bonds with customers, whether they're in-store, online or on mobile.