Grocery Stores Preparing for Online Sales

Lauren Krause
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Online grocery shopping is a convenient option for many consumers, from busy parents to elderly people who are unable to drive. Until recently, however, grocery stores have been hesitant to enter the e-commerce space. With grocery options from Amazon and Google paving the way for success, this reluctance is slowly fading. If the trend continues, grocery stores may start doing a significant amount of business online.

Nikki Baird of Forbes examined the websites of five top grocery retailers. Although some grocery stores aren't selling anything other than deli trays or fruit baskets online, all five companies seem to be expanding their e-commerce capabilities to better serve customers. Just a few years ago, some grocery stores completely lacked a Web presence, so this is encouraging news for customers who are excited about online grocery shopping.

Publix brought in $30.6 billion in sales in 2014, but only a tiny amount of those sales came from the Publix website. Baird says the grocery chain does not offer online shopping, but it does allow customers to order baked goods and deli items via its e-commerce site. Publix also has an app that allows consumers to create grocery lists and search for items by brand or nutritional value. Customers may not be able to place orders online, but Publix is definitely expanding its online presence.

Safeway offers online shopping within a limited delivery area. The store's e-commerce site remembers past purchases, making it easy for repeat customers to place orders. Customers can shop for items by department, reducing the amount of time it takes to find the right items and purchase them online. Although Safeway is many steps ahead of some grocery stores, its e-commerce site is missing some key features. For example, the way products are organized makes it difficult to find some items.

Target is not like other grocery stores. In fact, it's not a grocery store at all. It's a general retailer that also sells produce, frozen foods and other grocery items. The difference is very clear when you visit Target's website. Customers can search by category, but the website also makes product suggestions based on upcoming holidays or special diets. In some areas, customers can place orders online and pick up their items in the store. Target does a lot of things right, but its filtering system leaves a lot to be desired.

Instead of competing with grocery stores, Wal-Mart seems to be competing with Amazon. Wal-Mart has been offering grocery items online for several years. The site's filtering capabilities are far beyond those offered by any of the other websites that Baird examined, and customers also have access to ratings and reviews.

Grocery stores have been slow to embrace the e-commerce trend, but it's a trend that is here to stay. Although few stores allow customers to place complete orders online, major retailers are taking steps to improve their websites to make shopping more convenient for consumers.

Photo courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at



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