TECHNOLOGY

Kroger expanding curbside pick-up

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The nation’s largest supermarket retailer is increasing its delivery offerings for online orders.

Kroger Co. is expanding its partnership with on-demand delivery service Instacart. Kroger currently delivers from more than 872 stores across the country, and it offers 1,091 curbside pickup locations. It plans to add 500 new curbside pickup locations in 2018.

The decision to expand the service comes on the heels of Whole Foods Market’s announcement last month that it will offer free, two-hour delivery of natural and organic products through Amazon’s Prime Now service. The service debuted in Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas and Virginia Beach. Last week, Amazon expanded the program to Atlanta and San Francisco.

“The expansion of our Instacart partnership provides Kroger the opportunity to increase our delivery offerings even further,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer. “When you combine it with our successful curbside service, it will help us accelerate our e-commerce reach significantly.”

Currently, two-thirds of Kroger’s customers – more than 40 million households – have access to curbside pickup and/or delivery, but the supermarket giant wants more.

“Our goal is for these convenient services to be available to every customer,” said Cosset.

Both programs coincide with the company’s Restock Kroger program, which includes an accelerated commitment to digital and e-commerce efforts, a front-end transformation and an increased emphasis on it private-label brands. As the company focuses on its digital shopping experience, Kroger is adding solutions that will provide customers with quicker and easier access to personalized products, recipes, digital coupons, weekly ads, and smart shopping lists, among other services.

Kroger currently offers home delivery in 45 markets through Instacart and other delivery partners representing the following divisions: Atlanta; Central; Cincinnati; Columbus; Dallas; Dillons; Fred Meyer; Fry’s; Harris Teeter; Houston; King Soopers; Louisville; Mariano’s; Metro Market; Michigan; Mid-Atlantic; Nashville; Pic ‘n Save; Ralphs; QFC; and Smith’s.

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Aldi expands delivery service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A German discount grocer is bringing its home delivery service into the Midwest.

Aldi is expanding its partnership with the on-demand grocery delivery service Instacart, and extending it online grocery ordering and home delivery service to residents across Chicago’s metropolitan area, Northwest Indiana, and as far west as Rockford, Illinois. The service promises to deliver grocery orders in as little as an hour.

The German discount grocer began piloting the service in Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles in August.

Shoppers in eligible markets can participate by visiting Instacart.com or downloading the Instacart app. At checkout, they can choose a delivery window that works best with their schedule, anywhere from an hour or up to a week later.

“The response to our Instacart pilot in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles was overwhelmingly positive, and with nearly 200 Chicago-area stores, it only makes sense to bring online delivery to this major market,” said Jason Hart, CEO, Aldi U.S.

New Instacart customers across the new delivery areas will receive $20 off, and free delivery of their first order of $35 or more, through May 31.

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Study: Loyalty members still value fuel savings over cash-back rewards

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

When it comes to loyalty rewards, customers want their programs to deliver savings at the gas pump.

For the third year in a row, loyalty consumers in the United States ranked fuel savings as their preferred loyalty currency (39%) over cash-back rewards (35%), according to “The Road to Rewards 2017,” a study from loyalty marketing and technology firm Excentus Corp. and Ipsos.

The ability for loyalty programs to influence customer behavior is on the rise, with 36% of consumers — compared to 26% in 2016 — shopping more frequently at stores where they can earn fuel savings. And fuel savings currency is steadily increasing.

Memberships in fuel loyalty programs have risen 10% in the past two years, with 64% of Americans participating in a program that helps them save on the cost of gas. Up from 54% in 2015 and 59% in 2016, no other specialty loyalty program or reward type in the U.S. has enjoyed comparable growth in this time span, the study revealed.

This also offers opportunities to retailers, as 20% of consumers reported shopping specifically at stores where they can earn rewards that help them save on the cost of fuel, and 22% will shop exclusively at a convenience store where they are a loyalty program member.

Fuel savings also drive higher consumer engagement, as shoppers that earn and redeem fuel savings (30%) visit every few weeks or monthly versus those who prefer cash-back (29%).

Consumers want to save on fuel regardless of gas prices: 73% stated it is important to earn rewards that save on fuel when the price of gas rises, and 58% echoed the identical sentiment when the price of gas falls. This demonstrates that gas prices remain top-of-mind, even in a stable economy, and consumers look to their loyalty programs to save money and add value to their everyday transactions.

Meanwhile, 31% of consumers (up 20% from last year) use their loyalty program’s mobile app to manage their rewards, including redemption — by far the largest jump of any channel, the study said.

“Cents-per-gallon fuel savings are the currency most likely to increase frequency, customer interactions and new revenue opportunities,” said Brandon Logsdon, CEO, Excentus.

“Fuel is a predictable, consistent and repeated expense, and discounts at the pump have a direct impact on consumers’ wallets,” added Logsdon. “The unique relationship consumers have with this commodity makes fuel savings a near universal and highly relevant reward currency.”

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