Most of us hate going to the grocery store. Fighting for parking, dealing with the crowds, dodging shopping carts, waiting in long lines at checkout— Grocery shopping can indeed be tedious, but as with almost everything else under the sun, the web offers solutions to help alleviate that. Thankfully, we live in the future, and we can have anything brought to us instead of having to go get them. But as more of us buy books, clothing, even furniture online, will more of us start buying our groceries that way too? Ralph el Kahi, Group Head of Marketing at Spinneys talks to ArabAd about all the exciting innovations the renowned supermarket chain has introduced to bolster its onine shopping, as he discusses the response the Internet supermarket experience has witnessed so far.
What drove you to setup an e-shopping site to begin with?
The strategic decision was taken years ago as e-shopping was considered a natural extension to maintain our position as the leading retailer in Lebanon and the Middle East. In line with this strategy, we are creating a comprehensive e-shopping platform comprised of a website, mobile app, social media gateways, and a physical team to run and maintain the entire operation.
At present, we have a dedicated team and website for Spinneysdelivery.com that covers most of the Greater Beirut area, which has been growing at double digits for the past few years.
What kind of challenges have you faced since?
The main challenge was to maintain the quality of experience people enjoy at Spinneys stores through online shopping. We therefore had to invest in specialised vehicles to deliver fresh produce, cold cuts, dairy products etc. This has not been easy especially since our regular customers receive have gradually become acquaintances and friends with our staff who recommend new things and help them select products. To build on that relationship, we developed new titles of “personal shoppers” for our online clients, who can call and interact with those “personal shoppers” to discuss and get advice on what to buy and what new things to try out. This allowed our customers to make purchases while at their office, home, or even in traffic. They can also talk to a shopper and see the products on their screens as if were physically present at the store.
How has the chain’s e-shopping platform been fairing since its launch?
The sales figures and number of online orders is doubling year on year. We started by dedicating a small team, which has grown to a fully-fledged operation with trucks for frozen, and refrigerated products. The number of “personal shoppers” responding to online requests is increasing and at this pace our online store will be one of the top six stores in the coming three years.
What kind of customer feedback have you received thus far?
Online shopping is definitely growing and the slightest improvements to the Internet’s infrastructure is directly felt on our online shopping bottom line. The hardest phase is to get clients to use online shopping for the first time. When they do, they realise the ease of reordering the same items, especially when these come in big boxes delivered straight to their front door. Also, the growth in the number of users and the quantity of orders is indicative of how willing Lebanese customers, as well as the younger generation, are ready to shift their shopping habits online.
What can you tell us about the behaviour patterns of your online customers?
Our main online shoppers segment include executives, working couples and people who are relatively busy and prefer to plan their grocery shopping in their free limited time. Females represent 60 percent of our online shoppers while 70 percent of our regular online customers are below the age of 40.
Our online experience is optimised for that type of busy customer, which is why we offer a quick shopping list option to search, access previously saved orders and preferred items. These save time and with a few clicks the customer can complete the shopping list and assign the time of delivery…. The entire process takes about 10-15 minutes and can be executed at any time of day on the phone or from a computer. We even incorporated a barcode scanner into the app so clients can simply scan the last item they have at home and reorder it online.
Do you prefer when consumers shop online or in stores?
Shopping online or offline is the same for us as long as we are offering an outstanding shopping experience. The preference between online and in store shopping depends on the shopper’s lifestyle and behaviour. In Lebanon and mainly in the Middle East, many customers prefer the firsthand experience of a supermarket visit and checking out the products they buy. However, and though the online shopper is squeezed for time, he/she is also comfortable and trusts the quality of products available.
What will play a key role in the continued growth of e-shopping in Lebanon and the region?
E-shopping in Lebanon and the region is still in its infancy compared to other parts of the world. As the infrastructure of the Internet improves and as new laws that facilitate online transactions are set, customers will feel more comfortable and more trusting of online shopping. In addition, the serious and committed investments by corporations, such as Spinneys, in online commerce is also critical to encourage online shoppers because they migrate from their existing clients to online platforms and attract new clients. Furthermore, the online shopping experience to succeed has to adapt to local tastes and flavours, which makes it by far more effective and up to customers’ expectations.