Grocery adapts with digital and online services

Fred Harrison

During the outbreak of Covid-19, the speed at which companies were forced to evolve their digital plans and capabilities was without precedence.

By Ritchies CEO Fred Harrison. 

While many businesses were forced to close down their physical shopfronts, the grocery industry, deemed essential, remained open for trade.

The impending closure (or vastly reduced capacity) of offices saw Ritchies mobilise and train a workforce of hundreds in a matter of weeks, something we would have previously thought impossible.

As noted by KPMG in its article ‘Covid-19 accelerating digital’, many businesses were able “to switch to large-scale remote working without too many issues”. A key point raised within this article was the question, “what corners were cut and what rules were broken to be able to achieve this?” For Ritchies, it was essential to ensure a speedy but secure and effective rollout. We were only too aware of the increased risk involved in this new environment.

While it may seem backward thinking, the absence of an online offer (and the pressures to fill these) saw our stores well placed to effectively service the significant increase in volume in stores. Our social media team worked in conjunction with stores to communicate our offer at a highly localised level. From unique offers such as fresh, packaged meals from local high-end restaurants, to updates on stock levels at the height of the panic buying, our stores reached more people than ever before.

Like many other businesses, Ritchies saw cashless payments in stores increase. Interestingly, Ritchies has offered ApplePay and other digital wallet services for some time.

There’s no doubting that grocery e-commerce acceptance/adoption in Australia has been brought forward by years. This has in-turn brought forward discussions Ritchies have in place with multiple ecommerce platforms. We believe the e-commerce space within grocery has changed since the pandemic, particularly the style in which the order may be fulfilled. Click-and-collect is fast becoming a ‘drive through’ service with more customers looking for a contactless transaction. Like many commentators, we feel as e-commerce offers continue to get better the industry will see more growth in this area. That said, I think most shoppers will split their shopping between online and bricks and mortar. Overseas we’ve seen Amazon move further into physical stores for this very reason.

Launching our new loyalty program during a pandemic was never the plan. Working with TCC, Ritchies had been busy upgrading our 20+ year old loyalty program. With significant improvements in our capability to effectively reach and tailor offers to our customers wants delaying the launch was never going to be an option. Pleasingly, we exceeded our initial goals quickly.