Grocers are experiencing an e-commerce wake-up call.
As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the world, shoppers are increasingly relying on online channels for groceries and essential supplies – challenging grocers to prepare their e-commerce capabilities to respond adequately.
For grocers, the online demand boom is staggering. According to a 2019 report from Gallup, online grocery was relatively rare in the United States prior to the coronavirus outbreak, with 81 percent of consumers citing they’ve never used online grocery services before. COVID-19 has changed that reality as online grocery and shopping habits faced an immediate paradigm shift.
Sudden influxes in e-commerce site traffic threatens risk of overwhelming backend processes, causing prolonged wait times for delivery slots or site/app crashes in times when customers need service most. With the goal to serve as many customers as they can without disruption, grocers worldwide are looking to innovative ways to solve these problems by optimizing their e-commerce processes and safeguarding against the unexpected, while also providing better products and services to their customers.
Given the risk resulting from surges in online site traffic, effectively scaling e-commerce capabilities will rely on a combination of non-invasive and disruptive tactics to mitigate short-term, medium-term and long-term impact. Though overall strategies will differ, the fundamental e-commerce questions grocers must answer are:
- Platform scalability: Will the existing e-commerce platform support increases in traffic as more customers shift to online ordering? When considering dark stores, which are not open to the public, what kind of scalability is achievable?
- Supply chain and operations viability: With so much unknown about the duration of the pandemic, will grocers be able to keep supply chain, DC and store operations moving un-interrupted.
- New/updated offerings: With clear possibility that customer load might increase beyond platform capabilities, how can grocers modify or introduce new offerings to maximize customer value, while keeping e-commerce systems running?
From an engineering and product perspective, cross-disciplinary squads must be created to identify and implement scalability levers, with appropriate representation from both product and engineering teams in order to identify opportunities and achieve these goals. Essentially, these initiatives should be divided into two categories, with respective teams assigned to each project: