Waitrose invests to make offline shopping more convenient

By May 19, 2014Ecommerce

Huge range and the convenience of shopping delivered to your door are the main axes on which ecommerce businesses have sought to compete with their offline counterparts. Waitrose is now fighting back by improving the convenience of their in-store experience.

They already have a system called Quick Check which allows shoppers to scan their food as they take it off the shelves and then pack it straight into the bags they will take home. Payment can then be made at the end without the going through the usual unpack-pay cashier-repack process. Then last week they announced plans to use Apple’s iBeacon system to send shoppers personalised content and promotions relevant to their specific location in-store. On top of that they have various apps in the works to help people shop better and smarter.

Shopping better and smarter takes the axis of competition higher up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs towards self-actualisation. E.g. Waitrose’ wine and recipes apps will help people learn, feel more comfortable about their knowledge, and look better in front of their guest.

The bigger point here though is where this is all heading. I remain convinced that ecommerce will grow to take a far greater share of the pie than it’s current 9% (US figure), but I stop short of thinking that software will eat the entire High Street, at least not any time soon. As Marc Andreessen said last year when he predicted the death of traditional retail, it comes down to the quality of the shopping experience. With Waitrose and others working just as hard to improve the offline experience as startups from the ecommerce world are working to improve the online experience I can’t see either camp offering something that is better enough for all types of shoppers to make a decisive difference. Rather I think we will see the line between online and offline fade away as traditional retailers employ more tech in store, and continue to grow their click and collect and online businesses, and ecommerce vendors will make greater use of physical presences to build their brands and drive sales.

  • garygoodman

    Hi Nick. With price wars a plenty on the high street you are right technology has a key role to help differentiate the quality end of the high street and grocery sector. Those who invest in delivering a single customer view and truly connected shopping experience will gain share off those stores that focus purely on value. I suspect there will be a big drive to give customers more of an experiential shopping experience. Utilising expensive retail space to showcase a broader range of products to be transacted in store and most likely online. Again technology is the enabler here as the more connected the customer the more personalised the experience and the greater the opportunity to upsell products that are not stocked in store to be delivered home.

    Consumers see a convergence of one brand across channel. Despite this some retailers still operate in silos through separate budgets and allocation of customer sales. A cultural change will be needed from some omnichannel retailers to accept that a sale is a sale regardless of how and where it is transacted.

  • Hi Gary – good point. Experiential shipping experiences are easier for offline stores to deliver.

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  • Michal

    This is such an obvious piece of innovation, funny I haven’t thought of it yet: Supermarket queues. One idea: Every item in the store is tagged (as it is already now, but mainly for anti-theft purposes) Wouldn’t it be awesome if you simply took your trolley through a special gate at the end of your shop. The gate registers every item in the trolley and shoots a bill to your Waitrose app. You check that everything is correct, hit approve which sends a payment to Waitrose. The approval untags the items which makes them yours. You pack the items and leave.