Groceries are adapting with digital and on-line providers

Fred Harrison

During the Covid-19 outbreak, the speed at which companies were forced to evolve their digital plans and skills was unprecedented.

Posted by Fred Harrison, Ritchie's CEO.

While many companies were forced to close their physical stores, the food industry, considered essential, remained open to trade.

Due to the imminent closure (or greatly reduced capacity) of offices, Ritchies mobilized and trained hundreds of employees within a few weeks, which we would have previously thought impossible.

As KPMG noted in its article “Covid-19 Accelerating Digital”, many companies have been able to “move to large-scale remote work without too many problems”. A key point in this article was the question, "What corners were cut and what rules were broken to achieve this?" It was important for Ritchie's to ensure a quick, but safe and effective rollout. We were all too aware of the increased risk in this new environment.

The lack of an online offering (and the pressure to fill it) have positioned our branches well to serve the significant increase in store volume effectively. Our social media team worked with stores to communicate our offering on a highly localized level. From unique offerings like fresh, packaged meals from local high-end restaurants to inventory updates at the height of panic buying, our stores were reaching more people than ever before.

As with many other companies, cashless payments in stores increased at Ritchie's. Interestingly, Ritchies has been offering ApplePay and other digital wallet services for a while now.

There is no doubt that the adoption / acceptance of e-commerce in the grocery sector in Australia has been brought forward years. This, in turn, sparked discussions that Ritchie has had with multiple ecommerce platforms. We believe that the e-commerce space within groceries has changed since the pandemic, especially the style in which the order can be fulfilled. Click-and-collect is fast becoming a "drive-through" service, with more customers looking for a contactless transaction. Like many commentators, we believe the industry will see more growth in this area as ecommerce offerings keep getting better. Still, I think most shoppers will split their purchases between online and stationary. Overseas, we've seen Amazon push further into physical stores for this very reason.

The launch of our new loyalty program during a pandemic was never planned. Working with TCC, Ritchies has been busy improving our over 20 year old loyalty program. With significant improvements in our ability to effectively target and tailor offerings to our customers, delaying the launch was never an option. Fortunately, we quickly exceeded our original goals.

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