US supermarket giant Kroger has ramped up its efforts in online grocery with the launch of a click-and-collect trial in Cincinnati.

As a retail analyst and time-pressed consumer, I eagerly anticipate each announcement from Amazon, Walmart and a slew of other retailers about their next online grocery trials. Then I lament that I live in Cincinnati, a mid-sized city, where most residents are car-dependent and grocery collect-and-click remains a vision of the future.

All of that has now changed. Kroger, the largest traditional supermarket operator in the US, is headquartered here in Cincinnati. Although the Ohio/Kentucky markets have been used as a test market for several new in-store initiatives, Denver preceded Cincinnati as the first Kroger market to test home delivery of online grocery orders. But following the purchase of Harris Teeter and Vitacost.com last year, Kroger has ramped up its efforts in online grocery.

Why? Because even though only 24% of shoppers browsed grocery online in the most recent quarter according to Planet Retail Shopology data, with a 57% conversion rate among those, the category is clearly at a tipping point as both supply and demand swell.

After a series of tests with store employees and a select group of shoppers at a location on Cincinnati’s West Side, Kroger announced that the trial is now open to all Kroger shoppers in the area.

“Unlike in-store, I didn’t find myself arbitrarily adding items not on my list to the basket - a win for me and a loss for Kroger”

I was on the site in no time, and I didn’t even need to set up a new account. Kroger already has all my information from my Kroger Plus Card, its loyalty programme. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the homepage defaulted to my favourites, from which it was simply a matter of adding quantities to my cart. Likewise, I also had the option to shop from my recent purchases or from ‘Sale items for me’.

Although some of the ‘Sale’ items made sense based on my favourites and previous baskets, others, even when viewed through the lens of suggestive selling, made no sense.

I found the shopping process decidedly easy, partly because so much of what I buy is a routine purchase. Unlike in-store, I didn’t find myself arbitrarily adding items not on my list to the basket - a win for me and a loss for Kroger.

The only thing I had a bit of trouble with was trying to understand whether the digital coupons saved to my Plus Card were reflected in the prices on-screen or whether they would be deducted upon merchandise pickup. At this point, though, the app doesn’t appear to be synced with the ecommerce site and the ‘Coupons’ link funnels visitors back to the Kroger.com digital savings page rather than to a list of saved coupons.

I plan to ask the store associate about that when I pick up my grocery tomorrow. Yes, that’s right, tomorrow - the soonest available time that my order will be ready. Glad we’re eating out tonight.

  • Kelly Tackett, US research director, Planet Retail