Behind the scenes of IGA's digital grocery offer

Head of shopper engagement says the debut of a previously unplanned onling grocery delivery service during COVID-19 crisis was a test of customer centricity

The launch of IGA’s online grocery delivery service is a lesson in developing minimum viable product that responds quickly to the needs of customers during a rapidly evolving crisis, its shopper engagement leader says.

IGA has debuted a national online grocery delivery service, IGA Shop, giving all customers the opportunity to access a digital mechanism for grocery shopping. IGA Shop takes its cues from IGA’s Priority Shopping offer, a service introduced during the COVID-19 crisis giving the elderly, vulnerable and isolated within Australia’s population the ability to access grocery deliver services online. It’s also a complement to existing online services select IGA owners may already have in place.

Head of shopper engagement at Metcash, IGA’s parent distribution operator, Lee Martin, told CMO the service was created by a small in-house marketing dev-ops team that has been running for the past two years within Metcash. This capability meant the business was quickly able to mobilise and produce IGA Shop Online in-house using a combination of open-source and custom frameworks. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has put unprecedented pressure on all retailers and adding home delivery is a real challenge under these circumstances,” Martin said. “Almost half the network have opted in nationally, and over 100 retailers already have their own online shops, so we have really good coverage.”

The initial launch was an MVP, and the team has been adding small elements functionality almost daily, Martin continued. About 1800 products are were available for order straight up, and more are being added. To access the service, customers register online, shop and purchase through the platform, then will be contacted by their local store owner, who will verify delivery details.

“We will continue to improve both the shopper experience, and the ease of use for retailers at the back-end of the process,” Martin said. “We’re certainly not satisfied with what we have today and will always look to improve on the offer.”

There had been no immediate plans for online shopping before the COVID-19 crisis at IGA. But as Martin pointed out, the group, like many others, had had to react quickly to the rapidly changing situation.

“We needed to be ready to support vulnerable members of our communities, so we launched a very simple offer with just four packs of essential items only available to vulnerable shoppers who may have needed to self-isolate,” he said. “We’re fortunate the crisis didn’t get worse, but with the demand for online shopping growing rapidly, it became clear we needed to provide a more robust offering to our shoppers.”

Working in close collaboration with retailer representatives from the IGA National Retail Council, the group agreed on the online service basics and in parallel, began building the site. Martin said he was impressed with how different parts of the organisation and its owner-operator retailers have come together to devise this solution.

“The whole process was a great demonstration of what can be achieved across a business even as complex as ours when everyone has a clear and shared focus on the endpoint, and that endpoint was all about creating a great shopper experience,” he said. “Any debates were brought back to ‘how does this work for the shopper’ and that alignment on a very tight brief allowed us to move really fast.”

At a wider digital level, Martin said Metcash has two objectives in the current environment. The first is to compliment and amplify the IGA brand and offer-driven marketing by extending reach beyond traditional media and creating more engaging experiences through rich content and personalisation.

The second is to support the national retail network. “To be successful as a wholesaler, we need the retailers who buy from us to be successful,” Martin said.

“Achieving that as an independent business when marketing channels, media consumption and shopper behaviour are being so rapidly transformed by digital innovation is a real challenge. IGA is not a one-size-fits-all business, and the real strength of the IGA retailers is their ability differentiate their offer and to create truly unique shopping experiences.

“IGA retailers are some of the most innovative in the world and in many locations across Australia they are the best store in town. What we’re focused on at Metcash is supporting this innovation and supporting these independent retailers with the insights and tools they need to compete in this new, digital-first landscape.”

Read more: Metcash engages Complexica to bring the AI smarts

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