By Brianna Ahearn, contributing writer
The grocery retail category has experienced significant growth in terms of technology over the last few years, with the availability of click-to-collect, loyalty programs, and digital coupons, however, Meijer is testing a new frontier that could provide them a competitive edge in many of the retailer's areas. Meijer announced via press release on April 16, 2015 that it's testing a new service, Meijer Curbside, at the Knapp's Corner retail in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Meijer Curbside was devised to help “shoppers maximize their time” and lets Meijer customers shop for their entire grocery purchase online, then visit the store at a pre-selected pickup time. Once their order is ready for pickup, customers can pull up to the store and have their order placed directly in their car. Pickup time is slated for between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily, with some orders available in one hour if they consistent of 12 items or fewer. Items for 13 or more items will be available in about three hours time for pickup. The service is currently offered during the pilot test for free, and once rolled out to more locations, it will cost $5 per order for the customer.
Meijer states that the retailer is using specially-trained team members to hand-select each item in an order, and shop with “special instructions” and “personal preferences” in mind for the customer. Meijer's website states this could include a customer's request for the “ripest avocados” or the “greenest bananas.” The retailer's press release explains all orders are done with the food safety in mind, and all food is kept at “the optimal temperature” with freezers, refrigerators, and warmers to ensure fresh, safe food for customers. The retailer is considering rolling out the service to more stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky later this year.
“The way customers shop for food is changing, and Meijer Curbside is one more way we are striving to find solutions to everyday challenges and bring more convenience to our customers," says Michael Ross, Meijer's Vice President of Customer Marketing and Emerging Technology. "Meijer Curbside allows us to help our customers save time by remotely shopping for items throughout our store and choosing their own personal pick-up time.”
More than 23,000 of the most common shopped-for grocery items and general merchandise items are eligible for Meijer Curbside. Items from the deli and bakery, such as prepared meals, cakes and party trays are available, per the press release. Customers can place their orders at Meijer.com/Curbside, and once at the store, a Meijer Curbside team member will load their order in their car, then use a mobile device to take payment by credit card. Meijer's mPerks program and its digital coupons are available for all Curbside orders, however, standard paper coupons aren't accepted.
If their test is successful and Meijer does rollout the shopping service to other states, they could be a hearty competitor to other grocers. Curbside pickup is a relatively new area, and many grocers are still testing the service. Giant Eagle has implemented their own version of grocery pickup, Curbside Express, at a limited selection of stores. However, Giant Eagle operates stores in the state of Ohio, one state where Meijer has multiple stores. Should Meijer rollout Meijer Curbside in Ohio stores before Giant Eagle does, it will be a good draw for customers. Giant Eagle will soon offer the service at the Columbus, Ohio location Grandview Yard this week, but Meijer has time to catch up. In several areas across the country such Phoenix, Arizona, Walmart is testing a service for online grocery ordering with pickup and delivery. However, they haven't offered such a service in areas where Meijer operates, and Meijer (along with Target), is one of their main competitors. Stop and Shop, another grocery retailer, doesn't have stores in the same states as Meijer and uses a third-party service, Peapod, for their grocery pickup service. Harris Teeter, a Kroger-owned retailer, offers grocery pickup and delivery in limited areas, while Kroger is testing the same service in one of its Cincinnati, Ohio stores. Kroger is a sizable competitor to Meijer, and has explored several new facets of technology in its stores in the last year, including digital shelf labels and scan-and-go technology, which lets customers shop by scanning items, then picking up their bagged order at the checkout.