How Walmart Addresses Customers' Concerns with Online Grocery Shopping

An interview with Ravi Jariwala, Senior Director of Public Relations and Corporate Communications for Walmart eCommerce

Author: Patricia Orsini

March 28, 2017

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is rapidly ramping up its digital grocery shopping service, which allows shoppers to purchase online, schedule a delivery or pick up groceries at their local Walmart. eMarketer’s Patricia Orsini spoke with Ravi Jariwala, senior director of public relations and corporate communications for Walmart eCommerce, about why shoppers are using the service, what the barriers to customer adoption are and how Walmart is addressing those potential friction point

eMarketer: What’s pushing shoppers to buy groceries online?

Ravi Jariwala: This is a service that really puts time back in their day. Between loading up the kids in the car, doing the grocery shopping, getting through checkout and packing the groceries into the car—that can take up to 2 hours on a busy weekend. Our shoppers are finding that entire trip is being condensed down to just a few minutes.

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eMarketer: How many markets is Walmart grocery pickup in?

Jariwala: We started testing online grocery in one market, in one store in Northern California in 2011. At the start of fall 2015, we were testing in five markets. Based on incredibly strong customer response, we began expanding rapidly. In 2016, we expanded to about 500 stores. Today, we offer online grocery pickup in more than 600 stores across the US, across 100 different markets. We are going to continue that rapid pace of expansion to roughly another 500 stores in 2017.

“Today, we offer online grocery pickup in more than 600 stores across the US, across 100 different markets.”

eMarketer: What markets is Walmart in? Is it more urban or suburban?

Jariwala: Some are really large metro areas, like Atlanta and Houston. And some are small towns like Daphne, Alabama, and Ogden, Utah.

eMarketer: Are there reasons why shoppers might not want to buy groceries online?

Jariwala: Price, trust and selection are three potential barriers that create friction for shoppers.

eMarketer: How is Walmart addressing the concerns of shoppers who are reluctant to let someone choose their fresh produce and meats for them?

Jariwala: “Do I trust someone to shop for me?” is a hurdle. We made a very deliberate decision to reduce this friction. We have dedicated personal shoppers who go through extensive training to learn how to shop for meat, for produce, as if they were shopping for themselves.

These associates are dedicated to online grocery. The training [personal shoppers] go through is incredibly important. For example, simple things, like being able to identify if the avocado is ripe.

“‘Do I trust someone to shop for me?’ is a hurdle. ... We have dedicated personal shoppers who go through extensive training.”

And these associates are not only selecting the food and preparing the customer’s order, they’re also bringing it out to your car. This allows the associate to, over time, get to know the shopper, who might give feedback on the bananas that were too ripe or the avocados that were not ripe enough. We’ve gone to great lengths to make that personal connection happen.

eMarketer: Do you have any way to measure if this attention to customer service is making a difference?

Jariwala: We know that it is happening through a couple of different measures. First, at least 90% of our baskets contain fresh items.

Second, we solicit feedback from our customers. On any given week there are over 1,000 mentions of our personal shoppers by name in those feedback forms, thanking them for how they selected groceries or what they did to deliver outstanding service. Those are a couple of metrics that allow us to feel really good about the level of service that we’re providing.

eMarketer: Walmart is all about low prices, but how does that factor into the customer experience online?

Jariwala: We don’t charge more for products that are purchased online. And there’s no fee for scheduling your pickup.

“We solicit feedback from our customers. On any given week there are over 1,000 mentions of our personal shoppers by name in those feedback forms, thanking them for how they selected groceries.”

eMarketer: Is Walmart concerned that success with online grocery shopping could mean fewer shoppers in-store?

Jariwala: This is not about channel shift, it’s not about cannibalization. This is about bringing together the best of Walmart digitally and physically, and then setting up an experience that allows customers to choose what is best for them.

Maybe you prefer to smell your mangos or squeeze your avocados; we’ve got options for you to do that. When it’s more convenient for you to think about what you need throughout the week, add to that order throughout the course of four or five days on your mobile phone, press “order” from your home computer on a Thursday and schedule pickup for that weekend—you can do that, too. 

Photo Credit: Walmart


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