Grocery shoppers on the go can trade in their wire shopping carts for virtual ones with a new online platform launched by Sendik’s Food Market.
The platform, Sendik’s Express, enables customers to browse and select grocery items online, pay for them online and pick up their full orders in store. The platform is web-based and can be accessed through any computer, tablet or smartphone.
The digital tool, which the Whitefish Bay-based grocer launched in November, holds an inventory that almost mirrors what is offered at Sendik’s brick-and-mortar locations. Customers can add more than 40,000 grocery items to their online shopping lists – everything from bakery goods to dairy products, deli meats, frozen foods, home goods, flowers, meats and seafood, produce and alcohol.
“From an owner’s perspective, the vision was that the experience online met the same expectations that we set in our physical stores,” said Ted Balistreri, owner of Sendik’s Food Market.
The tool aims to save a commodity that Mark Birmingham, executive director of new business development at Sendik’s, said everyone is short of – time.
Through Sendik’s Express, a Sendik’s customer can log in and begin searching a catalog of items by navigating an outline of categories or just browsing items generally. Customers can add grocery items directly to their online carts and pay for their items with a debit or credit card online. A $5.95 flat fee applies to each order, no matter the size.
From there, personal shoppers at Sendik’s stores take over, circulating through store aisles and talking to department heads to ensure an order comes together accurately. Should a question arise or clarifications need to be made, a personal shopper will call the customer directly.
While finalizing his order, a virtual customer can designate a pick-up time – at least four hours after he fires off the order. When the customer arrives at a Sendik’s store to pick up his bags, he can call or text the store and pull into a parking spot set aside for online shoppers. The personal shopper will then emerge with groceries in tow and load them into the customer’s vehicle.
Sendik’s developed Sendik’s Express in partnership with a technology company well-versed in e-commerce. The grocer would not disclose the name of its technology partner.
The development process – from the stage of investigating software providers to the point at which Sendik’s took the web tool live – covered about a year, according to Birmingham.
Sendik’s had been wanting to create an online shopping experience for its customers for the past several years and had an online project in the works at least six years ago. The company abandoned the project when it wasn’t meeting its expectations and when it couldn’t find the kind of tool that would uphold its brand expectations.
“Demonstrating the integrity of the company, we’re not doing things just to do (them),” Balistreri said. “We decided to take our time and make sure we were doing it correctly, and we finally found the keys to make it happen.”
The initial launch of Sendik’s Express included seven stores. Within two weeks, Sendik’s made the platform available at all 11 of its full-line stores in southeastern Wisconsin. During its first few weeks, the tool attracted a range of users, from young families to the elderly, and far exceeded the expectations of Sendik’s executives.
Sendik’s Express is the only online grocery tool of its kind in the region, according to Balistreri and Birmingham, and one customers have been seeking.
“Throughout our nearly 90 years of business, we’ve been successful because we’ve really listened to our customers,” Balistreri said. “And understanding our customers well, we understood that there was a need for something like this. And we’ve always been innovative, and we think that this innovation helps us be that trusted grocer in this area.”
In a crowded grocery marketplace, Sendik’s Express gives the store “another point of differentiation,” Birmingham said.
Sendik’s plans to continue enhancing the online platform and refining the search process to make it as easy as possible for customers to find the products they need, Birmingham said.
Sendik’s Food Market
5623 N. Lake Drive, Whitefish Bay
Innovation: Sendik’s Express, an online grocery shopping platform