Kroger is trying to make it easier for its customers to shop for groceries by offering an online ordering and at-store pickup service.
The nation’s largest traditional supermarket retailer is bringing its ClickList system to the Richmond region beginning early next month.
ClickList initially will be available at the Kroger Marketplace store at 10800 Iron Bridge Road in Chesterfield County, with plans to eventually expand the service to most of the chain’s 17 other area stores. Some of those stores should get the service later this year.
Customers will be able to shop online for more than 40,000 items, including meats and produce. An order must be placed online by midnight for pickup the following day at a time specified by the customer between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Once the customer arrives at a designated pick-up area near the store, an employee loads the order into the car and the shopper pays for it without getting out of the automobile.
A $4.95 service charge is added for the service. No dollar minimum order is required. Customers can use their Kroger loyalty card for additional discounts as well as using paper coupons.
“It is a reliable, useful way to make shopping more convenient and a lot easier for those who don’t want to go inside the store to shop,” said Andrew P. Wolf, a supermarket analyst with BB&T Capital Markets. “It really optimizes a lot of modern life.”
Kroger has been testing ClickList since November 2014 when it started the service at one of its stores in the Cincinnati area. It since has expanded the service to more than 40 Kroger locations in markets including Nashville; Knoxville, Tenn; Lexington and Louisville, Ky.; Indianapolis; and Detroit.
The store in Chesterfield would be the first in Virginia to get Kroger’s ClickList service.
Kroger said its customers have been asking for an alternative to traditional grocery shopping and ClickList helps provide that.
“We are always looking for ways to make our customers’ lives easier and enhance the experience. This will save customers a lot of time,” spokeswoman Allison McGee said.
The service appeals to a wide range of customers, she said, from working mothers and busy professionals to senior citizens.
“They can order it on their time,” she said, noting that shoppers never have to step foot inside the store unless they want to.
ClickList has been received well in the other markets and the feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive, she said.
“It is definitely growing,” she said. “We have found that markets that have offered it, it is growing pretty quickly and all kinds of customers are using it.”
Other supermarket retailers are using or testing a similar service that offers online ordering with at-store pickup, BB&T’s Wolf said.
Harris Teeter, which Kroger acquired in January 2014, was an early adopter, he said. Harris Teeter now offers its Express Lane service at many of its 230 stores, including those in Virginia.
Giant Eagle, a supermarket chain with 232 stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland, offers its Curbside Express service at about two dozen locations.
The services found at Kroger and the other chains are examples of ways supermarkets are trying to find a model that customers like as well as finding ways to compete against Amazon as it expands its grocery offerings, said Frank Badillo, director of research for MacroSavvy, a market research and consulting company based in Henrico County.
“I suspect that more grocery chains will test their own as a response to and anticipation of Amazon,” Badillo said. “Kroger is trying to get out in front of it and be ready to respond.”
Besides, he said, the service is convenient, particularly for working mothers or single mothers who don’t have the time to shop nor the desire to take their children with them to the grocery store.
BB&T’s Wolf said Kroger has figured out how to provide a service and make money from it.
“It is a viable way to do this,” Wolf said. “Going the extra mile to someone’s house and delivering groceries is not viable. If that was so good, there would be a world of milkmen out there. Home delivery is not efficient or it would be the dominant model.”
Kroger has figured out an easy and efficient way to order and pick up items, he said.
ClickList system is even intuitive enough to know what you have ordered in the past or bought in the store using your loyalty card, he said.
“It can remind you that you bought whatever, like salmon a month ago, and that it is on sale again,” Wolf said.
A customer also can specify the desired type of produce, meats or seafood, including if the person wants a thick or thin cut of meat.
“That is one of the things with perishable lists where there is some consternation of someone picking the item for you,” Wolf said.
Kroger’s McGee said ClickList has a dedicated group of employees at the store who select the items and process the order. If an item is not available, the employee will offer a substitution to the customer, which the customer may accept or decline.
Once an order is placed, the items are put in temperature-appropriate large coolers or zones designated inside the store.
The Chesterfield store was selected because it was built with the ClickList service in mind, McGee said. The store opened in October.
Every store that has ClickList will have a separate lane and staging area outside of the store. The number of lanes or the size of the area varies by store.
The Chesterfield store will have four specific spots for customers to pull into when they are picking up their online order.