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VOL. 131 | NO. 121 | Friday, June 17, 2016

Kroger Enters New Tech-Focused Era in Memphis

By Andy Meek

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All of a sudden, it seems, Kroger has transformed itself from a traditional grocery retailer to a tech-savvy brand that’s comfortable on the cutting edge.

At the chain’s corporate office in Memphis on a recent afternoon, Jeff Evans, e-commerce manager for the Kroger Delta Division, was showing one shopper some of the bells and whistles Kroger put inside its mobile shopping app. One hassle, the shopper mused aloud, is that she makes her grocery list but then has to run back and forth across the store once she get there, since the list never seems to line up in order with the store layout.

She was surprised to learn from Evans how Kroger’s app can take a list of items that a shopper inputs and put them in the correct order, based on how products are arranged and where they are in a particular store.

Evans elicited a wide-eyed “wow” in response to that. It was part of a broader discussion he and some other members of Kroger’s team were having with that shopper, as well as representatives of the Ronald McDonald House, because Kroger shoppers soon won’t need to make paper lists at all.

That’s because Kroger’s long-anticipated online ordering system ClickList has now landed in the Memphis area.

The Germantown Kroger at 7735 Farmington Blvd. is first to get the new service, which lets shoppers buy most items online. Kroger employees will bag and store the groceries until the customer arrives at a pre-arranged time to pick them up, at which point the employees will bring the purchases out to the customer.

Shoppers at the Germantown Kroger started picking up orders placed through the new system on Thursday, June 16. The cost is $4.95 per order, which is waived for the first three orders, and there’s no minimum amount the customer has to buy.

“Eventually, we’ll get to where you’ll be able to place orders and pick them up the same day,” Evans said.

That’s still to come, though, after the company rolls out the service incrementally to more Memphis-area locations – not every Kroger store will get the new service – and learns and tweaks as it goes.

Bringing a new level of convenience to the necessity of grocery-buying is one reason Kroger thinks it’s on to something and that it can capture more business from digital natives. “Surprise and delight” were the keywords Evans identified.

“If you can get someone to love something that you have to do, you win,” he said.

Jessica Corley, director of development at the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, was also at Kroger’s corporate office making an order to fill up the charity’s pantry shelves.

“I’m thrilled they’re bringing ClickList to Memphis, not just for the Ronald McDonald House families and the convenience and reduced stress it’ll bring to their already stressful lives, but me personally, I am thrilled,” she said. “Because we all need a little extra time to sit around the dinner table with family and loved ones without the added stress of trying to get everything you need and fight the crowds at the store. Time is the most precious thing, and this gives us more time.”

Shoppers at Memphis-area Krogers with the ClickList access will be able to shop for more than 45,000 products online. That’s most of what’s in the store, Evans said. It doesn’t include, for example, age-restricted products like tobacco items.

The ClickList shopping experience will feel familiar to anyone who’s shopped at Amazon. Input your personal information, and make your selections. The service pays attention to favorites and repeat buys, showing those during future shopping sessions for quick access.

The online service also tries to cater to shoppers who might have particular thoughts about what the perfect apple or banana looks and feels like to them.

“There are actually seven stages of bananas,” Evans said. To that end, customers are presented with a special instruction box during the order process that lets them ask for, say, not just bananas, but bananas that are especially yellow or only green.

Stores in Bartlett, Cordova, Southaven, Jonesboro and elsewhere in the Memphis area are being lined up for the service.

The designated ClickList spaces for customers to drive up to will be off to the side, away from the busy, sometimes congested area directly in front of the store.

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