Kroger, Walmart and Amazon have dominated the headlines of late with their technology rollouts. But smaller, regional grocers have also ramped up their digital presence, according to recent reports.
Last week, Twin Cities-based Kowalski’s Markets announced the launch of a skip checkout app through digital provider GrocerKey, while Texas-based Brookshire Brothers added online shopping through tech startup Rosie.
These innovations tap into growing consumer demand for omnichannel grocery shopping. According to the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, 70% of U.S. consumers will purchase groceries online by 2024.
Though grocery giants Kroger, Walmart and Amazon have grabbed headlines of late with their technology rollouts, smaller regional players aren’t going down without a fight for convenience-seeking consumers.
With its new skip checkout app, Kowalski’s, which already offers curbside pickup and home delivery, has stepped up to compete with the likes of Walmart and Kroger. The small Minnesota chain serves mostly affluent customers who will very likely gravitate towards the enhanced store technology. According to a recent Harris poll, 88% of shoppers say they want in-store checkouts to run faster. Half of those surveyed pointed to long lines and slow lanes as their top two hang-ups with the grocery shopping experience.
Texas-based Brookshire Brothers, meanwhile, has started its e-commerce push through provider Rosie, which caters to independent operators. Rosie’s e-commerce platforms have already been implemented at a number of other retailers, including Peterson’s Fresh Market in Utah, Vowell’s Market Place in Mississippi and Minier’s Supermarket in New York.
The online grocery market in Texas is becoming very competitive, with Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and Walmart all rolling out platforms in markets across the state. Brookshire competitor H-E-B just purchased on-demand delivery company Favor, meaning Brookshire is under increasing pressure to get serious about e-commerce. Although it likely won't profit off the venture, it can at least retain loyal customers with the service.
Consumers have been slow to adopt online grocery shopping, and as such retailers have not been pressured to invest the farm in e-commerce technology. But omnichannel demand is accelerating, meaning companies large and small need to respond. For the smaller players, there are partners that exist to serve them specifically. Rosie is the perfect example. Co-founder Nick Nickitas told Inc. that the company wanted to make services such as e-commerce, delivery, omni-channel marketing and data analytics available to any local retailer.
“There’s a problem we’ve identified which is that local retailers want to compete in the digital age but lack the technology, resources, and expertise to do so," he said. "The size of the problem makes it so attractive to solve.”