Maybe I’m missing something here. But I can’t figure out why the Net isn’t making it easier for me to buy my groceries.
Sure, in some large cities I can use the likes of Peapod.com and Webvan.com.
But how come I can’t order my groceries online direct from local supermarkets?
It’s not as if there isn’t a need. I’m busy, my wife is busy and I bet you’re busy too.
And if you really want to be sure that there is an opportunity here, check out the faces of shoppers next time you go to a supermarket. I can’t think of a place where you see so many glum, depressed-looking faces. People just don’t want to be there.
So here, if I were a local supermarket, is what I might do.
I’ll create a pretty simple site. Just a catalog listing most of the items within my supermarket. Mostly text. Easy to navigate. Plus, of course, a shopping cart.
As a shopper, you can come to the site, select your basic weekly groceries and create a default weekly shopping cart. Do this from home, from work or from the computer at the library. If you want to add some extra items or make some changes, week by week, that’s fine too.
Is this a home delivery model? No. I’m going to make this easier for you, the shopper, but manageable for me, too.
We’ll bag your groceries and place them in a box or two, ready for you to pick up at an agreed time.
So while you were creating your default weekly cart, you also selected the day and time at which you would come by and pick everything up. And, of course, you will have paid by credit card at the site. So you can just drive up, run in, grab your boxes and run.
So how am I going to promote this?
First, I’ll drop a brochure in every bag of groceries that comes through my regular checkout points. After all, my regular shoppers will be my best prospects.
Will that be enough to convert them? Probably not. So I’ll create an online/offline affiliate program. The more of your friends and neighbors you introduce to my program, the more you’ll save on your own groceries. Introduce one neighbor, and you’ll make a dollar on every hundred dollars she spends. When she introduces her neighbor, you’ll make twenty-five cents, etc. … Or something like that.
Once I have a decent critical mass of activity on my site, I’ll have created a local hub.
I’ll be able to sell advertising and sponsorship spots to other local businesses. Maybe an enterprising courier company can offer to pick up and deliver the grocery boxes to your home. Maybe the local florist can see if they can get people to add a bunch of flowers to their shopping cart once a month. Maybe the video store will want to add a page to my site and have my shoppers add a video to their cart each week.
I guess the point I’m making is that not every Internet business has to be a grandiose ‘pure play’ that spans the globe.
You can use the Internet locally. And you can blend electronic commerce with offline business practices.
Why did I choose a supermarket as the central point of my community hub? Easy. Because we all have to buy groceries at least once a week – and a lot of us would like to make that particular shopping visit a lot easier.