PITTSBURGH -- Giant Eagle here has chosen a new software provider that will enable the retailer to revamp its Web site and launch an on-line shopping program, said Russ Ross, vice president of strategic planning.
Giant Eagle, which has one of the most extensive Web offerings in the supermarket industry, will redesign pages, add content, and phase in e-commerce operations. Initially, the retailer will offer on-line ordering of special-occasion delivery items, expanding a telephone-based service it now offers in some market areas.
"Sometime early next year, we are looking at piloting on-line ordering for other departments in the grocery store," said Ross. This e-commerce program will be tested in two stores in the Pittsburgh market in proximity to Giant Eagle headquarters. There are 203 Giant Eagle stores, located in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, that are either corporately or independently owned.
"Our plan is to start with customer pickup for full-store ordering and then evaluate delivery. We are taking a go-slow approach because we want to be able to experiment and learn," he said.
The software is the Customer Interaction System from Blue Martini Software, San Mateo, Calif. "With the Customer Interaction System, we will provide the next generation of customer service, and we are excited to work with Blue Martini to deliver that service through a robust new on-line presence," said Joe Faccenda, senior vice president for merchandising and marketing at Giant Eagle. Features now on the retailer's Web site include Priceline, prescription ordering and U-Pons, as well as extensive community information, individual store information with maps, and sections for departments like video, pharmacy, photo lab, deli, bake shop and general merchandise.
Among the contents Giant Eagle is considering adding to its Web site are additional product information, lifestyle features, meal planning and nutritional information, and help in preparing a shopping list. "Using Blue Martini, the Web site will have a different look and feel," Ross said.
Blue Martini's software is now used by five grocery companies in all, three in the United States: Giant Eagle; EthnicGrocer.com, Oak Brook, Ill.; and GroceryWorks, Dallas, according to a source. While Blue Martini's software has many components, including Web-site management, most retailers use it for its e-commerce capabilities. The program is noted in the industry for its ability to deliver a customized experience to the consumer, and for its emphasis on data mining and analysis.
"I infer from Giant Eagle's strategy that customer service is very important. I would not be surprised if they chose to deliver a system that took advantage of the program's capabilities for data analysis and personalization, because that is what drives convenience for the customer," said the source.
In the early days of e-commerce, on-line grocery merchants had to develop their Web sites with internal resources, but this is changing and more are gravitating to suppliers like Blue Martini. But even with such programs, "the biggest challenge in deploying an e-commerce system is integration with existing infrastructure, and deployment of the pick, pack and ship software. That's usually the long pole in the tent," said the source.