Urban Click and Collect has created a growth opportunity for French grocers: What about the US?
Click and collect has been an integral part of French grocery retailing for some time, mainly in the suburbs around big cities and in rural areas where shoppers rely on cars. More recently, it’s begun to serve French urban shoppers who walk but don’t drive – something not available from Amazon Prime Now. The success of the model provides some interesting insights for US retailers. “These developments are driving the growth of eCommerce, which is leading a convergence of online and offline into omnichannel,” said Yacine Terki, CEO & Co-founder of Data Impact.
The current market share leader in French grocery is E. Leclerc, a family-owned franchise-style business offering lower prices. Leclerc’s decentralized franchise management also gives it the agility to adjust more quickly to changes in the market and tailor assortments and pricing promotions store by store. One example of this agility is Leclerc’s ability to adapt its strategy for urban click and collect operations.
E. Leclerc’s overall market share is about 22%, but its online grocery share approaches 48%.
It achieved this dominant position by locating its pickup warehouses in front of its hypermarket competitors in the suburbs, and by using urban click and collect to enter cities in which it previously had no presence.
The movement of online grocery shopping into French cities has been driven by
- The entrance of Prime Now offering free 1-hour delivery with no minimum order.
- Traditional French retailers offering consumers the option of click and collect.
To improve the productivity of click and collect operations, traditional French grocers have taken a number of important steps, such as:
- Creating urban dark stores that also serve as pickup locations.
- Building the base of some orders at a suburban hypermarket and shipping those orders to an urban dark store for completion.
Beyond urban click and collect, some French retailers also offer lower hypermarket prices and work with third parties to enable delivery.
Amazon Prime Now still has a relatively small share of the online grocery business in cities across France, but now it’s partnering with several small premium retailers like Monoprix to establish a physical presence in the market.
The expansion of online grocery shopping by large French retail chains into cities with urban click and collect gives them the opportunity to grow sales in densely populated markets and blunt the expansion of Prime Now.
These chains have positioned themselves to serve online shoppers by creatively leveraging a combination of large retail stores on city perimeters and dark stores in city centers to reduce the “cost to serve.” That strategy, plus the implementation of innovative fulfilment technology that automates pickup as shown in the video below, should drive further growth for urban click and collect.
One lesson for US grocers is that there’s significant unmet demand for online grocery among urban shoppers, mainly because there haven’t been many practical ways to get the groceries into the hands of customers beyond the typical delivery options.
Both Ahold’s recent purchase of Fresh Direct and Albersons’ pilot of automated pickup kiosks in Chicago (and soon San Francisco) are indications that some US grocers now see similar opportunities in big cities. We expect the rapid expansion of innovative fulfilment options to drive the growth of online sales in big cities over the next year or two.