In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, US retailers were scrambling to develop a sustainable business model for e-commerce grocery (e-Grocery). By 2021, many grocers were experimenting with different omnichannel strategies, but none had proven successful. e-Grocery presented significant challenges for brick-and-mortar retailers, and in an industry characterized by thin margins and price-conscious consumers, grocers were struggling to achieve profitability for online orders.
Mary Williams, an expert on omnichannel retail operations and a partner in the operations practice of a top consulting firm, was on her way to the headquarters of the regional grocer Meijer to reexamine the company’s e-commerce strategy in light of the pandemic-driven acceleration of online grocery shopping. At the airport, she received an email from a fellow partner in the retail practice of her firm, asking her to go next to Rochester, New York, to discuss a similar need with a new client, Wegmans.
Williams’s team had synthesized research on Meijer, comprised of expert interviews and non-proprietary data and analysis that would help frame the tradeoffs facing the regional grocer, which operated supercenter stores throughout the Midwest. As she pulled up public data on Wegman’s specialty, service-oriented competitive positioning and store footprint that spanned the Atlantic region, Williams pondered how the conclusions for the two regional grocers might differ.