by Chris Cerrutti and Gary Hudman
January 15, 2020
When you enter an H-E-B, you are never shopping alone.
H-E-B is more than just a grocery store. You might have a conversation with a Partner (H-E-B employee) about how to prepare a recipe. Or taste something one of our cheese experts recommends. Our store Partners curate an experience just for you.
This customer-centric approach makes our stores a destination. We carry what the customer needs—and also showcase unique products (and not just groceries) we think they'll love. Now, as we meet our customers outside the store through Curbside and home delivery, we need to convert this dynamic, full sensory experience from in-store to online, so we asked two members of our Digital Merchandising team, Gary Hudman and Chris Cerutti, to share how they bring that merchandising experience to life online.
Chris Cerutti: What is an example of an in-store experience we've brought to life online?
Gary Hudman: In Texas, we love avocados. It is an item typically on the grocery list for a lot of Texans. Our customers will walk into the produce section to grab their avocados, and see our store Partner making fresh guacamole. It's convenient and so tempting—fresh-made guac! It adds value to their shopping experience.
We take that same approach online. Our customers will search for avocados, and along with the search results, we showcase our fresh-made guacamole. We are providing the customer what they are looking for and adding value to their online shopping experience.
Chris: I feel like I always purchase the fresh-made guacamole at this point. The spicy version is where it's at!
Working for H-E-B pretty much means I'm in a constant state of hunger. We talk about food all day. How do we help customers when it comes to the latest trends in food?
Gary: In stores and online, our meat market has a huge selection of different types of meat and cuts to satisfy our customer needs. But, we have seen a trend in our online customers searching for "meatless" options.
We currently carry nearly 100 meatless products that are in at least three different sections in the store. Online, we can bring all those products to one location to make it easier for our customers to shop with what we call a "collection." Our merchandising team hand-picks these items for our customers to make it easier for them to find all the meatless options in one place.
Chris: It's about having the flexibility to curate a collection to fit our customers' needs. How do we showcase these different collections online?
Gary: During different seasons and events throughout the year we highlight collections on the homepage that will excite our customers. We showcase everything our customer needs year-round, for their New Year's parties or their holiday meals. When we design a collection to fulfill a specific customer need, such as meatless, we link customers to those through relevant search terms or product categories.
Chris: Our stores are able to promote specific products using the endcaps on each aisle. How do we accomplish this online?
Gary: Our stores use endcaps to display hand-selected products we know our customers will love. We do that exact same thing online. We even call it "You may also love"! Here, we can choose products that fit the needs of our online customers who enjoy our recommendations. We've seen items have as much as 1000% lift in sales when they are featured. And in certain cases, this much lift makes us account for almost half of the sales in all of omnichannel. That means these placements are incredibly effective—just as effective as putting an item in a more prominent place in the store.
Chris: Is there an example that stands out to you? How did we go about selecting these items?
Gary: H-E-B Bella Mandarins! We started merchandising Bellas as soon as they were in-season, and "You may also love" accounted for 65% of their sales growth that week! We chose Bellas because they are distinctive to H-E-B and seasonal, so we wanted to make sure our customers knew when they are available. We love to show our customers our Own Brand and distinctive items because no other retailer can match our portfolio. To make our selections, we monitor food trends and our data and use our own product experiences to determine the best products to recommend.
Chris: We have so many distinctive items uniquely designed for our customers, for example Meal Simple or Kodi tumblers. It's our job to make sure our customers don't miss them! In stores, our partners share their favorite items with our customers—we want to do the same online!
Gary: Another way we do that, outside of collections and recommended products, is we display our distinctive items online with a "Primo Pick" flag alongside the product image. As our customers search and browse our categories, they are even able to click on a "Primo Pick" filter to view all the items that are special to H-E-B!
Chris: What is an in-store experience you would love to have online?
Gary: Our in-store Partners do all these small things to enhance the customer experience. Recently, I was picking up some fresh Gulf Shrimp from the seafood counter, and one of our Partners nicely suggested to steam them with a little Old Bay seasoning. He provided me with friendly service and also added to my basket by suggesting another item. This would be a great experience to bring online and an opportunity for H-E-B to continue to enhance the digital journey.
With a century of experience in merchandising our products on our shelves, we embrace the challenge of merchandising online and are constantly learning new ways to introduce our products to our customers—even when they can't touch them. It's a fun challenge to have.
Ready to see all this in action? Download the new My H-E-B app.
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