Can the Publix customer service experience be brought online?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.
As it moves into an increasingly digital future, how will Publix translate its stellar in-store experience fueled by highly motivated, well-trained associates into a positive online experience?
One thing’s for sure, it’s not gonna be easy.
Why? Publix continues to roll out its partnership with Instacart to provide home delivery of online orders, completely eliminating any contact with store associates — the biggest thing that makes the chain stand out. Same-day delivery is set to reach all markets by 2020.
As a result, “Shopping online at Publix has been reduced to a more expensive alternative to shopping online at Walmart or Kroger,” contends Don Stuart, managing director at Cadent Consulting Group.
“It’s definitely not a long-term solution,” agrees another source close to the company, who believes the chain is still evaluating its options. In order to ensure an excellent experience, “The person who brings the order that last mile to the customer’s door should be a Publix associate. That’s part of the brand and shouldn’t be farmed out.”
Beyond treating workers well, being employee-owned has helped create a knowledgeable, enthusiastic workforce that can be witnessed in Publix’s clean stores, short checkout lines, personal assistance locating products and help carrying groceries to your car. Ken Morris, principal at BRP Consulting, said the combination has created a “cult-like loyalty” among Publix shoppers.
Beyond employee interaction, says Hayley Howard, manager of business analytics at Cadent, “The company absolutely needs to find ways to personalize the online shopping experience or add value somehow in order to differentiate itself from other retailers.” Because right now, she says, its e-commerce program is, at best, middle-of-the-pack.
Publix differs from much of the industry by not offering a conventional loyalty card on the belief that it wants to offer the best deals for everyone. Those providing their phone number at checkout can receive digital coupons tailored to their purchases as well as e-receipts and “sneak peaks.” Explains director of media and community relations Maria Brous, “Our goal is to meet our customers where they are. And for many, that’s online.”
- Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer July 2019 Issue
- Publix and Instacart Expanding Service Across Southeast Due To Customer Demand – Publix
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are there ways for Publix to effectively extend the elite customer service found at its stores to the online experience? Does the lack of a conventional loyalty program hurt its positioning online?