While online sales still account for a very small proportion of its overall turnover, retailer Woolworths is gearing up towards a change in the online landscape.
Fresh from a senior position at a major retailer in the UK, Woolworths group director of new business development and online, Carol Schonegevel, underlines the importance of multi-channel communication for the group.
“The internet, mobile phones, iPads and social media are changing the way consumers shop and engage with retailers. Woolworths is constantly looking for ways to make customers’ shopping experience as convenient as possible and our integrated digital services (online shopping, Facebook, YouTube, SMS, Pinterest etc.) are an integral part of meeting customers’ expectations,” said Schonegevel.
“These are ever more important channels for us and we currently engage with over 160,000 customers on Facebook and over 31,000 on Twitter,” she said.
Woolworths recently announced an 11.8% increase in turnover for full year ending June 2012, to R28.6 billion.
According to Schonegevel, online sales still account for a very small proportion of its turnover (less than 1%) as bandwidth limitations have meant that South Africans haven’t adapted to online retail as enthusiastically as consumers have in some other countries.
“All this is changing though – and we expect connections to become cheaper and faster over the next few years with more and more of our customers buying their goods online.
“Already we have some very loyal customers shopping for food once or even twice a week on our website, and often taking advantage of the convenience of being able to add items from our Clothing and Home ranges to their deliveries,” Schonegevel said.
Who shops Woolworths
The online lead said that feedback from many of its online customers reveals that they could not live without Woolies online: “The mother at home with a new baby, working women, guesthouses making large weekly purchases. They all love the convenience of having their groceries delivered.”
Schonegevel also noted an increasing number of corporate clients using the group’s services on a daily basis for office meals and other catering needs, as well as people sending gifts to family and friends using the online service.
“We are also seeing more customers using our website for pre-purchase research – seeing what’s in store or searching for a particular something or downloading a recipe. And that is an important part of the multi-channel experience we are trying to create: it’s not only about getting customers to buy online rather than in-store – it’s about letting our customers shop how, where and when they want – in store or online,” Schonegevel said.
According to Woolworths, the growth of its portal has also fostered the growth of a delivery supplier, Niche Logistics, a BEE supplier. Niche Logistics manages a national fleet of drivers (who are self employed) that pick up orders from Woolworths stores within designated areas, Schonegevel said.
How it works
Delivery is free for all first time customers, according to Schonegevel, in order to encourage customers to try the service. Delivery is also free for customers who have a Woolworths Black Credit card.
According to the group’s website, in general, all food items are available for next-day delivery. Clothing, Homeware, Fashion Brands and Beauty items are delivered in three to five days. “If your order includes both food and non-food items, you can choose to have your order delivered all together, or have your food items delivered earlier if you wish.”
Woolworths offers many of the specials you see in store, online. “However from time to time we do feature specials that are exclusive to our shopping portal,” the retailer said.
“The cost of delivery is determined by your delivery address and the items that you have ordered, at this stage we have a fixed charge of R50 per order for delivery,” it said.