This is the second installment in a multi-blog series outlining the changing face of grocery shopping. Be sure to check out The Magic of Online Grocery Shopping – Coming to a Town Near You to understand why online grocery shopping is ramping up right now.

Here at Smith Brothers Agency, we serve a lot of CPG brands. I want to understand what the trend of online grocery shopping might mean for manufacturers. I feel the best way to do that is to experience some these solutions by going online and testing some of the platforms for myself.

As a husband and dad of three who does the food shopping for a very busy family – I am going to test a few platforms. I will simply order some food and household items for my family. I am going to look at each platform through a few different lenses (1) user experience, (2) consumer value, and (3) opportunities for CPG brands

So, let’s get started.

I happen to live in Pittsburgh – a decent metro area for sure, but definitely “tier-2” when it comes to the rollout of online grocery services. For instance, Instacart, Peapod, Google Express and Amazon Fresh are not available in my hometown. But that’s OK – the dominant super market chain in the region, Giant Eagle, is getting into the game. They offer curbside pickup under their Market District banner.



I simply login to their website using my Advantage Card credentials, set up a shopping list, and start shopping. Easy! I add items to my cart by browsing departments and searching by product name or category.

Market District Milk Page

The system works, but it is a bit clunky. I can find items, but how they are categorized isn’t always intuitive and it takes time to click through pages of results to find what I want. Also – I realize now that I know some brands visually, but not necessarily exact product names. And you have to pay attention to sizes and quantities. You don’t want to accidentally order the jumbo 48-oz juice when you were looking for the 12-oz item.

One other challenge – many product images are missing – which reduces my confidence level. Sometimes, I have to take an educated guess and hope I order the right thing.

Bacon cookies

The cart tallies my total as I add items – which is nice. You don’t get to do that in store! And the checkout functionality makes total sense. I quickly schedule my pickup time and submit the order.

Shopping list

The bottom line – it’s pretty easy to do. It took me about an hour to set up my first shopping list. I saved it and when I went back a couple of weeks later, I spent less than 10 minutes removing items I didn’t need and adding a few new ones. Now – that was really nice!  THAT is the benefit!

There was one big miss, though. Trying it on my phone, once I got past the front door I was stuck in pinch-and-zoom land.


Mobile Check Out


I’d love the ability to do it from my phone – especially now that my standard shopping list is set up. Hopefully Giant Eagle is working on getting the system into responsive design code base (RWD).



So, with my order submitted – I wait. The day of my pickup, I get a call from my “shopper” saying they were out of two items. He suggested substitutes – which I accepted. This was a nice touch. It felt personalized knowing someone was actually shopping for me and thinking about my order.

Then, at my designated pickup time, I drive to the store. They set up special parking spaces for curbside pickup. There is a handy sign, telling me to dial a number, which I do. The guy says he’ll be right out.

Park Here

He wheels down a cart and loads the bags into my trunk. I pay via credit card. I offer to tip him, but he refuses – saying company policy prevents them from accepting tips.

Market District Benjamin

The whole thing takes 5 minutes.

I get home and all the items are there. The fresh fruit and veggies look great and the deli items are spot on.

So, here’s the deal: My wife and I both work demanding jobs. We have three over-scheduled children. We are always on the go. For me to reduce the time I spend grocery shopping each week from about 2.5 hours to roughly 15 minutes is nothing short of magic. MAGIC, I say. I will never go back to the old way. And if I could have it delivered to my home – I would do it in an instant. I am sure I will have this option in the future. As more people discover the convenience of such services, their adoption rate will increase rapidly.


So, putting on my “CPG-Marketing Hat” I see multiple opportunities for brands:

  • Improve the Assets You Provide to Retailers. Better photos and descriptions may help close the sale. It is time to think about the online “shelf” where your product shows up. How does your packaging render in a thumbnail? How does it look on a product detail page? Consumers will experience your product this way. Shoddy imagery and a weak product description is nothing short of a missed opportunity.
  • Push for Featured Placement. When you negotiate your trade/shopper deals, look for premium placement in category sections and results lists – on the retailer site. Think about these as online “end caps” to draw consumer attention to your brand. If you can get into digital circulars and/or newsletters from the retailer – all the better!
  • Seek out Sampling Opportunities. If other items are already being delivered, why not sneak your brand into the box. Look to get your brand sampled by consumers in the hopes of making the list next time.
  • Evaluate your Targeting Options. For instance, seek out known Instacart shoppers or people who have signed up for Amazon Prime Pantry and serve display or video ads leading up to their online shopping trip. Since they are shopping online, you are one step closer to the point of purchase. The ability to match messaging with targeting is pretty powerful – making digital media an even more important component in your campaign.
David H
David H
Vice President of Engagement

David helps clients envision how the web can improve their business and then devises a plan to achieve that vision.

It all started at First Consulting Group, where David led numerous complex projects, ranging from large-scale network upgrades to first-generation web sites for NYU. Since then he has amassed over a dozen years experience in strategic planning, web development, online marketing, web 2.0 consulting, digital PR, mobile marketing and a bunch of other stuff most people don’t understand - engineering web successes for numerous clients.

Before joining Smith Brothers, David spent seven years at Ripple Effects Interactive managing the company’s largest and most complex accounts, ultimately becoming the EVP of Strategy and Marketing. He also oversaw both the user experience and online marketing departments. He maintains a depth of knowledge with regard to usability heuristics and industry best practices across the interactive spectrum (quite a mouthful, huh?).

Throughout his career, David has worked with major brands such as American Eagle Outfitters, Coke, National City Bank, GlaxoSmithKline, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University and the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

He holds a BA in Geographic Information Systems from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters in the same ultra-techie sounding major from Ohio University.